The history of Ao Dai Vietnam


The history of Ao Dai Vietnam

Ao Dai Vietnam had created hundreds of years ago. At first, it is just worn by a group of Vietnamese people but then, it is more and more popular and become the national costume of Vietnam. Also, through time, the shape and design of Ao Dai Vietnam have changed a lot. Now, let’s see the highlight history of Ao Dai Vietnam for both women and men.

History of Ao Dai Vietnam for women

a. The primitive version – Ao Giao Lanh (around the 17th century)

Ao Giao Lanh is considered the earliest version of Ao Dai Vietnam which is recorded. This was a four-piece dress, wearing with a long black skirt and a colored fabric belt to tie around the waist.

b. Ao Tu Than (18th century – early 20th century)

Because of the convenience for farming and trading, Vietnamese people turned “Ao Giao Lanh” into a neat four-piece dress with two front flaps which is can be tied together. Ao Tu Than was mixed with a long skirt, a “Yem” – an ancient bodice like an undergarment of women and silk belt tied at the waist. This was the daily clothes for working class so Ao Tu Than was made from dark fabric to avoid getting dirty.

Meanwhile, urban women in Vietnam worn Ao Ngu Than (a five-piece dress) to distinguish themselves from the lower class. Ao Ngu Than looked like Ao Tu Than but two front flaps and two back flaps were sewn together, the fifth flap was hidden underneath the front flap. With this design, Ao Ngu Than became more charming and swanky. Therefore, this kind of Ao Dai was absolutely popular with the rich until the 20th century.

c. Ao Dai Lemur (1939 – 1943)

ao dai lemur vietnam
Ao dai Lemur | Source: Ao dai Hanh

In 1939, a big breakthrough of Ao Dai from Ao Tu Than was made by Cat Tuong Artist. While, in the past, Ao Tu Than was like the traditional loose and baggy dress, Cat Tuong Artist changed the significantly its style to hug the curve of the body and added many western details such as puff sleeves, heart-shaped neck, and ribbons. Also, this new style of Ao Dai was worn with the white pants, a purse, an umbrella, and high heels. Is was named Ao Dai Lemur because Lemur is the French name of its designer – Cat Tuong Artist. However, Ao Dai Lemur is considered indecent and against traditional values, so only some modern women dared to wear it. Gradually, Ao Dai Lemur was forgotten.

d. Ao Dai Mrs. Nhu (the early 1960s)

In 1958, Mrs. Nhu (known as Mrs. Tran Le Xuan) who was the wife of Ngo Dinh Nhu – Chief Political Adviser of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of South Vietnam’s First Republic designed a new version of Ao Dai. It was an open-necked dress decorated with elegant patterns on the fabric. Ao Dai Mrs. Nhu was very popular because it was more charming and extremely suitable with the hot weather of Southern Vietnam. However, it was strongly criticized as it was against the traditions and customs of Vietnamese people at that time.

e. Tight Waisted Ao Dai (1960 – 1970)

In this period, Ao Dai became more fashionable. Therefore, Tight Waisted Ao Dai was widely popular among open-mind women in the urban areas as it could tone up their body curves. Also, for practical use and convenience, a mini version of Tight Wasted Ao Dai was designed with panels that reached only to the knee. This mini version was used mostly by female students.

f. Modern Ao Dai (1970 – present)

modern ao dai vietnam
Modern Ao Dai | Source: Photo by Robert Metz on Unsplash

With the development of the fashion industry and the effect of the globalization, nowadays, the modern Ao Dai Vietnam becomes more fashionable and more popular, but it still retains its traditional beauty and original form. Modern Ao Dai can be made from a diversity of materials and mixed with jeans or loose silk pants. Today, Ao Dai Vietnam is worn on special occasions, the traditional festivals, and the wedding.

