The costume of women in South Vietnam has gone through many stages of development, but still preserves its distinctive and unique imprints of the traditional culture.

Costumes of southern women and children in the old days

Attires of southern women in the old days

Initially, the women’s costume in the North of Vietnam was ao tu than (four-piece blouse) with a bodice, a skirt and a headscarf of the ancient Vietnamese women. When the country was separated into Dang Trong (the South) and Dang Ngoai (the North), the Lords of Dang Trong instituted a cultural reform, including a costume reform to differentiate local people’s costumes from those in Dang Ngoai.

Wedding dresses in the old days

In the 18th century, the southern women wore long five-flap shirts with black loose trousers, with their hair in a high bun and they walked barefooted both at work and in the town. And this five-piece shirt was considered as the forerunner to the current ao dai of southern women, which was preserved due to the development of the sericulture and fabric weaving. As there was a class division in the feudal society, common women wore long black shirts made from coarse materials, whereas upper class women wore shirts made from smooth and cloths with “main colors” such as yellow, blue, red and purple. They usually wore long shirts in blue or violet, their hair in a bun, curved shoes and flat balm hat with fringes. Besides, dark hues were considered more suitable for women living in wet areas.

At that time, the wedding gown comprised a halter-neck and a long-sleeved shirt, which were redesigned from ao mo ba mo bay (shirt of several flaps), to be suitable to the sultry weather.

Wedding costumes in the 1940s

In the 19th century and early 20th century, due to the influence of the French culture, the ao dai was harmoniously designed between the traditional culture and the western style. It was made tighter, clinging to the body and more colorful, from thin materials and worn with loose white trousers. In the 1970s, the south was the vanguard in renovating the costume. Southern designers made it cling to the body with narrowed flaps, especially they made use of the Raglan shoulder to avoid creases and give the dress a softer, more flowing appearance.

Then, the ao dai became the traditional dress of the Vietnamese women. It helps wearers look charming and attractive, elegant and romantic. Moreover, it also graces the lissomness and gentleness of the women.

Wedding costumes in the 1940s

Nowadays, the Ao Dai is still the much-feted costume of Vietnamese women at wedding parties, festivals and offices. Hence, many famous fashion designers such as Minh Hanh, Si Hoang and Lien Huong design the Ao Dai in different styles with unique patterns, which harmoniously combine the beauty of traditional style and the modernity of the West.
Besides the traditional dress, the ao ba ba (loose-fitting blouse), which entered Vietnam from Chinese traders and was redesigned several times, has become the distinctive costume of southern women. Initially, the ao ba ba was black and tailored with pockets and splitting flaps at the hip. It was worn along with a bandana, suitable to the life of women in watery areas. Later, designers made it tighter with the Raglan shoulder, and in light and bright hues that make the ao ba ba more feminine and beautiful.

Ao Dai – Vietnamese Plus Size Fashion Statement Print E-mail
Posted by Editors’ Choice
Tuesday, 02 October 2007
For exotic looks, ethnic fashions are wonderful alternatives for the plus size woman. For instance the the ao dai (pronounced “ow zai” in North Vietnam and, “ow yai” in South Vietnam), Vietnam’s national dress, has a styling that looks fabulous on almost anyone. It consists of two elements: a long tunic with a close-fitting bodice, mandarin collar, raglan sleeves, and side slits that create front and back panels from the waist down; and wide-legged pants, often cut on the bias.

While in the distant past both men and women wore the ao dai, in the twenty-first century it is almost exclusively a women’s garment. While the ao dai is now seen as symbolizing traditional Vietnamese identity and femininity, it in fact has a relatively brief history marked by foreign influence. The ao dai provides a outstanding example of how the Vietnamese have responded to both Chinese and French colonization by adopting elements of foreign cultures and modifying them to be uniquely Vietnamese. Prior to the fifteenth century, Vietnamese women typically wore a skirt and halter top. These were some times covered by an open-necked tunic (ao tu than) with four long panels, the front two tied or belted at the waist. Women’s garments were brown or black, accented by brightly colored tops or belts on special occasions.

From 1407 to 1428, China’s Ming Dynasty occupied Vietnam and forced women to wear Chinese-style pants. After regaining independence, Vietnam’s Le Dynasty (1428–1788) likewise criticized women’s clothing for violating Confucian standards of decorum. Since the policies were haphazardly enforced, and skirts and halter tops remained the norm.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Vietnam was divided into two regions, with the Nguyen family ruling the south. To distinguish their subjects from northerners, Nguyen lords ordered southern men and women to wear Chinese-style trousers and long, front-buttoning tunics. After the Nguyen family gained control over the entire country in 1802, the conservative Confucian Emperor Minh Mang banned women’s skirts on aesthetic and moral grounds.

