A Guide to Ao Dai-Vietnamese Traditional Dress
From time to time, Ao dai (pronounced “ow yai”) has always been a representative of Vietnamese femininity and the pride of the Vietnamese people. The image of Vietnamese women wearing Ao dai has left a beautiful impression on many travellers around the world who visit Vietnam. There are so many things to talk about with Ao Dai, but in this post, we will share with you some highlights of this Vietnamese traditional dress.
What is ao dai?
Ao dai is a 2-piece fabric garment with a long-sleeved dress and ankle-length trousers. It is also considered an all-covered but nothing-hidden outfit thanks to its form-fitting shape. Each ao dai usually only fits one person, so most Vietnamese ladies get their own custom ao dai for their body shape and preferred style.
No one knows for sure what the evolution of the Ao dai has been since ancient times, but the time when a dress most similar to the Ao dai first appeared is in the early 1700s in the Nguyen Dynasty. The king ordered that both men and women should wear both trousers and gowns. The dress must have wrist-length sleeves and a high collar. Gradually, it became more and more familiar with the daily lives of Vietnamese people and turned into a signature of Vietnam. It exudes charm, enchantment, and glamour.
How to make an Ao Dai-Vietnamese traditional dress
Ao dai is unique not only in the way it looks, but also in the way it is made. To make this traditional dress fit you best, you need a tailor to sew your own creations after measuring your height, bust, waist, and hip size. The male version of Ao dai is also done in a similar way, but the sleeves and body of the dress are much looser and not tight.
Since Ao dai has 2 different parts, namely the long dress and the pants that reach all the way to the floor, the process of making Ao dai is complicated and can take a while to finish. A U-shaped stand-up collar is usually added at the end. But lately, women like to wear the collarless type to show a little bit of their shoulders. The tailoring skills are required to make the Vietnamese traditional dress not only fit on the body but also not wrinkle when you put it on.
Since the weather in Vietnam is quite warm all year round, the material used to make Ao dai should be thin, light, and comfortable. It also provides a soft and smooth feel to the dress. There are many such materials as silk, brocade, satin, and sometimes an added layer of lace, voile, or embroidery.
When Ao Dai wears
Up to date, the Ao dai is not as popular as it used to be, but it is still a symbol of this country. People wear it when there is a special occasion such as Vietnamese Tet, family reunions or formal ceremonies such as weddings and graduation days. Some high schools still require female students to wear the white Ao dai on Monday mornings. If you have the chance to pass a high school on a Monday morning, you might see the image of college girls in long white dresses cycling down the street.
Ao Dai, how do you carry?
To wear the Ao dai, you can dress it up like a shirt, but with the line of snaps and finish with a small hook on the right side. It may be a little difficult to try for the first time, so our suggestion is to lend a hand when getting dressed. Wearing pants should be easier as they usually have a zipper and a small hook for closure.
There are several accessories that go well with Ao dai to embody this outfit, such as the Non la (a Vietnamese conical hat), the paper fan, and the Khan dong of Man (a type of headgear made by winding a long handle of clothing tight). You will usually see both men and women wearing Khan Dong with Ao Dai, especially on their wedding day.
Where to buy Ao Dai
Since Ao dai is custom and handmade, the price of one set is not low. It should start at about VND 500,000 if you bring your own fabric to the store, and at about VND 800,000 for both the fabric and manufacturing costs. There are many things you can customise with Ao dai, from the material to the patterns on it, so the price of Ao dai also ranges from a wide range to even millions of VND.
Hanoi is an ancient city in Vietnam and has many famous shops that sell the traditional clothes of the country.
- Tien Trach-Hang Chuoi, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
- One shop is located at 428 Bach Mai in the Hai Ba Trung District of Hanoi, and the other at 275 Cau Giay in the Cau Giay District of Hanoi.
- Hanoi: Phan Hai-43 Le Van Huu, District of Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi
The tailoring service “FedEx” in Hoi An has found its way into an article on Forbes. You can choose the fabric, design, get body measurements and have it done in just a few hours. You can walk around town and find many tailor shops on the streets of Hoi An, such as Tran Phu and Le Loi.
In the city of Ho Chi Minh City
There are so many different types of fabric with different patterns to choose from for your Ao Dai that you can easily find in Tan Dinh Market, Soai Kinh Lam Market, Ben Thanh Market, or some of the shops below:
- Dong Khoi, District 1, with numerous tailors and silk shops
- Nhat Nguyet: 28 Mac Dinh Chi, District 1
- The Huong Collection: 67 Do Khoa Huan, District 1
- Beautiful Silk: 237 Le Thanh Ton, District 1
- Fabric Store ABC AoZai: 19 Ly Chinh Thang Street, District 3
See where to find tailors in Ho Chi Minh City.
You can also find ready-made Ao dai in these stores above. One of the Ao dais that is in trend right now is Ao dai cach tan (meaning the new Ao dai). The dress is cut short to knee length; the collar may be U-shaped or not at all; its shape is not too tight and you can wear it with many types of ankle-length trousers, such as silk or jeans.
Summary of A Guide to Ao Dai-Vietnamese Traditional Dress
Ao dai is a Vietnamese traditional costume that can symbolise the essence of Vietnamese people and life. Although the globalisation and adaptation of both the economy and culture continues to expand, Ao dai remains the same value that cannot be blurred. It is simultaneously a symbol and a storyteller who stands side by side with this country to witness all the priceless moments of history. Anyone who loves fashion should give Ao dai a try when visiting Vietnam, as it is a great souvenir of a trip to Vietnam.