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Vietnamese Clothing

In general, Vietnamese clothing is very diverse. Every ethnic group in Vietnam has its own style of clothing. Festivals provide an opportunity for the various ethnic groups to wear their favorite clothes. Over thousands of years, the traditional clothing of all ethnic groups in Vietnam has changed, but each ethnic group has separately maintained their own characteristics.  Nón lá 

Áo bà ba Áo yếm Áo tứ thân Áo dài  Traditional Vietnamese male attire Vietnamese Clothing History Traditional Vietnamese clothing

Áo bà ba (more about Áo bà ba)

Áo bà ba (or Vietnamese silk pajamas) is one of several traditional Vietnamese costumes. It continues to be widely used today.. It is most associated with southern Vietnam, especially in rural areas. 

The Áo bà ba simply consists of a pair of silk pants and a long sleeved, buttoned-down silk shirt. The shirt will be somewhat long and split at the sides of the waist, forming two flaps. In the front of the shirt at the very bottom are typically two pockets.

The garment's simplicity and versatility has contributed to its popularity, as it is used by an overwhelming amount of the population, whether in rural or urban areas. It can be worn while laboring or lounging.

Modern versions allow countless different designs, colors, and embroidery, which have allowed the costume's transition into modern Vietnamese fashion as well.

All of this makes it easy to explain the costume's natural presence in almost every aspect of Vietnamese life.

More about Áo bà ba

Áo yếm (more about Áo yếm)

Áo yếm, also referred to simply as "yếm", is an ancient Vietnamese bodice used primarily as an undergarment that was once worn by Vietnamese women across all classes.

It is a simple garment with many variations from its basic form, which is a simple, usually diamond or square-cut piece of cloth draped over a woman's chest with strings to tie at the neck and back.

While it was worn across classes, the material and colors used to make Áo yếm varied widely based upon the person's rank and the occasion. Commoner women usually wore Áo yếm in simple blacks and whites for day to day use, whereas during special occasions they could opt for more festive, brighter colors such as red and pink. Indeed, much of Vietnamese poetry has been dedicated to the beauty of women in their "Yếm đào", or pink bodices.

While the bottom of most Áo yếm are v-shaped, there were different styles for the top of the garment which covered the neck, the most common two variations being the rounded neck, known as "Yếm cổ xây", or the deep v-shaped neck style, called "Yếm cổ sẻ".

Another type of yếm, known as "Yếm đeo bùa" has a little pocket within, where women often used to store a little musk or perfume.

No one is sure of its origins, although it may have originated from China, since a similar garment, called tù dōu, existed in ancient China. The áo yếm has always existed as an essential part of the áo tứ thân costume worn by northern Vietnamese women, which itself has existed since at least the 12th century. Unlike other Vietnamese costumes in feudalistic Vietnam that helped to segregate the classes, áo yếm were worn as an undergarment by Vietnamese women of all walks of life, from peasant women toiling in the fields to imperial consorts.

As westernization inevitably reached Vietnam, by the 20th century women increasingly abandoned the yếm for the western bra, at least in urban areas, although the yếm is still worn to an extent in rural areas.

Fashion designers, in their constant quest to revitalize interest in traditional costumes as well as reinvent the latter have constantly created new collections of Áo yếm, which seem to be quite popular amongst modern young women; this can be easily explained through the Áo yếm's similarity to the western halter top.

More about Áo yếm

Áo tứ thân (more about Áo tứ thân)

The dress is now obsolete in terms of its daily use in Vietnam, but it can be seen often in traditional occasions such as festivals, especially in northern Vietnam.

More about Áo tứ thân

The Áo tứ thân can be considered one of the oldest enduring Vietnamese cultural relics, having been worn widely by women from as early as the 12th century on to the early 20th century. It was developed through the introduction of the Chinese Hanfu clothing.