Over the next century, precursors to the modern ao dai became popular in cities, at the royal court in Hue, and for holidays and festivals in the countryside. The outfit basically consisted of pants and a loose-fitting shirt with a stand-up collar and a diagonal closure that ran along the right side from the neck to the armpit, with some regional variations. These features of the ao dao were copied from Chinese and Manchu garments. The upper classes often layered several ao dai of different colors, with the neck left open to display the layers. Among peasants and laborers, however, the skirt (va) and halter top (yem) remained popular for daily wear.

During the 1930s Hanoi artist Nguyen Cat Tuong, also known as Lemur, presented ao dai styles inspired by French fashion. He designed them with light-colored, close-fitting tunics featured longer panels, puffy sleeves; asymmetrical lace collars, buttoned cuffs, scalloped hems, and darts at the waist and chest. Lemur’s Europeanized flared pants were white with snugly tailored hips. Criticized by conservatives, Lemur’s designs nonetheless marked the materialization of contemporary ao dai blending traditional Vietnamese elements with Western tailoring and bodily aesthetics.

French colonialism ended in 1954 with the division of Vietnam into North and South. In North Vietnam,
Communist leaders criticized the ao dai as bourgeois, colonial, and impractical for manual labor, although women continued to wear it for special occasions.
When the ao dai fell into disfavor in socialist Vietnam, Vietnamese who had immigrated to the United States, Canada, Australia, or France preserved it as a symbol of their ethnic heritage. Ao dai were seen at fashion shows, Tet (Lunar New Year) celebrations, weddings, and musical performances throughout the Vietnamese communities of the world, which numbered approximately 2.6 million in 2006.

Meanwhile, in capitalist South Vietnam, modifications of the garment continued. Madame Nhu the sister-in-law of President Ngo Dinh Diem, became notorious in the 1950s and 1960s for the very plunging necklines of her ao dai.

In 1975, the Vietnam War ended with the reunification of North and South under communist rule. Leaders derided the southern ao dai as decadent and promoted simpler, practical clothing styles. But austerity proved short-lived. By the 1990s, economic reforms and improved standards of living led to a revival of the ao dai within Vietnam and to growing international awareness of it as a symbol of Vietnamese identity. In 1989, the Women’s Newspaper in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) hosted the first Miss Ao Dai contest. Six years later, Miss Vietnam’s blue brocade ao dai won the prize for best national costume at Tokyo’s Miss International Pageant. Simple white ao dai have been reinstated in many cities and towns as uniforms for female high school students, while Vietnam Airlines flight attendants wear red ao dai.

The ao dai has also inspired non-Asian designers. Following the 1992 films “Indochine” and “The Lover”, both set in the French colonial period, Ralph Lauren, Richard Tyler, Claude Montana, and Giorgio Armani presented ao dai–inspired collections. While “Indo-Chic” fashions can be Orientalist in their celebration of a demure, sexy, and exotic Vietnamese femininity, they are typically welcomed in Vietnam as evidence that the ao dai has entered the canon of international fashion.

Some current designers employ novel fabrics, abstract motifs, and ethnic minority patterns, while others alter the tunic by opening necklines, removing sleeves, or replacing the long panels with fringe. The once scandalous white pants now seem outmoded, and women instead favor pants the same color as the tunic.

So the ao dia has an interesting history. But with the selections of materials and cuts, the ao dai allows the fashion-conscious plus size woman to be simultaneously trendy and fabulous throughout the year and on special occasions.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/clothing-articles/ao-dai-vietnamese-plus-size-fashion-statement-223722.html

About the Author:
For more tips and information on plus size fashion with an ethnic flair visit http://www.fabulous-plus-sizes.com a trendy plus size fashion website that provides tips, advice and resources to include plus size bras,jewelry plus size dresses, plus size evening dresses, and plus size wedding wear.

