The Ao Dai is a Vietnamese Traditional Garment

The Vietnamese “Ao Dai”, the long gown worn with trousers by Vietnamese women, has become the symbol of the Vietnamese feminine beauty, and the pride of the Vietnamese people.  This national pride culminated in 1995 when Miss International Pageant in Tokyo gave its Best National Costume award to the Vietnamese representative Truong Quynh Mai.  Even before such international recognition, the Ao Dai had long been the source of inspiration of artists and poets, and thus had become an institution in Vietnamese arts and literature.

Middle and upper class ethnic Vietnamese women have traditionally worn the Ao Dai, a slenderizing formfitting outer garment that extends from its choke-throat collar to below the knees with long sleeves and slit on either side to the waist. It is worn over a pair of pajama-type bottoms with shoes being either sandals or closed shoes as desired. The lovely pastel color combinations and their light graceful movements combined with well groomed hair and countenance make many Vietnamese women quite attractive.

Ao dais fit tight around the neck and breasts. The slits extend from below the knees to just above the waist. The loose pants worn underneath are usually white or a color that matches the ao dai. When riding a bicycle or motorbike women often wear long white gloves and tie the rear of their ao dai to a rack so it doesn’t blows in the wind or get caught in the wheels. Offices girls often wear ao dais . Semi-see-through ao dais are popular with men.

Ao dais date back to the 1920s and were adapted from Chinese long dresses, They became popular in the 1930s and have gone through many changes. Most ao dais are produced in small shops, with 5 to 30 tailors who produce 25 to 150 ao dais a week. There is a lot of competition and it is possible to get one for as little as $10.

In the old days men also wore ao dais . They were shorter and looser and their embroidery patterns often indicted the status of the person wearing it. Mandarins wore purple, The emperor had a dragon embroidered with golden thread. Today, men sometimes wear ao dais to weddings or on holidays such as Tet.

Over time, the traditional "ao dai" has gone through certain changes. Long gowns are now carefully tailored to fit the body of a Vietnamese woman. The two long slits along the side allow the gown to have two free floating panels in the front and at the back of the dress. The floating panels expose a long pair of white silk trousers. In recent years some foreign fashions have been introduced to Vietnam; however, the traditional "ao dai" remains preferable to women in both urban and rural settings.

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