VietnamCulture and HistoryA Guide to Ao dai - Vietnamese Traditional Dress

A Guide to Ao dai – Vietnamese Traditional Dress

From time to time, Ao dai (pronounced: ‘ow yai’) has always represented Vietnamese femininity and the pride of Vietnamese people. The image of Vietnamese women wearing Ao dai has left a beautiful impression on many travelers worldwide who visit Vietnam. The story about Ao dai has many stories and controversies, and this post will share some highlights about this traditional Vietnamese dress.

What is Ao dai?

“Ao tu than” or “ao ngu than” (long robes with many layers) are deemed to be origins of ao dai

Ao dai is a two-piece garment made of fabric, consisting of a long-sleeved dress and ankle-reached trousers. Thanks to its skintight form, it is also considered an everything-covered but nothing-hidden outfit. Each Ao dai is usually tailored to fit one person. Therefore, most Vietnamese ladies get their custom-made Ao dai for their body shape and favorite style.

Ao dai for royals are decorated in bright colors, while the ones for commoners are much simpler

No one knows for sure the evolution of Ao dai since ancient times, but the time-marking dress that is most similar to the Ao dai’s today first appeared in the early 18th century in the Nguyen Dynasty. The King commanded that men and women wear both pants and gowns. The gown must have wrist-length sleeves and a tall collar. Gradually, it became increasingly familiar with the daily life of Vietnamese people and turned into a signature of Vietnam. It showcases charm, enchantment, and glamour.

How to Make Ao dai – Vietnamese Traditional Dress

Ao dai is unique not only in how it looks but also in how it is made. After measuring your height, bust, waist, and hip size, you need a tailor to sew your creations. The male version of Ao dai is also done similarly, but the sleeves and the body of the gown are much looser and not skin-tight.

Because Ao dai has 2 different parts, the long gown and the trousers reaching to the ground, the process of making Ao dai is complicated and may take some time to finish. A U-shaped stand collar is usually added at the end. But recently, women like to wear the type with no collar to show a bit of their shoulders. Tailoring skills are required to make the Vietnamese traditional dress fit one’s body and not wrinkle when you put it on.

Because the weather in Vietnam is quite hot all year round, the material used to make Ao dai should be thin, light, and comfortable. It also creates a soft and gentle feeling for the dress. Many such materials include silk, brocade, satin, and sometimes an added layer of lace, voile, and embroidery.

Find out more about Vietnamese Silk

When to Wear Ao dai

Women wearing colorful ao dai to take photos during the Tet holiday

Up-to-date, the Ao dai is not as famous as it used to be, but it is still a symbol of this country. People wear it during special occasions such as Vietnamese Tet, family reunions, or formal ceremonies like weddings and graduation day. Some high schools still require girl students to wear the white Ao dai as part of the school uniform. If you can pass by a high school on Monday morning, you may see the image of girl students dressed in long white gowns.

How to Wear Ao Dai

To wear the Ao dai, you can dress it up like a shirt but with a line of snap buttons that end with a small hook on the right side. It may be difficult initially, so we suggest asking for a hand when dressing yourself. Wearing a pair of trousers should be easier because they usually have a zipper and a small hook as fasteners. You can also add a thin undershirt along with your undergarments as the Ao dai’s fabric is pretty sheer.

Several accessories can complement Ao dai and embody this outfit, such as Non la (Vietnamese conical hat), the paper fan, and the Khan dong or Man (a type of headwear made by winding a long piece of clothing tightly). Men and women usually wear Khan dong with Ao dai, especially on their wedding day.

Where to Buy Ao Dai

Since Ao dai is custom-made and hand-made, the price of one set is not low. It should start at about VND 500,000 if you bring your fabric to the store and about VND 1,000,000 for both the fabric and the tailor fee. You can customize many things with Ao dai, from the material to its patterns, so the price varies on an extensive range to even millions of VND.

Ao dai in Hanoi

As an old town in Vietnam, Hanoi has many famous stores that make traditional Vietnamese dresses.

  • Tien Trach – 15 Hang Chuoi, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
  • Thanh Mai – one shop at 428 Bach Mai, Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi, and the other at 275 Cau Giay, Cau Giay District, Hanoi
  • Phan Hai – 43 Le Van Huu, Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi

Find more Tailors in Hanoi

Ao dai in Hoi An

The “FedEx” tailor service in Hoi An has made its way to an article on Forbes. You can choose the fabric, design it, get body measurements, and do it in only a few hours. You can walk around town and find many tailor shops on Hoi An streets like Tran Phu and Le Loi.

Ao dai in Ho Chi Minh City

There are so many different kinds of fabric with various patterns to choose from for your Ao dai. You can find it easily in Tan Dinh Market, Soai Kinh Lam Market, and Ben Thanh Market or some of the stores below:

  • Dong Khoi, District 1 with numerous of tailors and silk stores
  • Nhat Nguyet: 28 Mac Dinh Chi, District 1
  • Huong Collection: 67 Thu Khoa Huan, District 1
  • Nice Silk: 237 Le Thanh Ton, District 1
  • ABC AoZai Fabric Shop: 19 Ly Chinh Thang Street, District 3

See Where to Find Tailors in Ho Chi Minh City

You can also find some ready-made Ao dai in the shops above. One of the trends in Ao dai now is Ao dai cach tan (the new Ao dai). Its gown is cut short to knee-length, the collar can be U-shaped or nonexistent, and its shape is not too body-tight. You can wear it with ankle-length trousers like silk or jeans.

Summary of A Guide to Ao dai – Vietnamese Traditional Dress

Ao dai is a traditional Vietnamese costume that symbolizes the essence of Vietnamese people and life. Although globalization is thriving, Ao dai remains a valuable symbol that cannot be faded. It is also a symbol and a storyteller, standing side by side with this country to behold all the priceless moments of history. Anyone who loves fashion should try Ao dai when visiting Vietnam because it is a great souvenir from a trip to Vietnam.

- Advertisement -

More Vietnam Travel Guides

Have a Vacation to Vietnam – Why not?

Are you exploring Southeast Asia? Even though there are some similarities in the culture...

When is the Best Time to go to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

What is the best time to go to Ho Chi Minh? What are the...

What to Know about Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi

Besides Hoan Kiem Lake, Flag Tower... which are internationally famous icons, Long Bien Bridge...

Proper Manners Travelers Should Know before Coming to Vietnam

If you're gearing up for an escapade to Vietnam, get ready to be swept...

Tailors in Ho Chi Minh City

Tailoring has become a luxury in a world where people would opt for ready-made...

The Most Impressive Architectures in Ho Chi Minh City

From French colonial buildings to modern skyscrapers, the architecture of Ho Chi Minh city...
Powered by 12Go system