Vietnamese Ao dai history

The traditional dress for women in Vietnam is the costume that is called “Ao Dai” (pronounced “ow’ yai” or “ow’ zai”) literally meaning “Long Dress”. Early versions of the Ao Dai date back to 1744 when Lord Vu Vuong of the Nguyen Dynasty decreed both men and women should wear an ensemble of trousers and a gown that buttoned down the front. Nowadays, Ao Dai is a two-piece garment made of fabric, full-length dress worn over loose silk trousers reaching all the way to the ground. The dress splits into a front and back panel from the waist down. The dress length seems to be gradually shortening and today is usually just below the knee. Variations in the neck, between boat and mandarin style, are common and even adventurous alterations such as a low scooped neckline puffed sleeves or off the shoulder designs are appearing as ladies experiment with fashion. Women wear Ao Dai of various colors, often with intricate patterns and designs, in formal or work settings. Schoolgirls wear pure white, fully lined outfits symbolizing their purity.

Original design of Ao dai

Ao dai is literally the women’s national dress of Vietnam. It is a contoured, full-length dress worn over black or white loose-fitting trousers. The dress splits into a front and back panel from the waist down. There are many stylish variations in color and collar design. Originally, the ao dai was loosely tailored with four panels, two of which were tied in back. In 1932, a nationalistic literacy group called the Tu Luc Van Doan designed what is essentially now the ao dai.
A similar costume is worn by the men and is also called an ao dai. However, the man’s dress is shorter (knee length) and more loose-fitting. The color of the brocade and the embroidered dragon were worn only by the Emperor. Purple was the color reserved for high ranking mandarins while the blue was worn by those mandarins of lower rank. The dresses for mourning have frayed fringes a line up the back and may be either white or black, although white is the standard color for mourning.

Ao dai as a national symbol of Vietnam

To the Vietnamese people, ao dai has always been synonymous with grace, and beauty. Throughout the many trials and tribulation of Vietnam’s history, the ao dai remained unchanged in its symbolism and the image it conjures in the hearts of all Vietnamese. Today, due to its timelessness, the ao dai remained the national dress for both Vietnamese men and women. The ao dai and what it represents transcends all ages and it reaches the lives of people from all walks of life. To the Vietnamese people, rich or poor, the ao dai is still the dress of choice on social occasion and enjoys a preference on special occasions as well.

Aodai, an endless stream of emotion

Since the dawn of Vietnamese literature and music, poets and musicians alike have expound the beauty of the ao dai and the grace and beauty it brings to people who wears it. Nowhere in modern literature does an article of clothing have the power to conjure drama, romance and fate like the ao dai in Vietnamese literature. Symbolically, one can argue that Vietnam is ao dai and ao dai is Vietnam. Although the trends in fashion brought to the traditional ao dai many changes in terms of materials and western influences, the ao dai remains a timeless article of clothing that has the strength to unify people.

Ao Dai, from an international point of view

It is an elegant, demure, and yet sexy outfit that suits people of all ages. Anthony Grey described the Ao Dai in his novel Saigon as “demure and provocative… women seemed not to walk but to float gently beneath the tamarinds on the evening breeze.”. The Ao Dai covers everything but its thin fabric hides almost nothing! That’s true, Ao Dai is so charming and so sexy.

What does aodai4u bring you?

Have you ever looked so gorgeous and charming this way? Try it now, you won’t regret. Vietnamese ao dai is probably one of the best dresses in the world. Women look more beautiful (although they already are) as if there is magic embedded inside this national costume glowing tenderly over who wear it. Ao dai has over 300 years of history. Throughout the time, ao dai gradually gets beyond the border of Vietnam, reaches out to the world fashion. So, just browse through this site, enjoy the beauty of Ao Dai. It’s not a bad idea to get from aodai4u one for yourself, your wife, your mother, your daughter or your loved one and see them so lovely and happy with your gift.

Copyright © 2001-2004 www.aodai4u.com.

HISTORY OF VIETNAM’S AO DAI DRESS FOR THE TET FESTIVAL:

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 Saigon. 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).

  • Ha Kieu Anh, Miss Vietnam 1992-1993
  • Nguyen Thu Thuy, Miss Vietnam 1994-1995
  • Nguyen Thien Nga, Miss Vietnam 1996-1997
  • Nguyen Thi Dong Khanh, Miss Vietnam 1998-1999
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.
Dress

The women of Vietnam have, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful national costumes in the world. It is called the “ao-dai.” The over-dress is form-fitting to the waist, with long tight sleeves. At the waist, two panels extend front and back to cover the long satin trousers underneath. Correct fit dictates that the pants reach the sole of the foot, and are always slightly longer than the dress panels. Occasionally lace is sewn around the bottom of each leg. Tradition has kept the color of the pants of the ao- dai to black or white.The traditional ao-dai has a high mandarian collar and is favored by most of the Vietnamese men for their wives and other family members, as well as their girl friends. Young moderns, however, often choose the newer “Madame Nhu” or boat neckline which is far more comfortable in the tropical heat. After the coup d’etat of 1963 when the Diem regime was deposed, it was rumored that this style ao-dai would be banned, but so far nothing has happened.