Vietnam has a diversity of ethnic groups and each group has its own style of dressing. In the past, "Ao tu than", which is roughly understood as "four-flapped dress", is a traditional dress often worn by Northern people. The "Ao tu than" consists of several layers of gowns; the outer usually has a brown color and its lower part is divided equally into 4 flaps. The two front flaps are tied together and with two sashes, wrapped around like a belt. Time has changed. Now Vietnamese women are proudly wearing the "Ao dai', which simply means "Long dress", as their traditional dress. The 'Ao dai' has long sleeves and with buttons from the collar down in front of the shoulder, underneath the arm and continue along the side to the waist. The dress is then slit into two flaps: one in the front and one in the back. 

As Vietnam expanded southward and slightly different cultures began to emerge between the regions, the Áo tứ thân gradually became associated specifically with northern women.

Áo tứ thân was the dress of commoner women, which explained why it was often made with plainer fabric and in darker colors, with the exception of special occasions such as festivals or weddings. While most modern Áo tứ thân are extremely colorful, ancient Vietnamese apparently preferred more muted colors.

Regardless of its many different forms, the basic Áo tứ thân consists of:

  • A flowing outer tunic, reaching almost to the floor. It is open at the front, like a jacket. At the waist the tunic splits into two flaps: a full flap in the back (made up of two flaps sewn together) and the two flaps in the front which are not sewn together but can be tied together or left dangling
  • A long skirt, worn under the tunic
  • Áo yếm, an ancient bodice worn as an undergarment by women. It comes in many shapes and colors, worn under the skirt and outer tunic
  • A silk sash which is tied at the waist as a belt

The dress as it is most typically worn today (almost exclusively in northern-related festivals) tends to be extremely colorful, using different hues throughout the dress, from the tunic to the bodice and the skirt.

Áo dài (more about Áo dài)

In Viet Nam, the ao dai is the traditional dress for women.   Developed from Chinese court clothing in the 1930s, this style of clothing went out of fashion in the north in 1954 and in the south in 1975.   Recently, however, it has made a comeback and is regaining popularity in the south among schoolgirls and office workers, and is being worn at formal functions. An indication of social standing, the ao dai is worn by women who work as shop assistants or who have a higher social status, while manual workers typically wear a loose top and baggy pants called an ao ba ba.

The aodai (áo dài) is a Vietnamese national costume primarily for women. In its current form, it is a tight-fitting silk dress worn over pantaloons. Áo dài is pronounced ow yai in the South, and ow zai in the North. Áo is derived from a Middle Chinese word meaning "padded coat". In modern Vietnamese, áo refers to an item of clothing that covers from the neck down. Dài means "long."

The word áo dài was applied to various garments historically, including the áo ngũ thân, a 19th century aristocratic gown influenced by Chinese fashions. Inspired by Paris fashions, Hanoi artist Nguyễn Cát Tường redesigned the ngũ thân as a dress in 1930. In the 1950s, Saigon designers tightened the fit to produce the version worn by Vietnamese women today. The dress was extremely popular in South Vietnam in the 1960s and early 1970s. The communists, who have ruled all of Vietnam since 1975, disapproved of the dress and favored frugal, androgynous styles. In the 1990s, the áo dài regained popularity. The equivalent garment for men, called an áo gấm ("brocade robe"), is also worn on occasion, such as at a wedding or a death anniversary.

Academic commentary on the aodai emphasizes the way that the dress ties feminine beauty to Vietnamese nationalism, especially in the form of "Miss áo dài" pageants, popular both among overseas Vietnamese and in Vietnam itself. "Aodai" is one of the few Vietnamese words that appear in English-language dictionaries.

The ao dai is considered to be an elegant, yet demure, garment. Traditionally, long, wide- legged trousers are worn under a high-necked, long-sleeved, fitted tunic with slits along each side. The outfit’s pants reach to the soles of the feet, often trailing along the ground. Over time, the dress tunic has evolved, keeping with fashion trends, and has grown shorter and shorter until it now falls just below the knees. The ao dai can also be identified by its mandarin-style or boat-neck collar. Young girls wear only pastel colored or white garments while married women wear either dark or bright tunics over black or white trousers.

