Vietnamese Traditional Dresses: Ao Dai, Non La, Hmong and Cham Ethnic Wear

Clothing is an important and integral part of any culture and is often overlooked when culture is being discussed. With such rich and diverse culture, one will find a unique clothing pattern in the traditional dress of Vietnam. With roughly sixty different ethnic groups, Vietnam has a vast variety of clothing styles, similar only in their affinity to bright, contradictory colours and vibrant patterns.

Traditional Vietnamese Dress for Men

Traditional Vietnamese Dress, Ao Dai for Men
Ao Dai, the Traditional Dress in Vietnam for Men (Source)

The traditional Vietnamese dress for men is known as the Ao Dai. It is a long silk tunic with a conventional looking snug collar and is buttoned down on the left side. The male tunic falls to the knees and is generally worn with loose pants underneath.

In the past, the colour of the Ao Dai in Vietnam indicated a man's position in society. Gold is the colour that represented royalty in ancient Vietnam. The Kings' Ao Dai was embroidered with dragons to represent their strength and might. High Ranking officials wore purple Ao Dai's and the commoners wore various shades of blue.

Today, The Ao Dai is not worn commonly, on an everyday basis. However, The Ao Dai is a symbol of purity and grace and the Vietnamese wear it in large numbers on traditional occasions such as weddings and Tet (New Year).

Traditional Vietnamese Dress for Women

Traditional Dress of Vietnam, Ao Dai for Women
Ao Dai, the Traditional Vietnamese Dress for Women (Source)

The Ao Dai, Vietnam's traditional dress, has a feminine version as well. Vastly similar to its masculine counterpart, the female Ao Dai has one striking difference - this silk tunic flows down to the ankles. The Ao Dai has two major varieties - a four-part variety, which consists of flaps in the front that women button up, and a five-part variety, which consist on an extra flap on the right to secure the Ao Dai.

The Northern Part of Vietnam wears the Ao Dai in a slightly different manner than the Southern Part. In the North, the four-part Ao Dai is worn with a long skirt and a hat made of leaves, called the Non-Quai Thao, or sometimes, just a scarf over the head. In the Southern part, the Ao Dai is worn over loose-fitting trousers. These trousers are white, black or colourfully printed. From waist down, the dress splits into front and back panels.

Traditional Dress in Vietnam, Non La, Ao Dai
A Woman Wearing Vietnam's Traditional Dress, the Ao Dai with the Non La (Source)

The women also wear traditional Vietnamese conical hats called Non La. These hats are made from the leaves of palm trees and are often wore as a fashion statement or used to write poetry on. The slanted hats protect you from both the sun and the rain. The origin of the Non La can be traced back to Hue and it is recommended that tourists buy these hats at the Hue Citadel.

The Women in the Mekong Delta wear a slightly different kind of traditional clothing - the Ao Ba Ba. The Ao Ba Ba is a collarless shirt with a back made of a straight piece of cloth. The front body consists of two pieces and, in the middle, there are two straps running from the top down. This elaborate shirt is often worn with long white or black trousers.

Apart from the most widely known traditional dresses of Vietnam, the local ethnic groups have their own styles and costumes.

Traditional Thai Dress in Vietnam

Traditional Dress of Vietnam, Thai Clothing in Vietnam
The traditional Thai dress in Vietnam, as seen in the Vietnamese Women's Museum (Source)

The Thai ethnic dress in Vietnam is elegant and demure. It consists of a plain blouse and a long skirt, which are embroidered with motifs of the sun, flowers, and dragons. The costume is accompanied by belts and Pieu scarfs and a few pieces of silver jewellery.

Traditional Dress of the Hmong in Vietnam

Traditional Dress in Vietnam, Ethnic Wear of Hmong Community
Traditional Dress of the Vietnamese Community, the Hmong people (Source)

The Hmong people in Vietnam prefer to dress in a more sophisticated, yet vibrant and colourful fashion, with a bohemian flair to it. Their clothes are made of linen and consist of many colours and embroidered motifs. The outfit is made up of a black shirt, a colourful skirt, leggings, and headgear. The women often attach silver beads and jewellery to their dresses, to add a sense of individuality and spirituality.

Traditional Dress of the Cham in Vietnam

Traditional Dress in Vietnam, Cham Costume
Traditional Dress of the Vietnamese Community, the Cham people (Source)

The traditional clothing of the Cham women may not be as colourful or bright as the rest, but it has a certain charm to it. The costume consists of a tight-fitting tunic shirt, a skirt the colour of the shirt and a gorgeous headscarf. The highlight of the costume is the waistband that is tied across the chest and around the waist and is prominently designed with golden iridescent shades and meticulous detail.

In the mountain regions, the most commonly worn costumes include trousers or skirts and indigo vests with motifs of wildflowers or beasts. These trousers and skirts are designed to enable easy navigation through the mountain slopes and to make farming easier. Most of the traditional Vietnamese dresses are made intricately by hand and are often sold by the locals to curious foreigners.

Vietnamese traditional dresses have undergone a lot of change owing to western influence. However, it has retained a large portion of its traditional charm and flair. The Vietnamese people still pride themselves on their unique dressing sense and their culture.

This post was published by Sitara Kumbale

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