This dress is deemed to be one of Vietnam's enduring traditional attires, having been worn widely by Vietnamese women in the North centuries before the emergence of the Ao Dai. Usually made of plain fabric in dark colors, the "Ao Tu Than" has long been a dress of peasant women.
Besides, this costume in bright color was also worn on special occasions like weddings or festivals. Despite being different in forms, the basic Ao Tu Than consists of a flowing outer tunic with two flaps split at the waist, a long skirt worn under the tunic, Yem- an ancient bodice worn as an undergarment by women and a silk sash tied at the waist as a belt. Using a variety of hues and different types of fabrics in making the tunic, the bodice and the skirt makes this costume colorful and sensual.
Nowadays, the Ao Tu Than is no longer commonly used in the daily life of Vietnamese people; however, it remains an indispensible part of traditional festivals in northern Vietnam including Lim festival which celebrates the famous Bac Ninh Quan Ho folk songs. In this festival, female folk singers often wear this attire with “non quai thao”- a kind of conical hat with fringe hanging at both sides, “Khan Mo Qua”- a black crow’s beak kerchief made of heavy fabric and “guoc moc”- a pair of wooden clogs.