With 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam, there is plenty of variety in the specific and unique styles of Vietnamese costume. A common trait is the fabulous colours which appear to contradict one another with outfits in blue and white, blue and red or black and red.
The fabrics used in the process of creating the traditional Vietnamese costumes are mostly natural fibres, such as cotton, silk or hemp. These types of fabric are appreciated for being light and stable and perfect for the warm climate of the local region.
From the start of the twentieth century, the majority of the Vietnamese people have worn clothes similar to the Western-style for everyday activities, whilst there are still plenty of ethnic minority groups throughout the country that continue to wear traditional dress that matches their specific culture and locality, and a quite unique sight on the Vietnam tours. Overall, the abundance and diversity of the Vietnamese ethnic clothing is very wide-ranging.
Here are a few of the popular Vietnamese costumes worn throughout the country
A traditional garment that is well recognised in Vietnam is referred to as the Ao Dai, which is a type of national dress and consists of a tunic worn over loose-fitting trousers. The tunic part of the outfit is long and tight-fitting and made in a silk material. Today’s Ao Dai is modelled on a style of traditional dress that was perfected in the 1950’s. Even though this dress was forbidden after the fall of Saigon in the 1970’s, there has been a revival and it is common to see women wear the outfit on many occasions, including in public service roles, universities and schools.
Also, the Ao Dai has a male equivalent, which is referred to as the A Gam and mostly worn on special event or occasions, such as a festival or birthday. This type of brocade tunic is seen less often in an everyday setting compared to the Ao Dai.
Ao Tu Than
The Ao Tu Than is a traditional and enduring Vietnamese outfit which was widely worn by the northern women before the popularity of the Ao Dai. This traditional attire consists of a plain fabric and made mostly in dark colours, and seen as a style of dress for the peasant women. But, it also had its use on special occasions such as festivals and weddings when bright colours were more favoured.
The Ao Tu Than had slight variations in its design; though the basic outfit consisted of an outer tunic with a flowing design and a few splits in the area of the waist, while a long-length skirt is worn beneath the tunic. Other accessories include a silk sash at the waistline to act much like a belt and an ancient bodice (Yem) used as an undergarment.
The tunic, skirt and bodice were often made with different fabrics and colours to help create the more appealing and sensual outfit. Today, the Ao Tu Than is rarely seen in daily life, but is still a common sight when traditional festivals are taking place in the north of the country. One of the main festivals to feature this outfit is the Lim festival, which is held to celebrate the folk songs by Bac Ninh Quan Ho. For the duration of this festival, the women wearing the outfit combine it with a conical hat (non quai thao) and a pair of wooden clogs (guoc moc).
Tourists travelling across the country on the Vietnam holidays are very likely to witness the local women wearing a non la which is a kind of conical leaf hat. This type of hat is able to go harmoniously with the traditional Ao Dai outfit.
The Non La hat is created with materials that are simple and widely available in the local area, such as bamboo, bark of Moc tree and dry palm leaves. The hats are made by skilful artisans who can use the natural materials to produce a practical and beautiful item.
A great place to visit on the Vietnam travel packages to learn how the conical hats are created is Chuong village, which is approx 30km from Hanoi. The villagers are skilled at making the hand-made palm-leaf hats and many include stitched patterns that consist of landscape scenes like bamboo hedges and rice fields.
Elsewhere, the non bai tho is a type of poetical conical hat that is created in the ancient capital of Hue and includes designs of beautiful images, romantic characters or poetic verses.
The non la is a practical item and therefore widely used in the daily life of the local Vietnamese people, especially in the countryside for its ability to give protection again the rain and sunshine.
The Yem Dao, which is believed to first appear in the 12th century, is a type of Vietnamese undergarment that was favoured by local women coming from all classes of society. However, the design of the Yem Dao has seen significant changes over the years, including changes in its shape and colours. This type of undergarment was mostly worn with an Ao Tu Than (four-panel dress) or a long shirt or blouse. While the Yem Dao is no longer regarded as an everyday item, it still plays its part when worn at special events or traditional performances to help enhance the femininity and seductiveness of the Vietnamese woman
Ao Ba Ba
The Ao Ba Ba is a type of casual wear that is a lot easier to make compared to other Vietnamese traditional costumes. This outfit gives elegant beauty and consists of a long-sleeved shirt and pants with flaps at the waist and decorative features. The most common material for making this costume is soft fabrics such as silk and can vary in the choice of colour. The Ao Ba Ba outfit in colourful or bright colours is practical for special events such as cultural performances and festivals, but apart from that is rarely used for day-to-day life.
Overall, the Vietnamese clothing is quite distinct and varies significantly with the different regions of the country. While many of the traditional lines of clothes are less seen on the Vietnam private tour, they aren’t likely to be forgotten because of the regular use at special events like cultural shows and traditional festivals like Tet holiday.