Historically, Vietnamese men dressed in mandarin style suits. With a tunic shorter and fuller than the ao dai, the suit’s color was traditionally determined by the man’s class and social rank. For example, a purple suit denoted a high rank while blue denoted a low rank. Status was also indicated through a variety of embroidered symbols. Today the mandarin suit is rarely worn except for in traditional dance or music performances.

In general, Vietnamese people dress conservatively. Although some young women wear more close-fitting, Western-style clothing, it is considered inappropriate to wear revealing clothes during the day. One Westerner teaching English in Viet Nam was advised to tuck her shirt into her trousers if she expected respect from her students. It is considered inappropriate for educated people to wear their shirts untucked.

The northern-4-flap dress is Vietnam's first "ao dai", only worn on the occasion of the Tet festival. The brown dress with the two fore-flaps tied together and let dangling matches with satin trousers and silk belts. Then the 4 flap dress has been modified into a 3-flap one: the collar being 2 cm high, the sleeves wrapping tightly to the wrists, breast and waist of main flaps, there is also a minor flap reaching down to the fringe. Buttons are made of plaited cloth and buttoned on the side. The collar is turned up obliquely to let appear three color ( or 7 colors ) of the dress. The outermost layer is of brown silk or a kind of black gauze, followed by light yellow, pink, lemon green, and sky-blue... multicolored ones...., attractive yet decent, discrete and harmonious...

Following the Europeanization wave in 1935, Lemur Nguyen Cat Tuong's "modern ao dai" made its apparition. It had puffed out shoulders, cuffed sleeves, a round collar cut breast-deep and laced, a corrugated fringe made of joined cloth of different colors and gaudily laced.

During the the 1939-1945 period there was a conflict on a esthetic concept, resulting in the restoration of the traditional ao dai. Young girls' collar was from 4 cm to 7 cm high, the roundness of which was ensured by a stipt starching, the flaps were of a broad width and of a 1958 and the beginning of 1959, Madam Ngo Dinh Nhu's low-necked, decollete ao dai was launched.

At the beginning of 1971, the raglan-sleeve ao dai renovated by Mrs. Tuyet Mai overcame the wrinkling short comings at the shoulders and the armpits.

From the early 1970's to 1975 it was the period at mini and hippy ao dai widely worn with tights and flares until 1989. The first ao dai beauty contest was restored under the communist regime since 1975 and the traditional ao dai returned to its suave beauty of old times. All young ladies were encouraged to wear the white ao dai to school which has been banned since 1975 after the falling of Sai Gon. All such contests as school beauty, sports beauty has been organized everywhere in the country, ao dai is the main category in these contests. Now only the Tien Phong Newspaper beauty contest is considered the official national contest and who is crowned from this contest become the national beauty queen and she will represent the country in all diplomatic occasions. This contest has been official started in 1992 and repeated every two year sine then ( 1994, 1996, 1998).

The year 1995 was the crowing year for the national ao dai. Truong Quynh Mai's ao dai was chosen the most beautiful national apparel in Tokyo... The 1995 renovated ao dai model suits well modern times, and is more beautiful at it's tightened at the breast, waist and back, its collar evenly circling round from 4 cm to 7 cm high, the sleeves just tighten the arms. Velvet ao dai, embroidered, painted and printed with flower pattern have created even more exquisite beauty features allowing Vietnam's ao dai to take off ever higher.

Over the time, it changed with the fashion trends from long tunic to short tunic. "Ao Dai" can also be worn in many different colors. For casual occasions, the young and single women wear pastel and bright colors such as yellow, white, and light blue. On the other hand, older and married women wear darker colors such as blue, purple, and brown.

"Ao Dai" is significant to Vietnamese women because it displays grace, beauty, and elegance. The occasions in which the "Ao Dai" is worn signifies the importance of the event.

As for today, high school girls are required to wear white "Ao Dai". White means purity, elegance, and young. It can also be considered as a "uniform" to unite the rich and poor within the school.

For worship, many women wear "Ao Dai" that has little or no designs. The temple and church are considered "simple" and do not need "flashy designs" to contaminate their purity and innocence.

