Long Dress In Vietnam English Language Essay

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The beauty of women dressed in "Ao Dai" always leaves a deep impression on foreign visitors to Vietnam. Girl students dressed in white long robes take to streets on the way to schools or back home, or gracefully sail on their bikes along streets. Female secretaries in delicate pastels greet you at an office door and older ladies in deep shades of purple, green or blue cut a striking pose at a restaurant dinner. The "Ao Dai" appears to flatter every figure.

Early versions of the "Ao Dai" date back to 1744 when Lord Vu Vuong of the Nguyen Dynasty decreed both men and women should wear an ensemble of trousers and a gown that buttoned down the front. However, not until 1930 did "Ao Dai" appear partly similar to its look today. Now, Men wore it less, generally only on ceremonial occasions such as weddings or funerals. During the 1950s two tailors in Saigon started producing "Ao Dai" with raglan sleeves. This creates a diagonal seam running from the collar to the underarm and this style is still preferred today

"Ao Dai" is made individually to fit each customer's shape to create the most graceful look. Its body-hugging top flows over wide trousers that brush the floor. The pants should reach the soles of the feet and flow along the floor. Splits in the gown extend well above waist height and make it comfortable and easy to move in.

Comfort ability is always taken into account for fashions and beauty. Tailoring must ensure the wearer's freedom of movements. Despite it is a long robe, "Ao Dai"must be cool to wear. Synthetic or silk fabrics are preferred as they do not crush and are quick drying, making the "Ao Dai" a practical uniform for daily wear.

The color is indicative of the wearer's age and status. Young girls wear pure white, fully-lined outfits symbolizing their purity. Older but unmarried girls move into soft pastel shades. Only married women wear "Ao Dai" in strong, rich colors, usually over white or black pants. However, "Ao Dai" is rarely seen in places where manual work is practiced. The nineties saw a real resurgence of ao dai. It has become standard and common attire for girl students as well as female staff at offices and hotels. Traditionally, "Ao Dai" has become the most preferred dress on formal occasions.

Today, "Ao Dai"has been a bit modified. Its length is cut shorter usually just below the knee. Variations in the neck, between boat and mandarin style, are common. And even adventurous alterations such as a low scooped neckline, puffed sleeves or off the shoulder designs are appearing as ladies experiment with fashion. Color patterns are no longer rigidly controlled and accesses to new fabrics have generated some dazzling results. However, most visitors to Vietnam have highly appreciated local tailors' skills when making ao dai. It is hard to think of a more elegant, demure and charming outfit, that suits Vietnamese women of different ages, than ao dai.

Vietnamese Ao dai history

The traditional dress for women in Vietnam is the costume that is called "Ao Dai" literally meaning "Long Dress". Early versions of the Ao Dai date back to 1744 when Lord Vu Vuong of the Nguyen Dynasty decreed both men and women should wear an ensemble of trousers and a gown that buttoned down the front. Nowadays, Ao Dai are a two-piece garment made of fabric, full-length dress worn over loose silk trousers reaching all the way to the ground. The dress splits into a front and back panel from the waist down. The dress length seems to be gradually shortening and today is usually just below the knee. Variations in the neck, between boat and mandarin style, are common and even adventurous alterations such as a low scooped neckline puffed sleeves or off the shoulder designs are appearing as ladies experiment with fashion. Women wear Ao Dai of various colors, often with intricate patterns and designs, in formal or work settings. Schoolgirls wear pure white, fully lined outfits symbolizing their purity.

Original design of Ao dai

Ao dai is literally the women's national dress of Vietnam. It is a contoured, full-length dress worn over black or white loose-fitting trousers. The dress splits into a front and back panel from the waist down. There are many stylish variations in color and collar design. Originally, the ao dai were loosely tailored with four panels, two of which were tied in back. In 1932, a nationalistic literacy group called the Tu Luc Van Doan designed what is essentially now the ao dai.

A similar costume is worn by the men and is also called an ao dai. However, the man's dress is shorter (knee length) and more loose-fitting. The color of the brocade and the embroidered dragon were worn only by the Emperor. Purple was the color reserved for high ranking mandarins while the blue was worn by those mandarins of lower rank. The dresses for mourning have frayed fringes a line up the back and may be either white or black, although white is the standard color for mourning.

Ao dai as a national symbol of Vietnam

To the Vietnamese people, ao dai have always been synonymous with grace, and beauty. Throughout the many trials and tribulation of Vietnam's history, the ao dai remained unchanged in its symbolism and the image it conjures in the hearts of all Vietnamese. Today, due to its timelessness, the ao dai remained the national dress for both Vietnamese men and women. The ao dai and what it represents transcends all ages and it reaches the lives of people from all walks of life. To the Vietnamese people, rich or poor, the ao dai is still the dress of choice on social occasion and enjoys a preference on special occasions as well

Since the dawn of Vietnamese literature and music, poets and musicians alike have expound the beauty of the ao dai and the grace and beauty it brings to people who wears it. Nowhere in modern literature does an article of clothing have the power to conjure drama, romance and fate like the ao dai in Vietnamese literature. Symbolically, one can argue that Vietnam is ao dai and ao dai is Vietnam. Although the trends in fashion brought to the traditional ao dai many changes in terms of materials and western influences, the ao dai remains a timeless article of clothing that has the strength to unify people.

Ao Dai, from an international point of view

It is an elegant, demure, and yet sexy outfit that suits people of all ages. Anthony Grey described the Ao Dai in his novel Saigon as "demure and provocative... women seemed not to walk but to float gently beneath the tamarinds on the evening breeze.". The Ao Dai covers everything but its thin fabric hides almost nothing! That's true, Ao Dai is so charming and so sexy.