The dress portion of the ao-dai is often made of nylon and comes in a variety of bright colors and designs. The extremely dressy ao-dai is usually made from brocade or elaborately embroidered material.

When a woman sits down, she takes the back panel, pulls it up and around into her lap. When riding a bicycle, they often tie the back panel down to the back fender to keep it from getting tangled in the wheels. Often, girls can be seen riding along the streets of Saigon on motor bikes with the back of their ao-dai flying loose, causing foreigners to comment that they look like butterflies, and beautiful ones at that.

Many Americans have become so fond of the dress that they have some specially made to send home to their families. They make excellent hostess gowns.

Many of the Vietnamese wear plain black satin trousers with a short shirt for their everyday work.

In addition to these, one sees a variety of Chinese and Western-type dresses worn in Vietnam. The Vietnamese male however, generally objects to women wearing Western clothing.

The men have a costume that has been almost completely replaced by Western dress in Vietnam today. It is similar to the ao-dai, except the outer garment is shorter and not tightly fitted. They are usually worn by older men or in traditional ceremonies.

Children generally wear Western-type dress until they are teenagers. Little girls may occasionally be seen in the ao-dai on special occasions.

A lasting impression for any visitor to Vietnam is the beauty of the women dressed in their ao dais. Girls dressed in white pick their way through muddy streets going home from school or sail by in a graceful chatter on their bikes. Secretaries in delicate pastels greet you at an office door and older ladies in deep shades of purple, green or blue cut a striking pose eating dinner at a restaurant. The ao dai appears to flatter every figure. Its body-hugging top flows over wide trousers that brush the floor. Splits in the gown extend well above waist height and make it comfortable and easy to move in. Although virtually the whole body is swathed in soft flowing fabric, these splits give the odd glimpse of a bare midriff, making the outfit very sensual. Rapidly becoming the national costume for ladies, its development is actually very short compared to the country’s history.
Pronounced ‘ao yai’ in the south, but ‘ao zai’ in the north, the color is indicative of the wearer’s age and status. Young girls wear pure white, fully lined outfits symbolizing their purity. As they grow older but are still unmarried they move into soft pastel shades. Only married women wear gowns in strong, rich colors, usually over white or black pants. The ao dai has always been more prevalent in the south than the north, but austerity drives after 1975 meant it was rarely anywhere seen for a number of years as it was considered an excess not appropriate for hard work. The nineties have seen a resurgence in the ao dai’s popularity. “It has become standard attire for many office workers and hotel staff as well as now being the preferred dress for more formal occasions,” says Huong, a secretary for a foreign company. “I feel proud of my heritage when I wear it.” For visitors, the pink and blue of the Vietnam Airlines uniform creates a lasting memory as they travel.
Early versions of the ao dai date back to 1744 when Lord Vu Vuong of the Nguyen Dynasty decreed both men and women should wear an ensemble of trousers and a gown that buttoned down the front. It was not until 1930 that the ao dai as we know it really appeared. Vietnamese fashion designer and writer Cat Tuong, or as the French knew him, Monsieur Le Mur, lengthened the top so it reached the floor, fitted the bodice to the curves of the body and moved the buttons from the front to an opening along the shoulder and side seam. Men wore it less, generally only on ceremonial occasions such as at weddings or funerals. But it took another twenty years before the next major design change was incorporated and the modern ao dai emerged. During the 1950s two tailors in Saigon, Tran Kim of Thiet Lap Tailors and Dung of Dung Tailors, started producing the gowns with raglan sleeves. This creates a diagonal seam running from the collar to the underarm and today, this style is still preferred.
Its popularity is also spreading well beyond Vietnam’s borders. For years Vietnamese immigrants preferred to adopt Western dress and blend with their new community but now the ao dai is seeing a revival amongst overseas Vietnamese. At least here in the United States this may be partly due to the arrival of Tram Kim, known as Mr. Ao Dai. He shifted to California in 1982 and opened a new branch of Thiet Lap Tailors in Garden Grove, Orange County, leaving his Saigon store to his son. There are even annual Miss Ao Dai pageants held and the prestigious Long Beach show attracts entrants from across the country. The clothing has also inspired French designers including top names such as Christian Lacroix and Claude Montana, and variations of the tight sleeves, fitted bodice, high collar and flowing trousers have been seen on the catwalks of Europe.
Every ao dai is custom made, accounting for the fit that creates such a flattering look. Stores specialize in their production and a team of cutters, sewers and fitters ensure that the final product will highlight the figure of the wearer. Thuy, a fitter in Ho Chi Minh City, says, “To create the perfect fit, customers take their undergarments and shoes with them for the fittings.” The pants should reach the soles of the feet and flow along the floor.
Comfort has not been forgotten at the expense of fashion and beauty. The cut allows the wearer freedom of movement and despite covering the whole body, it is cool to wear. Synthetic fabrics are preferred as they do not crush and are quick drying, making the ao dai a practical uniform for daily wear.
Its popularity may be its undoing as the garment is now being mass produced to make it more available and cheaper. The gown length appears to be gradually shortening and today is usually just below the knee. Variations in the neck, between boat and mandarin style, are common and even adventurous alterations such as a low scooped neckline, puffed sleeves or off the shoulder designs are appearing as ladies experiment with fashion. Colors are no longer as rigidly controlled and access to new fabrics has created some dazzling results. But most visitors to Vietnam agree that the tailors already have the perfect cut. It is hard to think of a more elegant, demure and yet sexy outfit, that suits Vietnamese women of all ages, than the ao dai.

