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Áo Dài

The long dress called in Vietnamese as “Áo Dài” is a tight -fitting silk tunic worn over pantaloons. Although there has never been an official document designated the “Ao Dai” as the national dress of Vietnamese women, the tunic is worn by Vietnamese women for any important or formal occasion such as national holidays or traditional festivals. The beautiful tunic has always been a source of price for Vietnamese.

The image of Ao Dai was found on Dong Son bronze drums and other artifacts  dating back thousands of years. In the early 20th century, most urban Vietnamese women wore tunics made with five panels called ” Ao Ngu Than”, the five panels reflect the five elements of oriental cosmology. Ao Ngu Than had a loose fit and sometimes had wide sleeves.

Ao Ngu Than had 2 flaps sewn together in the back, 2 flaps sewed together in the front and a bably flap hidden underneath the main front flap. The gown appeared to have 2 flaps with slits on the both sides, features preserved in the later Ao Dai. Compared to a modern Ao Dai, the front and back flaps were much broader and the fit looser. It had a high collar and was buttoned in the same fashion as a modern Ao Dai. The 4 main flap were said to represent the wearer’s parents and in law while the baby flap represent herself. The traditional long dress has made a strong comeback since 1975. From 1950 to 1975, the tunic saw no significant changes in tis design. But since 1975, tailors have broken many old rules in making this kind of tunic. Different from Japanese Kimono or Korean Hanbok, Vietnamese Ao Dai is both traditional and modern. The Ao Dai is now standard for weddings, for celebrating Tet and for other formal occasions. A plain white Ao Dai is common high school uniform. Companies often require female staff to wear  uniforms that include Ao Dai, so flight attendants, receptionists, restaurant style of Ao Dai fits tightly around the wearer’s upper torso, emphasizing her bust and curves. Although the dress covers the entire body, it is thought by someone to be provocative, especially when it is made of thin fabric. The dress must be individually fitted and usually requires several weeks for a tailor to complete, so there is no mass production for this kind of dress. The Ao Dai has inspired countless musicians and has appeared in numerous songs and poems about the beauty of Vietnamese women. Vietnam’s traditional dress, now a familiar sight at international cultural events, has gained admirers around the world. The tunic was selected as compulsory clothing for this Miss Earth beauty contests.  

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