And, for marriage, the bride usually wears beautiful "Ao Dai" in red or pink. The designs of the "Ao Dai" for a matrimonial ceremony often display mythical figures such as the dragon and phoenix and Chinese prints.

Recently, "Ao Dai" is gaining popularity among young Vietnamese woman. Because of the Vietnamese open-market to Western cultures, young designers took another level in designing "Ao Dai". They used the traditional patterns of the dress and applied with modern designs, textures, and fabrics creating a new, and original fresh, clean cut mixed with then and now. However, "Ao Dai" is still unique and special not only to the eyes of the Vietnamese people, but also to the eyes of Westerners. More about Áo dài

WHERE TO BUY AN AO DAI: Because the Ao Dai are custom made you will not likely find it "off-the-rack" in any store. You will have to find a Vietnamese seamstress. Look in the phone book for Vietnamese businesses in Vietnam Towns (Little Saigon) in most large cities, especially grocery stores and video stores. You should be able to find the name of a good seamstress from them. These merchants would also be able to give you the best source for Vietnamese silk fabric. Look in the phone book for Vietnamese businesses, especially grocery stores and video stores. You should be able to find the name of a good seamstress from them. These merchants would also be able to give you the best source for Vietnamese silk fabric. There are often Vietnamese associations, who can be contacted for information. For example, in Chicago there is the Vietnamese Association of Illinois. There are very few companies for purchasing Ao Dai online. Ordering the Ao Dai online is not much different than ordering other clothing online, with the exception of measurements. You will be required to enter your measurements on the website instead of a standard size to ensure you get the best fit possible. The site will display the different styles and fabric choices available. The cost is quite reasonable – between $80.00-$150.00. Auction sites sometimes have Ao Dai listed. This will not be the elegant, form-fitting Ao Dai traditionally worn.

MAKE IT YOURSELF: There are patterns available for the Ao Dai from vintage and ethnic pattern companies and cost around $16.00. The patterns are sold at sewing supply stores and online. The pattern is relatively easy to use and the dress is not difficult to make. Simply use the search term "ao dai sewing pattern" in any search engine and you will find online sources for the pattern. If you do not sew, a local seamstress can make it for you for under $100.00. A medium Ao Dai dress with the pants will take 6 yards of fabric. The fabric for the pattern does not have to be Vietnamese silk if you do not want to spend a lot for the dress. A simple cotton or inexpensive silk can be used from your local fabric store. The beauty of the Ao Dai is in the design and fit. Any lightweight fabric will produce an attractive dress. Whether you have it custom-made or purchase it on the Internet, the Ao Dai is a beautiful addition to any wardrobe.

Traditional Vietnamese male attire

Saigon (MF): A revived interest in the national Vietnamese dress for men was demonstrated at an Lions International Club meeting held in Tokyo in 1969. The assembled Lions, along with thousands of Japanese observers on the streets and perhaps millions more at their television sets, were treated to a look at the Vietnamese national dress worn by the Vietnamese Lion delegates.

This was the first time Vietnamese men have worn their national dress at an international gathering since the fall of the late President Diem in November 1963. Before that time it was not unusual for Vietnamese diplomats to appear at official functions in their national attire. In Tokyo, however, the "fashion models" were private business men, delegates to the Lions meeting.

Anyone who has seen the exquisite costumes worn by Vietnamese women will recognize similarities in the traditional dress of the male. Both costumes are tailored from the same fabric, worn with the conventional snug collar and buttoned down on the left side to the waist, with no crease in front or back. The male dress extends only to the knees. The female dress flows with graceful lines from a tight waist down to the heels.

The national Vietnamese dress has preserved its essential features through the ages. Vietnamese take great pride in wearing this dress for it is part of their nation, their history and their culture. It is part of Vietnamese social customs which includes respect for superiors, dignitaries and relatives. Elders in the family continue to receive this recognition as did once emperors, mandarins and court teachers, all of whom had traditional dress variations according to their status in Vietnamese society.