ASK US MORE2. History of Ao Dai Vietnam for men

ao dai vietnam
Ao Dai | Source: Photo by Kevin Bluer on Unsplash

In the past, Ao Dai was used to be the daily costume for Vietnamese men. It had a more simple design with a two-piece dress mixing with the loose pant. However, from 18th to 19th century, when the western clothes were imported in Vietnam, they have gradually replaced Ao Dai and have become the most popular costume for men in Vietnam because of its masculinity and practicality. Over time, the design of Ao Dai for men has not undergone much change. Today, it is just used in the traditional ceremonies or Tet holiday and worn most by Vietnamese men of the older generation.

II. The meaningful role of Ao Dai Vietnam in the culture

1. Wearing Ao Dai Vietnam on the special occasions

a. Wearing Ao Dai Vietnam in Tet holiday

Tet holiday is the most important and biggest celebration of the year in Vietnam. Therefore, despite the convenience of Western-style outfits for daily chores, Vietnamese people believe that wearing Ao Dai Vietnam can create the festival’s formal atmosphere, show the respect of the older generations in the family and maintain the Vietnamese tradition. These are the reason why in Tet holiday, it is easy to see people wearing Ao Dai on the street.

ao dai tet holiday vietnam
Ao Dai | Source: Photo by Tuấn Trương on Unsplash

Today, to adapt to the diverse demand of Vietnamese people and the energetic festival’s activities in Tet holiday, many kinds of stylized and fashionable Ao Dai Vietnam have appeared. Ao Dai worn in Tet holiday is simplified by cutting off the length of the front and back layers and also, is sewn by the cool and comfortable materials like silk, linen, etc. Red, yellow and the bright color are the favorite colors that many people choose for Ao Dai in Tet holiday because they are believed to bring the luck and good start in the new year.

In Tet holiday, not only women, all the members in the family including men and children also wear Ao Dai to carry out the New Year’s ceremony, take the family photos and visit the pagodas to pray for a happy year. In some small villages in the north of Vietnam, the local people wear the ancient types of Ao Dai – Ao Tu Than to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

b. Wearing Ao Dai Vietnam in wedding and engagement parties

ao dai wedding vietnam
Ao Dai | Source: Photo by Tron Le on Unsplash

Wearing Ao Dai Vietnam in wedding and engagement parties used to be the ancient tradition of Vietnam. However, with the globalization, the western wedding dress has imported to Vietnam and replaced the traditional Ao Dai in weddings because of its novel and modern beauty for a long time. Today, thanks to the development of the fashion industry and the creativity of Ao Dai designer, Ao Dai Vietnam for both brides and grooms becomes more and more charming and fashionable. As a result, many couples, these days, has combined Ao Dai with the Western dress at their weddings in which Ao Dai is for the traditional ceremony and the Western dress is for the party.

Apart from the bride and groom, the wedding ceremony, the parents of the couples, the close relatives, bridesmaids, and groomsmaids also wear Ao Dai. Ao Dai for the bride and groom are usually red to present for happiness and luck. Ao Dai for bridesmaids and groomsmaids are also a bright color like yellow, blue, pink, etc to create an exciting space for the wedding. Like in the Western countries, the price of wedding Ao Dai is quite expensive so the couples usually rent Ao Dai for their wedding and engagement party.

c. Wearing Ao Dai Vietnam on other special occasions

ao dai vietnam
Ao Dai | Source: Photo by Hisu lee on Unsplash

In the traditional festivals in Vietnam, especially the royal rites, the old men often wear Ao Dai to carry out the ceremonies. Moreover, in the important meetings with foreign partners, the Vietnamese women wear Ao Dai Vietnam to show their respect. In addition, the national costume – Ao Dai Vietnam is worn by both Vietnamese men and women in the international beauty contest to represent their patriotism and promote the Vietnamese culture for international audiences.


2. Wearing Ao Dai Vietnam as a uniform of high-school students

ao dai vietnam
Ao dai as a uniform | Source: Ao dai Hanh

In Vietnam, female students in high school have to wear Ao Dai as a great way to maintain the Vietnamese tradition. Most high schools in Vietnam have the rule for female students to wear Ao Dai on Monday. Therefore, every Monday, you can see a lot of female students wearing Ao Dai in the street, which create pure and elegant beauty for female students. In Vietnam, students usually wear white Ao Dai mixing with silk pant to help them feel comfortable and cool at school.