Vietnamese ao dai is probably one of the best dresses in the world. Women look more beautiful (although they already are) as if there is magic embedded inside this national costume glowing tenderly over who wear it. Ao dai has over 300 years of history. Throughout the time, ao dai gradually gets beyond the border of Vietnam, reaches out to the world fashion. So, just browse through this site, enjoy the beauty of Ao Dai. It's not a bad idea to get from aodai4u one for yourself, your wife, your mother, your daughter or your loved one and see them so lovely and happy with your gift.

The Ao Dai, literally meaning "long dress" or "long tunic," is one out of many traditional Vietnamese costumes worn nowadays, most often by women. It is the national costume of the Vietnamese people. Male versions of the ao dai include the cotton áo the, traditionally for commoners, and the silk ao gam, traditionally for the noble classes.

History

Pronounced "ao yai" in the south, and "ao zai" in the north, the costume has had a short history relative to the country and people of Vietnam.

Early versions of the garment date back to the early 1700's, and were influenced by imperial Chinese garb of the Qing dynasty, known as Xiao. Unlike its cousin the ciao, which is a tight fitted dress with slits on both sides (in its modern reincarnation), the Ao Dai is a looser tunic, which even in its tight-fitting form is still left wide and flowing at the bottom. Furthermore, the slits of the Ao Dai extend above the waistline, revealing a slight glimpse of the sides of the midriff.

The costume has faced countless modifications throughout the centuries but its basic form consists of a long flowing gown with a slit on both sides, often with a high fitted collar, worn over long silk pants.

Some historians have suggested that the Ao Dai was an evolution of different influences from many directions, including the ancient four-flapped tunic áo t? thân, one of the other more well known (and much older than Ao Dai) traditional Kinh costumes.

A modern design of the Ao Dai, While the indigenous áo t? thân costume (which existed for at least a thousand years in Vietnamese society) is viewed as having a large hand in the design of the Ao Dai, the closest form to the Ao Dai that is known today made its first appearance as the áo ngu thân which translates as "five-part dress".

Áo ngu thân tended to be much looser fitting in general, sometimes designed with wide sleeves. In the past, rich Vietnamese often displayed their prosperity through clothing, often by wearing many layers at once. Some aristocrats were known to wear 3-5 layers of Ao Dai at one time.

The áo ngu thân had a major difference from the modern Ao Dai in the way it was made. 1800s áo ngu thân were made of five parts (hence its name): This consisted of two flaps sewn together in the back, two flaps sewn together in the front, and a fifth flap hidden underneath the front main flap. This five-part Ao Dai was similar to its current incarnation in that it still appears to be a two-flapped tunic with slits on both sides, but the front and back flap were generally much broader, and of course the dress was much more loosely fit. The high collar, buttoned in the same fashion as modern Ao Dai was still intact, but women could also wear the dress with the first few buttons undone, revealing a glimpse of the áo y?m bodice underneath.

Modernization

Female students of Hanoi University of Technology wearing Ao Dai, in 1930, the Vietnamese fashion designer Cát Tu?ng, known to the French as Monsieur Le Mur, modified it. He lengthened the Ao Dai so that the top reached the floor, and made it fit the curves of the body closer. With the import of an abundance of foreign fabrics in 20th century Vietnam, including broader fabric, the modernized Ao Dai required less material to be made and as a result the flaps also became generally slimmer.

In Saigon during the 1950s, Tran Kim of Thiet Lap Tailors and Dung of Dung Tailors modified the Ao Dai to a form closest to what is seen today. He produced the gowns with raglan sleeves, creating a diagonal seam that runs from the collar to the underarm.

Ao Dai only continued to become more form-fitting with time.

In the 1960s the collarless Ao Dai style was popularized by the infamous Madame Nhu (former first lady of South Vietnam).

Despite the two major modifications to the Ao Dai in the 20th century, it has also seen slight changes throughout each decade as fashion changes constantly. Everything from floral to checkered patterns, the use of transparent fabrics, the tunic length being largely reduced or lengthened, has all been seen throughout different eras of Vietnamese history.

The Ao Dai has always been more prevalent in the south than in the north, and has faced a surge in popularity in recent years, even with overseas Vietnamese.

In recent decades it has inspired worldwide renowned fashion designers such Chanel and Ralph Lauren, among other big names, to create entire collections of Ao Dai. The most popular style of the Ao Dai as we see it today is tight-fitting around the wearer's upper torso, emphasizing her bust and curves. For this reason, the Ao Dai, while it covers the whole body, is said to be provocative, especially when it is made of thin or see-through fabric.

The Royal/Wedding

the royal costume most commonly known today would be the Ao Menh Phu of the Nguyen dynasty. It is predictably more festive (in color and decoration) and includes a long flowing outer robe (with large, wide sleeves). This costume, once mandatory for royal women of the Nguyen dynasty to wear at public functions, has subsequently become the mandatory costume for Vietnamese brides.

In addition, brides often wear Khan Dong, a crown-like headgear which is made from silk brocade.

The Ao Dai and its place in modern-day Vietnam

Although it disappeared somewhat for a short period due to the extravagance and elegance of the costume being seen as an excess, it has surprisingly come back with a vengeance both for Vietnamese in Vietnam and overseas.

In addition to being worn at traditional and festive occasions, plain white Ao Dai is the uniform for female students in Vietnam in some middle schools, most high schools and some universities. Many companies also require their female staff to be attired in the Ao Dai, whether flight attendants, receptionists or women working in restaurants and hotels.

In 2007, the Vietnamese film The White Silk Dress was released to high acclaim worldwide, centering in particular on a white silk Ao Dai that is the sole legacy a mother in a poverty-stricken family has to give to her daughters. The film emphasizes the huge cultural significance the Ao Dai plays in Vietnamese culture and how it symbolizes the spirit of Vietnamese women.