Ao Dai
The National Costume
By: Claire Ellis


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.

Ao Dai History

June 27, 2006

 

 

  Fri. April 26, 2002
A lasting impression for any visitor to Vietnam is the beauty of the women dressed in their ao dais. Girls dressed in white pick their way through muddy streets going home from school or sail by in a graceful chatter on their bikes. Secretaries in delicate pastels greet you at an office door and older ladies in deep shades of purple, green or blue cut a striking pose eating dinner at a restaurant. The ao dai appears to flatter every figure. Its body-hugging top flows over wide trousers that brush the floor. Splits in the gown extend well above waist height and make it comfortable and easy to move in. Although virtually the whole body is swathed in soft flowing fabric, these splits give the odd glimpse of a bare midriff, making the outfit very sensual. Rapidly becoming the national costume for ladies, its development is actually very short compared to the country’s history.
Pronounced ‘ao yai’ in the south, but ‘ao zai’ in the north, the color is indicative of the wearer’s age and status. Young girls wear pure white, fully lined outfits symbolizing their purity. As they grow older but are still unmarried they move into soft pastel shades. Only married women wear gowns in strong, rich colors, usually over white or black pants. The ao dai has always been more prevalent in the south than the north, but austerity drives after 1975 meant it was rarely anywhere seen for a number of years as it was considered an excess not appropriate for hard work. The nineties have seen a resurgence in the ao dai’s popularity. “It has become standard attire for many office workers and hotel staff as well as now being the preferred dress for more formal occasions,” says Huong, a secretary for a foreign company. “I feel proud of my heritage when I wear it.” For visitors, the pink and blue of the Vietnam Airlines uniform creates a lasting memory as they travel.
Early versions of the ao dai date back to 1744 when Lord Vu Vuong of the Nguyen Dynasty decreed both men and women should wear an ensemble of trousers and a gown that buttoned down the front. It was not until 1930 that the ao dai as we know it really appeared. Vietnamese fashion designer and writer Cat Tuong, or as the French knew him, Monsieur Le Mur, lengthened the top so it reached the floor, fitted the bodice to the curves of the body and moved the buttons from the front to an opening along the shoulder and side seam. Men wore it less, generally only on ceremonial occasions such as at weddings or funerals. But it took another twenty years before the next major design change was incorporated and the modern ao dai emerged. During the 1950s two tailors in Saigon, Tran Kim of Thiet Lap Tailors and Dung of Dung Tailors, started producing the gowns with raglan sleeves. This creates a diagonal seam running from the collar to the underarm and today, this style is still preferred.
Its popularity is also spreading well beyond Vietnam’s borders. For years Vietnamese immigrants preferred to adopt Western dress and blend with their new community but now the ao dai is seeing a revival amongst overseas Vietnamese. At least here in the United States this may be partly due to the arrival of Tram Kim, known as Mr. Ao Dai. He shifted to California in 1982 and opened a new branch of Thiet Lap Tailors in Garden Grove, Orange County, leaving his Saigon store to his son. There are even annual Miss Ao Dai pageants held and the prestigious Long Beach show attracts entrants from across the country. The clothing has also inspired French designers including top names such as Christian Lacroix and Claude Montana, and variations of the tight sleeves, fitted bodice, high collar and flowing trousers have been seen on the catwalks of Europe.
Every ao dai is custom made, accounting for the fit that creates such a flattering look. Stores specialize in their production and a team of cutters, sewers and fitters ensure that the final product will highlight the figure of the wearer. Thuy, a fitter in Ho Chi Minh City, says, “To create the perfect fit, customers take their undergarments and shoes with them for the fittings.” The pants should reach the soles of the feet and flow along the floor.
Comfort has not been forgotten at the expense of fashion and beauty. The cut allows the wearer freedom of movement and despite covering the whole body, it is cool to wear. Synthetic fabrics are preferred as they do not crush and are quick drying, making the ao dai a practical uniform for daily wear.
Its popularity may be its undoing as the garment is now being mass produced to make it more available and cheaper. The gown length appears to be gradually shortening and today is usually just below the knee. Variations in the neck, between boat and mandarin style, are common and even adventurous alterations such as a low scooped neckline, puffed sleeves or off the shoulder designs are appearing as ladies experiment with fashion. Colors are no longer as rigidly controlled and access to new fabrics has created some dazzling results. But most visitors to Vietnam agree that the tailors already have the perfect cut. It is hard to think of a more elegant, demure and yet sexy outfit, that suits Vietnamese women of all ages, than the ao dai.AO DAI
The National Costume

