Aodai – The traditional dress of Vietnam and of Vietnamese women
Aodai – Is the name of the traditional dress of Vietnamese women. The image of the flowing aodai, flying with a conical hat is already a well recognized symbol of Vietnam. The traditional dress – Aodai suits everyone, from little children to elegant young women, in pure white suits.
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Aodai – “áo dài” in Vietnamese means long dress, or a traditional dress of Vietnam. Aodai is the adapted and refined version of the original four-bodied dress (with a stand up or vertical collar) which was popular in Vietnam during the Westernization period, also known as the modern long dress.
Aodai is worn with pants covering the body from the neck to over the knee and is for both men and women but is now more commonly known as women’s wear.
Aodai is often worn for festivals and performances; or in environments that require solemnity, courtesy or modesty; it is a girl’s uniform in high school or college; or representing national clothing in international relations. Most Vietnamese models choose to wear Aodai for it’s beautiful, flowing lines and easy recognition as the national costume of Vietnam when entering competitions such as international beauty contests.
The word “Aodai” (Aodai / ˈaʊ ˌdʌɪ /) was originally included in the Oxford dictionary and is explained as a type of dress of Vietnamese women wear with 2 front and back flaps that cover the waist and almost to the knees, with slits at the sides from the hips down. Worn over long pants.
The forerunner of the aodai is “Áo ngũ thân” – “The four part dress” had two flaps sewn together in the back, two flaps sewn together in the front, and a “baby flap” hidden underneath the main front flap. The gown appeared to have two-flaps with slits on both sides, features preserved in the later Aodai. Compared to a modern Aodai, the front and back flaps were much broader and the fit looser and much shorter. It had a high collar and was buttoned in the same fashion as a modern Aodai. Women could wear the dress with the top few buttons undone, revealing a glimpse of their yếm (former term for a type of Vietnamese bra) underneath.
“Tan thoi” Aodai 1934: This kind of Aodai was strongly opposed by the intellectuals because of it’s Westernization, and hence it is called the modern dress. Modern Aodai was widely worn by the whole society at that time.
After the 1940s, Aodai was combined with conical hats or turbans. As the dress gradually evolved, modern Aodai was then designed with two flaps with different lengths, the front flap will have a flap about 5 cm shorter than the back flap.
Lemur Aodai: “Le Mur”: In 1940, a painter named Le Mur Nguyen Cat Tuong made an important reformation on the five-body shirt to make it only one flap at the front and one at the back. The front flap is extended by the artist to increase the graceful appearance, while the upper body is sewn to hug the person’s figure and show their body’s curves to create a unique graceful and sexy look. It was the first time European and Western art was included in Vietnamese women’s clothing, but because of this is also caused a strong reaction in public opinion.
Tran Le Xuan Aodai (1958): At the end of 1958, when Tran Le Xuan was the First Lady of the Republic of Vietnam, she designed a new innovative Aodai style that removed the collar. This version was also known as Aodai of madam Nhu. This type of dress without a collar is still popular today and the neckline is cut deeper rather than the higher neckline on the original.
Innovative Aodai: Nowadays, a series of “modern Aodai” designs have been launched with increasingly many designs and made from all kinds of materials, bringing this ever popular national dress up to date with modern cultural values of todays Vietnamese people with patterns like bamboo and lotus.
Depending on the type of the traditional dress, there are many different fabrics such as silk, brocade embroidery, velvet, … Because the Aodai today embodies the seductive curves of a woman, silk is the most beautiful and popular material for making the Aodai. However, the price of silk is also the highest. Vietnamese silk is thin, light, durable and creates a flattering look for Vietnamese Aodai.
White silk Aodai, black silk pants for high school girls, gives flexibility in movement, and shows elegance.
Silk Aodai in bright and bold colors are worn by single ladies, highlighting the lines of women. The traditional dress is often worn for festivals, weddings and going to the temple.
Silk Aodai, and those made of dark velvet are materials for ladies to exude a luxurious and proud look, often worn with pearl jewelry. This version of the traditional dress is often worn at formal occasions such as weddings, festivals and also going to the temple.
In traditional weddings, the couple wear yellow and red traditional dresses – “Áo dài” with phoenix and dragon embroidery. These colours and images represent faithfulness and longevity of marriage for the couple.
Initially, “The four part dress” was created for both men and women to wear. However, over time, the men’s Aodai gradually disappeared. So when it comes to Aodai, people immediately think of women’s Aodai. Men’s Aodai only appears at traditional Vietnamese festivals or weddings with black and dark colours.
Vietnamese have worn their traditional dress for many decades. It is an immediately recognizable feature of the 21st century. Women’s Aodai can be worn anywhere, as office clothes, school uniforms, and worn for formal receptions at home.
Wearing this tradition dress is not cumbersome or fussy, it is light and flowing, relaxed yet formal: worn with silk pants or soft fabrics and wearing high heels, doll shoes or gym shoes are all fine. If you are seeking a formal look, add a gown and scarf.
Before 1975, white Aodai used to be the compulsory uniform of high school girls in South Vietnam. After the reunification day, some schools have changed Aodai with their own school uniform, and in the North most schools, girls only have to wear Aodai on a Monday when saluting the flag.
Modern Aodai has its own way to add colour, class and respectability to everybody. The upper part hugging the body but the two flaps are so soft over the wide pants. The two flaps on the waistline make it comfortable to wear, creating a graceful, feminine look, both tight because the whole body is covered with soft silk, and also attractive because the shirt widens out from the waist.
The modern Aodai is therefore highly personalized: each garment is tailored for that particular individual. The tailor takes careful measurements. You choose colors, patterns, textures, and supply them to the tailors and they work their magic and make you your own personal Aodai. Nowadays, this traditional dress is also favourite for international fashionitas.