The Ao Dai, literally meaning "long dress" or "long tunic," is one out of many traditional Vietnamese costumes worn (nowadays) most often by women. It is the national costume of the Vietnamese people. Male versions of the ao dai include the cotton Ao The.

In 1930, the Vietnamese fashion designer Cát Tuong, known to the French as Monsieur Le Mur, modified it from Ao Tu Than. He lengthened the Ao Dai so that the top reached the floor, and made it fit the curves of the body closer. With the import of an abundance of foreign fabrics in 20th century Vietnam, including broader fabric, the modernized Ao Dai required less material to be made and as a result the flaps also became generally slimmer.

In Saigon during the 1950s, Tran Kim of Thiet Lap Tailors and Dung of Dung Tailors modified the Ao Dai to a form closest to what is seen today. He produced the gowns with raglan sleeves, creating a diagonal seam that runs from the collar to the underarm.

Ao Dai only continued to become more form-fitting with time.

In the 1960s the collarless Ao Dai style was popularized by the infamous Madame Nhu (former first lady of South Vietnam).

Despite the two major modifications to the Ao Dai in the 20th century, it has also seen slight changes throughout each decade as fashion changes constantly. Everything from floral to checkered patterns, the use of transparent fabrics, the tunic length being largely reduced or lengthened, has all been seen throughout different eras of Vietnamese history.

The Ao Dai has always been more prevalent in the south than in the north, and has faced a surge in popularity in recent years, even with overseas Vietnamese.

In recent decades it has inspired worldwide renowned fashion designers such Chanel and Ralph Lauren, among other big names, to create entire collections of Ao Dai.

The most popular style of the Ao Dai as we see it today is tight-fitting around the wearer's upper torso, emphasizing her bust and curves. For this reason, the Ao Dai, while it covers the whole body, is said to be provocative, especially when it is made of thin or see-through fabric.

A lasting impression for any visitor to Vietnam is the beauty of the women dressed in their ao dais. Girls dressed in white pick their way through muddy streets going home from school or sail by in a graceful chatter on their bikes. Secretaries in delicate pastels greet you at an office door and older ladies in deep shades of purple, green or blue cut a striking pose eating dinner at a restaurant. The ao dai appears to flatter every figure. Its body-hugging top flows over wide trousers that brush the floor. Splits in the gown extend well above waist height and make it comfortable and easy to move in. Although virtually the whole body is swathed in soft flowing fabric, these splits give the odd glimpse of a bare midriff, making the outfit very sensual. Rapidly becoming the national costume for ladies, its development is actually very short compared to the country's history.

Long dress is National costume, (also: national dress, regional costume, folk dress or traditional garment), expresses an A nation is a body of people who share a real or imagined common history, culture, language or ethnic origin. The development and conceptualization of the nation is closely related to the development of modern industrial states and nationalist movements in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, although nationalists would trace nations into the past along an uninterrupted lines of historical narrative.

Benedict Anderson argued that nations were "imagined communities" because "the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion", and traced their origins back to vernacular print journalism, which by its very nature was limited with linguistic zones and addressed a common audience.

Though "nation" is also commonly used in informal discourse as a synonym for state or country, a nation is not identical to a state. Countries where the social concept of "nation" coincides with the political concept of "state" are called nation states through The term costume can refer to wardrobe and dress in general, or to the distinctive style of dress of a particular people, class, or period. Costume may also refer to the artistic arrangement of accessories in a picture, statue, poem, or play, appropriate to the time, place, or other circumstances represented or described, or to a particular style of clothing worn to portray the wearer as a character or type of character other than their regular persona at a social event such as a masquerade, a fancy dress party or in an artistic theatrical performance. which usually relates to a geographic area or a period of time in history, but can also indicate social, marital and/or religious status. Such costumes often come in two forms: one for everyday occasions, the other for an event, usually and ordinarily staged by a local community, which centers on some unique aspect of that community.

Among many religions, a feast or festival is a set of celebrations in honor of God or gods. A feast and a festival are historically interchangeable. However, the term "feast" has also entered common secular parlance as a synonym for any large or elaborate meal. When used as in the meaning of a festival, most often refers to a religious festival rather than a film or art festival.

In the Christian liturgical calendar there are two principal feasts, properly known as the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord (Christmas) and the Feast of the Resurrection, (Easter). In the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican liturgical calendars there are a great number of lesser feasts throughout the year commemorating saints, sacred events, doctrines, etc and Formal dress (UK) and formal wear (US) are the general terms for clothing suitable for formal social events, such as a wedding, formal garden party. The Western style of formal evening dress, characterized by black and white garments, has spread through many countries; it is almost always the standard formal social dress in countries without a formal national costume.

A dress code is a set of rules governing a certain combination of clothing; some examples are black tie and morning dress. Formal dress is the grouping of all the dress codes which govern clothes worn to formal events. The traditional rules that govern men's formal dress are strictly observed; from these derive the evening dress variants worn on many occasions, such as high school prom dances, formal dances, and entertainment industry award programs.