There are many variations on the basic theme. At the top of the list is the elaborate dress of the emperor and the mandarins. Their rank was shown in the display of color in the brocade and embroideries. Gold brocade with embroidered dragons was for the emperor only. Gold is the national color and the dragon heads the fabulous mythical animal world. Purple is the color reserved for high-ranking court mandarins, while blue is for those of lower rank.

Costumes worn for religious ceremonies also have their special colors. Dresses for ceremonial occasions usually have very wide and ample sleeves. Wedding dresses are similar to the popular fashions, and the color is usually purple or blue brocade. Dresses for mourning have frayed fringes or a line up the back and may be either black or white in color.

Vietnamese dress styles underwent changes since the beginning of French influence in the country. Many Vietnamese employed by the French had a tendency to look down upon those who continued to wear the traditional dress. European styles were popular mainly among civil servants and university students. The majority of people, especially those in the rural areas, remained faithful to their national dress and it even became a symbol of silent opposition to French colonialism. During the colonial war against the French from I945 to I954, many people concealed their social status. The revolutionaries wore black, those who were pro-French wore western clothes while others wore the simple pajama-type shirt and trousers. Following independence the traditional dress came back into its own and was once again the required attire for all ranking officials at government ceremonies or functions of the diplomatic corps.

When President Diem was overthrown in 1963, the national dress was so closely identified with his administration that it sank with him into oblivion. This neglect, however, was not officially inspired but rather a reflection of political turmoil, frequent government changes and resulting chaos. Today, there is serious thought to restore the Vietnamese national dress for men to its traditional and rightful place, for it is a symbol of pride in the cultural heritage of an ancient and proud Asian land.

Nón lá

Traditional Vietnamese conical hats or "Nón lá".
Form and function come together in beautiful harmony when it comes to the Vietnamese Nón lá, or “leaf hat”.
A simple, conical hat originating in Asia – most notably in the countries of Vietnam, China and Japan – the distinctive, multi-functional head piece has become a national symbol representing the hard-working spirit of Vietnam and its people.

The Nón lá is also a symbol of Vietnamese femininity and adds an air of mystery and attractiveness to young women whose long, dark hair flows out from under the brim.

Many a poet and composer have been inspired by the simple yet intriguingly beautiful and unique design of the non la.

In Vietnam, the name is Nón lá (leaf hat). The conical hat varieties in Vietnam are notable for their romantic and timelessly crafted adornments. Special conical hats in Vietnam contain colorful hand-stitch depictions or words while the Huế varieties are famous for their 'poem conical hats'. These contain random poetic verses and Hán tự which can be revealed when the hat is directed above one's head in the sunlight.

The most aesthetic conical hats come from Chuong village in the north, and Hue in central Vietnam. Traditional designs such as  pagodas, birds, flowers are inserted between the layers and when the hat is held up to the light, these motifs appear subliminally inspired.

Vietnamese Clothing History


During the Nguyen period - the final dynasty in Vietnam, young women wore light brown-colored short shirts with long black skirts. Their headgear consisted of a black turban with a peak in the front. To make their waist look smaller, they fasten a long piece of pink or violet cloth. On formal occasions, they wore a special three-layered dress called an "ao dai", a long gown with slits on either side. The outer garment was a special silk gown called an "ao tu than" which was brown or light brown in color with four slits divided equally on its lower section. The second layer was a gown in a light yellow color and the third layer was a pink gown. When a woman wore her three gowns, she fastened the buttons on the side, and leaved those on the chest unfastened so that it formed a shaped collar. This allowed her to show the different colors on the upper part of the three gowns. Beneath the three gowns was a bright red brassiere which was covered the woman's neck.

Together with “ao tu than”, there’s an indispensable thing - “non quai thao” - a flat palm hat with fringes. Yet the women in the North loved to wear brown shirts, whereas in the Central and South provinces, women usually wore black, middle- buttoned shirts. By the end of Tu Duc’s dynasty, a special shirt called “ao ba ba” was introduced in the South. Bibliographies described that men wore brocade or gauze-made gowns, crepe turbans, and buffalo-leathered slippers.