http://www.acjc.edu.sg/Spectra/VibrantCulture/Vietnam/aodaihis.html

 

 

 

 

Áo dài

Plain white Ao Dai.

Enlarge

Plain white Ao Dai.

The áo dài (pronounced [ao yai] in the South, [ao zai] in the North) is one out of several traditional Vietnamese dresses worn (nowadays) primarily by women. It is the most popular national costume.

History

The first versions of Vietnamese áo dài date back to the 1700s and were influenced by Chinese garb (qipao).

After 1975, the áo dài was rarely seen because many considered it to be an excess inappropriate for hard work. However, since the 1990s, the áo dài has seen a resurgence both in Vietnam and for overseas Vietnamese.

There is also a male version of the áo dài, which is worn less today, except in ceremonies like weddings, funerals, or other “traditional” occasions. Men’s áo dài’s, in contrast to women’s, fit very loosely.

Original Áo Dài

The first style of Áo Dài tended to be much looser fitting in general, with more flowing, longer and bigger sleeves. Royal patterns and colors were common, and commoners were restricted from wearing them.

Interpretation of Original Ao Dai at a fashion show.

Enlarge

Interpretation of Original Ao Dai at a fashion show.

The Royal Wedding Áo Dài: Áo Mệnh Phu

Besides the multitudes of fabrics, designs and patterns one can use for the Ao Dai, some versions perhaps also connect to the Northern peasant Vietnamese dress called Ao Tu Than. In this version there is often a flowing outer jacket (with large belled sleeves) as well as two extra flaps (making a 4 flapped dress, as opposed to the typical Ao Dai’s 2 flaps).

The 4 flapped Ao Dai is commonly worn for weddings and is known as Ao Menh Phu. There are countless varieties of Wedding and royal court attire, but the most common similarity they share would be the 4 (or even more) flaps. Wedding attire typically is in brighter colors like red or pink (for women).

One style of Royal Ao Dai.

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One style of Royal Ao Dai.

The modern costume and its place in modern-day Vietnam

The most popular style of the modern áo dài is tight-fitting around the wearer’s upper torso, emphasizing her bust and curves. For this reason, the áo dài, while it covers the whole body, is said to be provocative, especially when it is made of thin or see-through fabric. More adventurous versions of the modern Áo Dài are even collarless.

The first, more “modern” version of the áo dài did not appear until 1930, when Vietnamese fashion designer Cat Tuong, known to the French as Monsieur Le Mur, modified it. He lengthened the áo dài so that the top reached the floor, made it fit the curves of the body closer and moved the buttons from the front to an opening along the shoulder and side seam.

In Saigon during the 1950s, Tran Kim of Thiet Lap Tailors and Dung of Dung Tailors modified the áo dài to a form closest to what is seen today. He produced the gowns with raglan sleeves, creating a diagonal seam that runs from the collar to the underarm.

Collarless Ao Dai.

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Collarless Ao Dai.

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