The dress codes considered formal in the evening are white tie and black tie. In the UK, morning dress is standard formal day time clothing (a lounge suit being still considered informal dress), but in the US morning dress is rare, having been replaced with the stroller and then the lounge, or business, suit. Morning dress, however, does remain in certain settings in Europe, Australasia, and Japan. Some countries still have the semi-formal daywear code, the stroller

In United States usage the term "costume" is used in the sense of "fanciful dress", and so "national dress" is used to avoid this connotation.

the form of nationalism in which the state derives its political legitimacy as an organic consequence of the unity of those it governs. This includes, depending on the particular manner of practice, the language, race, culture, religion and customs of the "nation" in its primal sense of those who were "born" within its culture. This form of nationalism arose in reaction to dynastic or imperial hegemony, which assessed the legitimacy of the state from the "top down", emanating from a monarch or other authority, which justified its existence. Such downward-radiating power might ultimately derive from a god or gods

Among the key themes of Romanticism, and its most enduring legacy, the cultural assertions of romantic nationalism have also been central in post-Enlightenment art and political philosophy. From its earliest stirrings, with their focus on the development of national languages and folklore, and the spiritual value of local customs and traditions, to the movements that would redraw the map of Europe and lead to calls for "self-determination" of nationalities, nationalism was one of the key issues in Romanticism, determining its roles, expressions and meanings an agricultural worker who subsists by working a small plot of ground. The word is derived from 15th century French meaning one from the pays, or countryside, ultimately from the Latin or outlying administrative district (when the Roman Empire became Christian, these outlying districts were the last and this gave rise to "pagan" as a religious term). The term peasant today is sometimes used in a pejorative sense for impoverished farmers.

Peasants typically make up the majority of the agricultural labor force in a Pre-industrial society, dependent on the cultivation of their land: without stockpiles of provisions they thrive or starve according to the most recent harvest. The majority of the people in the middle Ages were peasants. Pre-industrial societies have diminished with the advent of globalization and as such there are considerably fewer peasants to be found in rural areas throughout the world (as a proportion of the total world population).

Though "peasant" is a word of loose application, once a market economy has taken root the term peasant proprietors is frequently used to describe the traditional rural population in countries where the land is chiefly held by smallholders. It is sometimes used by people who consider themselves of higher class as slang to refer pejoratively to those of poorer education who come from a lower income background.

In many pre-industrial societies, peasants comprised the bulk of the population. Peasant societies often had well developed social support networks. Especially in harder climates, members of the community who had a poor harvest or suffered other hardships were taken care of by the rest of the community. Peasants usually have one set of clothing, two at most. Also, a peasant usually owed their lord 20% of their earnings. They also owed the priest or bishop 10% of their owning. Of course, knights could, and would usually demand tributes for keeping them alive. Overall, the peasant usually retained only 10-20% of their total work and earnings.

Peasant societies can often have very stratified social hierarchies within them. Rural people often have very different values and economic behavior from urbanites, and tend to be more conservative. Peasants are often very loyal to inherited power structures that define their rights and privileges and protect them from interlopers, despite their low status within those power structures.

Fernando Braided devoted the first volume-called The Structures of Everyday Life-of his major work, Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century to the largely silent and invisible world that existed below the market economy.

Since it was the literate classes who left the most records, and these tended to dismiss peasants as figures of coarse appetite and rustic comedy, the term "peasant" may have a pejorative rather than descriptive connotation in historical memory. Society was theorized as being organized into three "estates": those who work, those who pray, and those who fight, came to serve as models for all that appeared genuine and desirable. Their dress crystallized into so-called "typical" forms, and enthusiasts adopted it as part of their symbolism.

In areas where contemporary Western fashions have become usual, traditional garments are often worn in connection with special events and celebrations, particularly those connected with cultural traditions, heritage, or pride.

In modern times there are instances where traditional garments are required by law, as in Bhutan, where the traditional Tibetan-style clothing of go and kea for men, karat and to ego for women, must be worn by all citizens -- even those not of Tibetan heritage; or in Saudi Arabia, where women are required to wear the abaca in public. he use of symbols to represent things such as ideas and emotions. Symbolism is sometimes used to refer specifically to totemic symbols that stand on their own, as opposed to linguistic symbols

In psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung envisioned symbols as being not of the mind, but rather the mind's capacity to hold information. The mind uses symbols to form free association, organization, and connections between symbols. Jung and Freud diverged on the issue of common cognitive symbol systems and whether they exist within the individual mind or among other minds, whether cognitive symbolism was innate or defined by the environment.

Symbolism is important to religion. Some religious oracles divine by interpreting symbols. Max Weber described religion as a system of sacred religious symbolism

The ao dai (áo dài) is a Vietnamese national outfit primarily for women. In its current form, it is a tight-fitting silk tunic worn over pantaloons. Áo dài is pronounced approximately woozy in the North, and with a y sound for the z in the South. Áo is derived from a Middle Chinese word meaning "padded coat" . Dài means "long".[1]

The style worn today is a modernization of the áo ngu thân, a 19th century aristocratic gown influenced by Manchu Chinese fashions. Inspired by Paris fashions, Hanoi artist Nguy?n Cát Tu?ng and others redesigned the áo ngu thân as a dress in the 1920s and 1930s. The updated ao dai was promoted by the artists of T? L?c van doàn ("Self-Reliant Literary Group") as a national costume for the modern era. In the 1950s, Saigon designers tightened the fit to produce the version worn by Vietnamese women today. The dress was extremely popular in South Vietnam in the 1960s and early 1970s. The Communist Party, which has ruled Vietnam since 1975, disapproved of the dress and favored frugal, androgynous styles. In the 1990s, the ao dai regained popularity. The equivalent garment for men, called an áo g?m ("brocade robe"), is also worn on occasion, such as during T?t, at weddings or death anniversaries. Today however, the áo g?m is most frequently worn by old men.

Academic commentary on the ao dai emphasizes the way the dress ties feminine beauty to Vietnamese nationalism, especially in the form of "Miss Ao Dai" pageants, popular both among overseas Vietnamese and in Vietnam itself. "Ao dai" is one of the few Vietnamese words that appear in English-language dictionaries

18th century

Peasant women typically wore a skirt (váy) and halter top (áo y?m). Influenced by the fashions of China's imperial court, aristocrats favored less revealing clothes. In 1744, Lord Nguy?n Phúc Khoát of Hu? decreed that both men and women at his court wear trousers and a gown with buttons down the front. Writer Lê Quý Ðôn described the newfangled outfit as an áo dài (long shirt). The members of the southern court were thus distinguished from the courtiers of the Tr?nh Lords in Hanoi, who wore a split-sided jacket and a long skirt.

