Ao Dai

The ao dai is the national costume in Vietnam worn by women typically during special occasions, including weddings, holidays, and any formal occasions. The attire includes silk form-fitting tunic worn over a trouser. The word ‘ao dai’ was originally attributed to the outfit worn at the court of the Nguyen dinasty in the 18th century. It was modernized in the 20th century to be the style typically seen today, which took some cues from Parisian fashions at the turn of century. I think today when you see a woman with ao dai, it would be as recognizeable as a national costume like the sari for Indian women and the kimono for Japanese women. One thing unique about it is that it’s pretty much custom fit to the individual since it’s form-fitting. Since most of the Vietnamese women are pretty small and slim, generally this looked very good, elegant, and graceful on them. I’m not sure how that would look if you have some of the large-sized women from the western countries try to wear these costumes…

I first saw women wearing ao dai in the United States at the Vietnamese culture centers (like a Vietnamese strip mall I occasionally visit), especially around important holidays (like Tet, the Vietnamese lunar New Year) or when there is an important ceremony (like a wedding). When I was preparing for the Southeast Asia trip, I read information blogs about the destinations. One of them was a very informative guide on travelblog written by a Vietnamese lady with the username theRedRiver (taking the name from the Red River that passes through her hometown city of Hanoi). In the travelblogs not only she gave information about Vietnam and the cities and culture there, but also she wrote about her adventures traveling to other countries. One of the things she liked to do when visiting places is to get her photo taken in her red ao dai costume.

When we visited the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, since it was the 2nd of January, we saw signs to celebrate the New Year there. And since it was also a Sunday, we also saw many visitors, and among them were some Vietnamese ladies in ao dai that came with photographers. It looked like they came to get their photos taken with the traditional architecture as background. You can see in the photo below two of those ladies walking by in their ao dai costumes after they finished with their photoshoot.

Girls in Ao Dai

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