Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren

December 4, 2006


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As the music sets the catwalk in motion, Ralph Lauren models appear with his latest collection. This time it goes beyond his trademark Hamptons/neo-British image. His models are strolling elegantly above the crowd in conical hats and long silk tunics slit from the waist down, worn over wide pants. With such a look, it was clear that designer Ralph Lauren had fallen under the spell of the beautiful Vietnamese ao dai.

That was a few seasons past, and the fashion world moves on to new trends to satisfy fickle consumers. However, in Viet Nam and in Vietnamese communities worldwide, the ao dai enjoys a revival that will unlikely fade with the seasons. Its renewed popularity marks a resurgence of cultural ties. A younger generation of Vietnamese are discovering its charm. Yet few question its origins. Even among cultural historians, only a small number have placed importance on the development of Vietnamese costume. Thus, documentation on the topic is rare and often vague.

Lan Vu ©2002
San Francisco, CA
(this article has also been published by Heritage)


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Today, the ao dai is also surviving in the business sector. The official uniform of the government-run Viet Nam Airlines is the ao dai in pink (international flights) or sky blue (domestic flights) with a Mandarin style collar. In addition, banks, hotels, and other businesses encourage their female employees to wear ao dai because it exudes a dignified and attractive image for the company. The current fashion in Saigon is the high, rounded collar ao dai with slim raglan sleeves, and worn with very long, billowy pants cut on the bias. The sewing shops are overbooked with orders for this style of dress.

Outside of Viet Nam, the ao dai still maintains a strong presence. Although, it is solely worn during family events like Tet, marriages, and funerals/post-mortem gatherings, it represents a deep cultural bond which still exists for many overseas Vietnamese, despite the time and distance away from the country. Even for those too young to remember life in Viet Nam, the connection to their roots is embedded in them. Some have recognized and benefited from this connection. For instance, well-known design schools such as New York’s Parsons School of Design and Fashion Institute of Technology boast a growing number of Vietnamese fashion design students. It is not uncommon that these young designers, as well as Vietnamese professionals seasoned in the field, derive inspiration from their background, in which the ao dai plays a major role. Years ago, designer Vinh Pham gained much recognition for his iridescent “Butterfly Imager” ready-to-wear collection, based on the ao dai.

Western designers such as Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren have all successfully derived ideas from Vietnamese costume for past collections. The peasant pants outfit (ao ba ba) and simple ao dai have been transformed into elegant haute couture adaptations. This, in turn, spawned a myriad of knockoffs among mass market manufacturers. The movie industry, with its captivating images of Vietnamese women in traditional dress, involuntarily promoted this look in clothes. Films like “Indochine”, “The Lover”, “Heaven and Earth”, and director Tran Anh Hung’s “The Scent of the Green Papaya” and “Cyclo” showcase the grace of traditional Viet Namese dress against an alluring background.

Among the Vietnamese overseas communities, video series like the popular “Paris by Night” keep the ao dai ever-present in people’s daily view. The series, like many similar variety presentations, often features ao dai fashion shows and famous singers wearing elaborate ao dai’s on stage. Ao dai beauty competitions like those in Viet Nam also take place frequently in America and in Europe. There as well, such events draw an impressive audience. This exhibits that though people do not regularly wear the ao air, it nevertheless rests ardent among their interests.

Some people are of the contrary opinion. They believe that the ao dai is becoming obsolete due to the influence of western culture and dress. They overlook, however, the fact that the ao dai has already survived centuries of repeated foreign subjugation and assimilation. It has weathered many social changes and fickle emperors. Yet in the simple modesty and elegance of its design, there rests a force which seems to defy the ages.

source –

This is Nam Phuong Hoang Hau from the Nguyen’s Dynasty

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I think this is a better picture of Nam Phuong Hoang Hau

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3 Responses to “Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren”

  1. xaxanguyen Says:

    XAXAnguyen AO VEST NAM thiết kế phong cách hàn quốc

  2. Thanks for finally writing about >Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren The Ao
    Dai Blog <Loved it!

  3. Great blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you recommend starting with a free platform
    like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely confused .. Any suggestions? Many thanks!

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