[edit] 19th century

The áo t? thân, a traditional four-paneled gown, evolved into the five-paneled áo ngu thân in the early 19th century. Ngu is Sino-Vietnamese for "five." It refers not only to the number of panels, but also to the five elements in oriental cosmology. The áo ngu thân had a loose fit and sometimes had wide sleeves. Wearers could display their prosperity by putting on multiple layers of fabric, which at that time was costly. Despite Vietnam's topical climate, northern aristocrats were known to wear three to five layers

Two women wear áo ngu thân, the form of the ao dai worn in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

The áo ngu thân 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 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. Women could wear the dress with the top few buttons undone, revealing a glimpse of their y?m underneath.

20th century

Modernization of style

In 1930, Hanoi artist Cát Tu?ng, also known as Le Mur, designed a dress inspired by the áo ngu thân and by Paris fashions. It reached to the floor and fit the curves of the body by using darts and a nipped-in waist. When fabric became inexpensive, the rationale multiple layers and thick flaps disappeared. Modern texile manufacture allowed for wider panels, eliminating the need to sew narrow panels together. The áo dài Le Mur, or "trendy" ao dai, created a sensation when model Nguy?n Th? H?u wore it for a feature published by the newspaper Today in January 1935. The style was promoted by the artists of T? L?c van doàn ("Self-Reliant Literary Group") as a national costume for the modern era. The painter Lê Phô introduced several popular styles of ao dai beginning in 1934. Such Westernized garments temporarily disappeared during World War II (1939-45)

In the 1950s, Saigon designers tightened the fit of the ao dai to create the version commonly seen today. Tr?n Kim of Thi?t L?p Tailors and Dung of Dung Tailors created a dress with raglan sleeves and a diagonal seam that runs from the collar to the underarm. The infamous Madame Nhu, first lady of South Vietnam, popularized a collarless version beginning in 1958. The ao dai was most popular from 1960 to 1975. A brightly colored áo dài hippy was introduced in 1968. The áo dài mini, a version designed for practical use and convenience, had slits that extended above the waist and panels that reached only to the knee.

The communist period

The ao dai has always been more common in the South than in the North. The communists, who gained power in the North in 1954 and in the South in the 1975, had conflicted feelings about the ao dai. They praised it as a national costume and one was worn to the Paris Peace Conference (1968-73) by Vietcong negotiator Nguy?n Th? Bình. Yet Westernized versions of the dress and those associated with "decadent" Saigon of the 1960s and early 1970s were condemned. Economic crisis, famine, and war with Cambodia combined to make the 1980s a fashion low point. The ao dai was rarely worn except at weddings and other formal occasions, with the older, looser-fitting style preferred. Overseas Vietnamese, meanwhile, kept tradition alive with "Miss Ao Dai" pageants (Hoa H?u Áo Dài), the most notable one held annually in Long Beach, California.

The ao dai experienced a revival beginning in late 1980s, when state enterprise and schools began adopting the dress as a uniform again.[2] In 1989, 16,000 Vietnamese attended a Miss Ao Dai Beauty Contest held in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). When the Miss International Pageant in Tokyo gave its "Best National Costume" award to an ao dai-clad Tru?ng Qu?nh Mai in 1995, Th?i Trang Tr? (New Fashion Magazine) gushed that Vietnam's "national soul" was "once again honored." An "ao dai craze" followed that lasted for several years and led to wider use of the dress as a school uniform

No longer controversial politically, ao dai fashion design is supported by the Vietnamese government. It often called the áo dài Vi?t Nam to link it to patriotic feeling. Designer Le Si Hoang is a celebrity in Vietnam and his shop in Ho Chi Minh City is the place to visit for those who admire the dress. In Hanoi, tourists get fitted for ao dai on Luong Van Can Street.[18] The elegant city of Hu? in the central region is known for its ao dai, nón lá (leaf hats), and well-dressed women.

The ao dai is now standard for weddings, for celebrating T?t and for other formal occasions. A plain white ao dai is a common high school uniform in the South. Companies often require their female staff to wear uniforms that include the ao dai, so flight attendants, receptionists, restaurant staff, and hotel workers in Vietnam may be seen wearing it.

The most popular 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 to be provocative, especially when it is made of thin fabric. "The ao dai covers everything, but hides nothing", is according to one saying.[13] The dress must be individually fitted and usually requires several weeks for a tailor to complete. An ao dai costs about $200 in the United States and about $40 in Vietnam.[19]

"Symbolically, the ao dai invokes nostalgia and timelessness associated with a gendered image of the homeland for which many Vietnamese people throughout the Diaspora yearn". The difficulties of working while wearing an ao dai links the dress to frailty and innocence, Vietnamese writers who favor the use of the ao dai as a school uniform cite the inconvenience of wearing it as an advantage, a way of teaching students feminine behavior such as modesty, caution, and a refined manner.