Up to the beginning of 19 century, women in all parts of the country knew the value of cosmetics. In 1935, “Le Mur” long dress appearance was a remarkable event. It was a mandarin collared, puff-sleeved dress. At first, the “Le Mur” dress had several features borrowed from European dresses current at that time, and was considered the most modern fashion. Over time, the traditional "ao dai" has gone through certain changes. Long gowns are now carefully tailored to fit the body of a Vietnamese woman. The two long slits along the side allow the gown to have two free floating panels in the front and at the back of the dress. The floating panels expose a long pair of white silk trousers.

An elegant looking conical palm hat, which is traditionally known as a "non bai tho" (a hat with poetry written on it), is worn as part of a woman's formal dress. This traditional conical hat is particularly suitable for a tropical country such as Vietnam, where fierce sunshine and hard rain are commonplace.

To make a conical hat, a hat maker chooses young palm leaves and lets them be dried under the sunshine. Attached beneath the almost transparent layers of dried palm leaves is a drawing of a small river wharf. Below the drawing, there is a piece of poetry to be recited by the hat wearer.

Under the effect of social development, Vietnamese costume has gradually changed. In 1945, women started wearing black trousers and brown short shirts. European fashion influenced men clothes. The traditional set of a long gown and turban gave way to more modern looking suits, while business shirts and trousers were replaced traditional long sleeved shirts and wide trousers.

In recent years some foreign fashions have been introduced to Vietnam; it’s now easy to find young boys and girls in Western-style clothes imitated international music bands in big cities. Daily costumes of the Vietnamese people tend to be very simple and modest. Men wear shirts, trousers. Young women wear shirts with trousers or skirts. However, the traditional "ao dai" remains preferable to women in both urban and rural settings. Traditional costumes still exist and efforts are increasingly being made to restore traditional festivals and entertainment, which incorporate traditional costumes.

Early gowns
Until the twentieth century, peasant women typically wore a skirt (váy) and a halter top (áo yếm). Influenced by the fashions of China's Qing, or Manchu, imperial court, aristocrats favored less revealing clothes. In 1744, Lord Nguyễn Phúc Khoát of Huế decreed that both men and women at his court wear trousers and a gown with buttons down the front. The members of the southern court were thus distinguished from the courtiers of the Trịnh Lords in Hanoi, who wore a split-sided jacket and a long skirt.

The áo tứ thân, a traditional four-paneled gown, evolved into the five-paneled ngũ thân in the early 19th century. Ngũ is Sino-Vietnamese for "five." It refers not only to the number of panels, but also to the five elements in oriental cosmology. The ngũ thân had a loose fit and sometimes had wide sleeves. Wearers could display their prosperity by putting on multiple layers of fabric, which at that time was costly. Despite Vietnam's tropical climate, aristocrats were known to wear three to five layers.

The ngũ thân had two flaps sewn together in the back, two flaps sewn together in the front, and a "baby flap" hidden underneath the main front flap. The gown appeared to have two-flaps with slits on both sides, features preserved in the later aodai. Compared to a modern aodai, the front and back flaps were much broader and the fit looser. It had a high collar and was buttoned in the same fashion as a modern aodai. Women could wear the dress with the top few buttons undone, revealing a glimpse of their yếm underneath.

The modern dress
In 1930, Hanoi artist Cát Tường, also known as Le Mur, designed a dress inspired by the ngũ thân and by Paris fashions. It reached to the floor and fit the curves of the body by using darts and a nipped-in waist. When fabric became inexpensive, the rationale multiple layers and thick flaps disappeared. Modern texile manufacture allowed for wider panels, eliminating the need to sew narrow panels together. The áo dài Le Mur, or "trendy" aodai, created a sensation when model Nguyễn Thị Hậu wore it for a feature published by the newspaper Today in January 1935. The style was promoted by the artists of Tự Lực văn đoàn ("Self-Reliant Literary Group") as a national costume for the modern era. The painter Lê Phô introduced several popular styles of aodai beginning in 1934. Such Westernized garments temporarily disappeared during World War II (1939-45).
In the 1950s, Saigon designers tightened the fit of the aodai to create the version commonly seen today. Trần Kim of Thiết Lập Tailors and Dũng of Dũng Tailors created a dress with raglan sleeves and a diagonal seam that runs from the collar to the underarm. The infamous Madame Nhu, first lady of South Vietnam, popularized a collarless version beginning in 1958. The aodai was most popular from 1960 to 1975. A brightly colored áo dài hippy was introduced in 1968. The áo dài mini, a version designed for practical use and convenience, had slits that extended above the waist and panels that reached only to the knee.