The ao dai has made appearances in international runways, it inspired the Prada SS08 collection as well as Georgiou Armani's collection in the 90s. The ao dai is usually featured across an array of Vietnam-themed or related movies. In Good Morning Vietnam (1987), William's character is wowed by ao dai-clad women when he first arrives in Saigon. The 1992 films Indochine and The Lover inspired several international fashion houses to design ao dai collections.[20] In the Vietnamese film The White Silk Dress (2007), ao dai are the sole legacy that the mother of a poverty-stricken family has to pass on to her daughters. The Hanoi City Complex, a 65-story building now under construction, will have an ao dai-inspired design. Vietnamese designers created ao dai for the contestants in the Miss Universe beauty contest, which was held July 2008 in Nha Trang, Vietnam

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School uniform

Is it in law required to wear the Áo dài in high schools? Is that inconvenient and hot to wear the dress? Some Vietnamese friends said so said they do not like to wear them

It's very uncomfortable when you wear the Áo dài: it's hot in summer; easy to get dirty in raining season and a lot of inconvenient else. There is no law which require student to wear them but school rules itself. Some school hasn't required female students to wear Áo dài, but most of school force female students to wear áo dài as uniform and "to made them (female students) more feminine"

It unusual to see anyone wear áo dài in the North, except maybe for sales clerks at a high-end shop. Some high school students in Saigon told me they wore it once a week. Each school has its own uniform and rules

The north Vietnam's weather is (very) cold but áo dài is a thin one. If you worn only áo dài and stepped out in winter and autumn you'll be dead in seven steps. But in north Vietnam, people still wear áo dài on special occasions such as formal ceremonies, T?t Holidays.. Of course, with a proper warming method

Hue and the Perfume river have been the topic for many songs and works of literature. Because the city was built around the river, the lives of the people often revolve around this famous river.

To the Vietnamese people, Hue is always synonymous with romance and all that's beautiful. Hue is also famous for the school girls in their white Áo Dài - Vietnamese national dress, with their Tóc Thê - long flowing hair, and their Nón Bài Tho - a conical straw hat with a poem written inside that can only be read when held up to the light.

Hue's gracefulness seen through the traditional Ao dai

Many people say that residents of Hue (the old imperial city of Vietnam during 1802-1945), from the members of reputed families to ordinary traders and retailers, are always decent in their speaking and gestures. Wearing an old Ao dai (traditional long dress) torn out with time, or made with luxurious velvet or silk, Hue women always retain their gracefulness and gentleness.

According to Phan Thuan An, a researcher of Hue's culture, variations of the Ao dai from Hue have been closely linked to historical ups and downs. Under the Minh Mang Dynasty (1820-1841), to solve the differences of clothes worn by people from different regions after the conflict of the Trinhs and the Nguyens (1623-1777), King Minh Mang issued a royal ordinance about the uniform nationwide, under which royal concubines and maids had to wear the Ao dai when they left the royal palace. Ordinary people had to wear trousers and they were prohibited to wear skirts. To adults, Ao dai was a "must" outfit.

In the early 20th century, especially since 1917 when the Dong Khanh High School for female students was established, female students were ordered to wear Ao dai as their school uniform. At present, students of Hai Ba Trung High School (old Dong Khanh School) and many other schools in Hue are encouraged to wear the white Ao dai and trousers as their school uniform.

Over the past years, although materials and designs of the Ao dai have been changed, women from Hue are loyal to their traditional Ao dai . Their thinking of the garment colours and usage remains unchanged. Besides students who wear the Ao dai at school, Hue women wear the Ao dai when they go to pagoda or during festive days which make them look both elegant and ceremonial. State female employees also like to wear the Ao dai at their offices.

Hue women choose the colour for their Ao dai to be in line with the color of the sky and surrounding environment and the unique solemn look of the imperial city of Hue. A local saying goes, "look at the color of the sky in order to choose the color of the dress".

The dress worn at festive days often have bright colors; at worship and ritual ceremonies they are brown, purple, blue and milky, and with hidden designs. On rainy days the dress is often dark, and on sunny days it is light and bright. Hue women like to wear the purple Ao dai, which is not too light or too dark.

The traditional Ao dai of Hue are so beautiful and romantic that it has become a topic for fashion designers to explore its beauty. Some are successful, while many fail, for the Ao dai of Hue is not something easy to renew or change.

Famous designer Minh Hanh, who has many years in designing and collecting the Ao dai, said: "If someone designs a Hue Ao dai that does not reflect a Hue style, that dress is not one of Hue ."

At Festival Hue 2008, Minh Hanh and other young fashion designers presented to the public a collection entitled "Imprints of the Past". The dress is designed in the old traditional style with classical designs and imprinted with a Hue style, which fully reflects the elegance and grace of Hue women.

The traditional Vietnamese long dress (ao dai) was in the spotlight at an ao dai fashion show entitled 'Dau Xua' (Vestiges of Old Times) at the Hien Nhon gate in the ancient imperial city of Hue on June 8 as part of the ongoing 2008 Hue Festival.

Around 200 Vietnamese long dresses were displayed on an ancient and glistening stage in front of the glamorous Hien Nhon gate, one of the four gates that lead to the Imperial Enclosure (Hoang Thanh), with candle light, coloured smoke, fireworks and also music by renowned Vietnamese musician Van Cao and Trinh Cong Son playing in the background.

Vestiges of ancient Hue were imbued in the designs

the dresses highlighted the beauty and the classical character of the ao dai with the aim of encouraging the nation's young people to inherit and develop traditional values.

Different from previous Hue Festival which chose Trang Tien bridge or the Huong river as a venue for the fashion show, this year's ao dai show was organised in Hien Nhon Gate with the aim to highlight the beauty of ao dai in an ancient space.

The ao dai show is one of the most looked forward to events in every Hue festival and also one of the last main events of the 2008 Hue Festival, which will finish on June 11

Sweep through Hue and the classic grace of women clad in ao dai will surely to make a lasting impression on you. But behind the beauty is a rich history, brimming with cultural significance.

A researcher of Hue culture, Phan Thuan An, said that variations in Hue ao dai are related to the ups and downs of history.

History of the Hue ao dai

Under the Minh Mang Dynasty, the King issued a dress code for the whole country. Accordingly, all imperial concubines and servants had to wear ao dai when they set foot in the forbiddance palace. All citizens had to wear trousers, not skirts. Ao dai also became the compulsory costume of adults when they were out and about.

At that time Hue ao dai were similar to those in other regions, which were often dark in colour, and were a tangle of five flaps. Convenience demanded a four-flap version, the ao tu than or four-flap dress (with the two fore-flaps tied or left dangling to match satin trousers and silk belts). The five-flap ao dai has two fore flaps and two back flaps sewn together along the spine.

There is also a minor flap, which belongs to the forepart, at the right side, which hangs to the fringe. The sleeves are joined at the elbow since cloth available at the time had a width of just 40cm. The collar is 2-3cm high with the sleeves wrapped tight at the wrists, with accentuation of breast and waist. The laps flare from waist to foot.

For trousers paired with ao dai, while women in the North and the South favoured a solemn black, Hue women favoured white. Royals and the well to do often wore trousers with three pleats, giving a graceful spread to the leg, and increased mobility.

In the early of the 20th century, especially when the Dong Khanh High School for female students was founded in 1917, all schoolgirls from the central region flocked to Hue to study at Dong Khanh, ao dai became their uniform. They wore white trousers with violet ao dais as going to school, which then were changed to white colour in the dry and blue in the rainy season.

In the 1930s and 1940s, ao dai of Hue as well as of other regions didn't change. However, they were made of much more abundant materials and colours. Women at that time could select various kinds of cloths imported from Europe, which were replete with bright colours.

The use of imported cloths, with their wider widths resulted in seamless ao dais. The flaps were lengthened, to within 20cm of the ankle. Hue women were renowned for their elegance in white trousers and ao dais. The dress gradually became a fashionable costume among girls in various regions, except among married women.

Hue ao dai would not have today's design without an innovation initiated by an artist from the Indochina Art College, the owner of the reputed Le Mur tailor shops in Hanoi and Hai Phong, Lemur Nguyen Cat Tuong.

He brought a collection of Europeanised ao dais to the Hue Fair in 1939, which were called "modern ao dai". These ao dai had two flaps rather than the octopus tangle of five as before. They had puffed out the shoulders, were cuffed at the sleeves, a round collar cut breast-deep and laced, accentuated by a corrugated fringe made of joined cloth of different colours and gaudily laced.

Hue's women quickly accepted the remodelled ao dai. However, influenced by their inherently unobtrusive style, Hue ao dai were only modernised moderately with two flaps and buttoned from shoulder to waist.

In the 1950s, following trends across the country, Hue ao dai became more figure hugging, with higher collars and narrowed flaps, for an alluring body sculpting form.

In the mid-1960, as more women began to wear bra, Hue tailors stitched ao dai tighter at the waist, in an effort to further please the eye. At the end of the decade, Hue ao dai followed Saigon's raglan-sleeve ao dai, which hid the troublesome wrinkles that often formed at both shoulder and armpit.

But ao dai with high collars were still fond among Hue women, while others sported the low-necked, décolleté ao dai improved by Tran Le Xuan, sister-in-law of former South administration president Ngo Dinh Diem.

The Hue Ao dai has remained almost unchanged since 1975, although the dress is falling from popularity due to the demands of modern life. In the late of the 1990s, the ao dai made a comeback, at the behest of fashion designers.

However, women in the ancient capital were loath to be strapped back into the tricky dress. Today Hue women are still unobtrusive in their ao dai, which are worn not too thin, with long flaps that are nearly touch ground, high collars and low waist to hide the flash of skin at the flanks.

Violet ao dai, a symbol of Hue

An ao dai tailor since 1970, Nguyen Van Chi has seen many subtle changes to Hue ao dai. Even though material and styles have changed, their colour and purpose of ao dai have not. Ao dai with bright colours for the New Year festival; broad ao dai in brown violet, indigo-blue and milky coffee colour with sombre designs for funerals and ceremonies; ao dai in dark colours for rainy days; and light in colour for sunny days.

Most Hue women have at least one ao dai of violet colour, a specific characteristic for this ancient capital. Along with their grace, unobtrusiveness, violet ao dai and non bai tho have become indispensable images that are closely linked to Hue women.

Behind the success of "Miss Ao Dai" is the story of a medical school dropout who worked her way from selling handicrafts to becoming the owner of ao dai (traditional long dress) shops favored by Japanese tourists When Japanese flocked to the Vietnam Culture Festival in Yokohama this mid-June, all TV channels in Japan aired programs to promote Vietnam as a travel destination. Miss Ao Dai, the brand name of Duong Thanh Thuy's stores, were repeatedly described in these programs as one of the most trustworthy places to get the dress that especially appeals to Japanese female tourists.

"Good idea"

Located in the bustling downtown Ho Chi Minh City, Thuy's shop might not look too different from the stores that mushroom in that part of town. Yet behind the door, two Japanese students work as sales assistants for Thuy since most of the customers are Japanese. And nearly all of them ask for "ao dai".

That is exactly what Thuy noticed when trying to sell handicrafts to foreign tourists after she ceased her studies at the final year of medical school years ago. Thuy knew then that the Japanese were becoming hypnotized by the graceful dress, and opened a new shop - the "Miss ao dai" - to sell it to the Japanese.

"'Good idea!' they said," recalls Thuy about how Japanese travelers commented on the name of her shop. But in early days Thuy's shop was faced with "unhealthy" competition tricks from other shops, and things were going a rough. "Miss Ao Dai"'s owner, who never knew how to sew, came up with a brilliant idea: free ao dai tailoring. Anyone can bring in fabric and have her ao dai tailored free of charge at Thuy's shop, even when they don't buy anything.

"Then how do you make money?" - we asked. "With their ao dai done and not having to spend a cent, most customers can't help supporting my shop by buying some other stuff," answered Thuy with a grin.

Travel agencies jumped at the idea. "What's new in Vietnam? Let yourself be amused by having your Vietnamese traditional ao dai tailored free" immediately became included in the motto of promotion campaigns by Saigon Tourist, Apex and other travel agencies targeting the Japanese market.