The aodai has always been more common in the South than in the North. The communists, who gained power in the North in 1954 and in the South in the 1975, had conflicted feelings about the aodai. They praised it as a national costume and one was worn to the Paris Peace Conference (1968-73) by Vietcong negotiator Nguyễn Thị B́nh. Yet Westernized versions of the dress and those associated with "decadent" Saigon of the 1960s and early 1970s were condemned. Economic crisis, famine, and war with Cambodia combined to make the 1980s a fashion low point. The aodai was rarely worn except at weddings and other formal occasions, with the older, looser-fitting style preferred. 

Overseas Vietnamese, meanwhile, kept tradition alive with "Miss Aodai" pageants (Hoa Hậu Áo Dài), the most notable one held annually in Long Beach, California.

The aodai experienced a revival beginning in late 1980s, when state enterprise and schools began adopting the dress as a uniform. In 1989, 16,000 Vietnamese attended a Miss Aodai Beauty Contest held in Hochiminh City (formerly Saigon). When the Miss International Pageant in Tokyo gave its "Best National Costume" award to an aodai-clad Trường Quỳnh Mai in 1995, Thời Trang Trẻ (New Fashion Magazine) gushed that Vietnam's "national soul" was "once again honored." An "aodai craze" followed that lasted several years and led to wider use of the dress as a school uniform

Place in Today's Culture
No longer controversial politically, aodai fashion design is supported by the Vietnamese government. Designer Le Si Hoang is a celebrity in Vietnam and his shop in Hochiminh City is the place to visit for those who admire the dress. In Hanoi, tourists get fitted for aodais on Luong Van Can Street. The elegant city of Huế in the central region is known for its aodais, nón lá (leaf hats), and well-dressed women.

The aodai is now standard for weddings, for celebrating Tết and for other formal occasions. A plain white aodai is a common high school school uniform in the South. Companies often require their female staff to wear uniforms that include the aodai, so flight attendants, receptionists, restaurant staff, and hotel workers in Vietnam may be seen in it.

The most popular style of aodai fits tightly around the wearer's upper torso, emphasizing her bust and curves. Although the dress covers the entire body, it is thought to be provocative, especially when it is made of thin fabric. "The aodai covers everything, but hides nothing," according to one saying. The dress must be individually fitted and usually requires several weeks for a tailor to complete. For Vietnamese, the price of a typical aodai is about $30, although tourists are often charged double.

"Symbolically, the ao dai invokes nostalgia and timelessness associated with a gendered image of the homeland for which many Vietnamese people throughout the diaspora yearn," wrote Nhi T. Lieu, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin. The difficulties of working while wearing an aodai links the dress to frailty and innocence, she wrote. Vietnamese writers who favor the use of the aodai as a school uniform cite the inconvenience of wearing it as an advantage, a way of teaching students feminine behavior such as modesty, caution, and a refined manner.

The aodai appears in many movies with Vietnam-related themes. In Good Morning Vietnam (1987), Robin Williams's character is wowed by aodai-clad women when he first arrives in Saigon. The 1992 films Indochine and The Lover inspired several international fashion houses to design aodai collections. In the Vietnamese film The White Silk Dress (2007), an aodai is the sole legacy that the mother of a poverty-stricken family has to pass on to her daughters. The Hanoi City Complex, a 65-story building now under construction, will have an aodai-inspired design. Vietnamese designers created aodai for the contestants in the Miss Universe beauty contest, which was held this year in Nha Trang, Vietnam.

Traditional Vietnamese clothing

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1.jpg (165624 bytes)  5.jpg (42301 bytes)  More about Áo bà ba       More about Áo yếm

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