Two years later, Thuy switched her tactics. "Buy ao dai and get a pair of shoes free" was her new policy, which was replaced by "buy ao dai, get a bag free" 6 months later. As Japanese customers came rushing to her shop, Miss Ao Dai's turnover surged. By now, the shop sells an average of 300 ao dais everyday.

Around-the-clock customer care

Things were not all rosy for Thuy. "This one time I was woken up at 2 a.m. by a Japanese girl, who angrily claimed the ao dai she had bought was too erotic to wear," Thuy said. She immediately came to the hotel to sort out the problem with the customer, only to find out that the Japanese did not wear any trousers, which were a part of an ao dai set. She also did not know how to button up her ao dai. A brief explanation solved the problem, as well as made the tourist feel comforted since it was the shop owner herself who came to her rescue.

Thuy learnt from the incident. She came home and compiled the "ao dai wearing instructions", which was soon followed by "ao dai tailoring tips" to distribute to her possible customers. This enabled the Japanese to order ready-made ao dai or ao dai fabric to wear or tailor by themselves. The travel agencies were again thrilled with this idea, and again their promotion campaigns boasted "you can have your own Vietnamese ao dai without even coming to Vietnam."

New orders brought new problems. Customers were not always pleased with what they'd bought, and wanted to return them. No big deal. Miss Ao Dai is willing to exchange new ao dais for products that fail to please buyers. A single complaint sent via e-mail from Japan will do, for that matter. "A good after-sale service is one of the key to the success of Miss Ao Dai," Thuy said. "5% brand name charge is added to ao dai price at my shop to ensure customers of our quality and after-sale policies."

Koreans next?

Thuy is now the boss of 3 ao dai shops in Vietnam, and another two handicraft shops in ... Japan. Thuy hired Japanese managers and staff to work in her Japan shops. And she doesn't seem to stop there. "Miss Ao Dai is exploring the needs of Korean tourists," revealed Thuy, the medical school dropout who never seems to run out of new business tactics.

A lasting impression for any visitor to Vietnam is the beauty of Vietnamese women dressed in their Ao Dais. These long flowing dresses worn over loose-fitting trousers are considered to be the national dress of Vietnamese women.

Early versions of the Ao Dai date back to 1744, when men and women to wear a trouser and gown ensemble that buttoned down the front. Although popular, men wore it less often than women, and generally only on ceremonial occasions such as at weddings and funerals. It took another twenty years before the next major design change occurred and nearly another two hundred years before the modern Ao Dai emerged.

The original Ao Dai was loosely tailored with four panels:The dress is long-sleeved and usually dark brown, with two front and two back "flaps," or strips of fabric. The two back flaps are sewn together with a seam running down the spine, called the dress's spine. The two flaps in front are not sewn together but are attached to the back flaps as the well as the sleeves. These two front flaps are knotted in front of the waist. Two blue or light green sashes are wrapped around behind the waist over the back flaps like a belt and tied together with the two front flaps. Together, the front flaps and the sashes dangle like ribbons and move with the rhythm of the woman's steps. Beneath the dress is a worn a white or bright pink yem, a diamond shaped piece of fabric that covers the chest and has straps from the right and left corners to tie be tied around the back and straps at the collar to secure it around the neck. The bottom corner of the yem is tucked under a long black skirt worn beneath the dress. From the 17th through the 19th century, Vietnamese women wore ao tu than with skirts to differentiate themselves from men, who wore a similar costume with pants. In 1928, during the Nguyen dynasty, Emperor Minh Mang ordered women to wear pants instead of skirts. However, until the 10th century, the familiar costume of young women of the Northern countryside remained an ao tu than and a skirt of rough cloth, two of which were tied in the back. In 1930, a Vietnamese fashion designer and writer, Cat Tuong, lengthened the top so it reached the floor. Tuong also fitted the bodice to the curves of the body and moved the buttons from the front to an opening along the shoulder and side seam. Because of these changes, Ao Dai became a contoured, full-length dress. The dress splits into a front and back panel from the waist down. During the 1950s two tailors in Saigon, Tran Kim of Thiet Lap Tailors and Dung of Dung Tailors, started producing the gowns with raglan sleeves. This created a diagonal seam running from the collar to the underarm and is the preferred style today.

There have been many stylish alterations in color and collar design in the past four decades. Most noticeable is the gradual shortening of the gown's length, such that today, it is usually just below the knee. Variations in the neck collar, between boat and mandarin style, are common. But more adventurous alterations such as low scooped necklines, puffed sleeves, and off-the-shoulder designs are emerging as more women experiment with fashion. Less rigid control over color and more access to new fabrics have also created dazzling results. Every Ao Dai is custom-made, accounting for the fit that creates a flattering look for each woman.

It is hard to think of a more elegant, demure and yet sexy outfit, that suits Vietnamese women of all ages than the Ao Dai.

A lasting impression for any visitor to Vietnam is the beauty of the women dressed in their ao dais. Girls dressed in white pick their way through muddy streets going home from school or sail by in a graceful chatter on their bikes. Secretaries in delicate pastels greet you at an office door and older ladies in deep shades of purple, green or blue cut a striking pose eating dinner at a restaurant. The ao dai appears to flatter every figure. Its body-hugging top flows over wide trousers that brush the floor. Splits in the gown extend well above waist height and make it comfortable and easy to move in. Although virtually the whole body is swathed in soft flowing fabric, these splits give the odd glimpse of a bare midriff, making the outfit very sensual. Rapidly becoming the national costume for ladies, its development is actually very short compared to the country's history.

Reference:

  • Aodaiforu.com
  • Vn-beaty.com
  • Viet vision travel.com
  • Viet Indochina travel.com

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