Ao dai – The Allure & Grace of Vietnam’s National Dress

If in the previous post, you were followed me to the divine beauty of Vietnam’s national flower, this post will draw upon a picture of Vietnam’s traditional dress, Ao dai.

Ao Dai, traditional dress in Vietnam, is one of the most elegant and graceful dresses for women. It is the symbol of Vietnam beauty with the images of slender, long-hair and grace women in Ao Dai, therefore it always leaves a a deep impression on foreign visitors with its charm, and captivating.

Vietnamese's Miss Ao Dai

Vietnamese’s Miss Ao Dai

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.

Characteristics of “Ao Dai”

For a long time, the ao dai has been the subject of poems, novels and songs. Whatever the design, the ao dai remains a beautiful Vietnamese dress revealing the strong yet feminine side of Vietnamese women. Ao dai, covering the body from the neck to the knee or to below the knee for both men and women, consists of split-sided tunic with long panels in the front and back, that is worn over pantaloons. The material of Ao dai is soft silk and the cut of two pieces is at waist, which make the women feel comfortable to move. Ao Dai reflects the body of the one who wears it, so each Ao Dai is just suitable for only one person. We cannot make one Ao Dai for many people. It can be, but it will not be beautiful. When making an Ao Dai, the tailor will take the measurement carefully as once the measurement is wrong, it will destroy the beauty of Ao Dai.

The Allure & Grace of Ao Dai

The Allure & Grace of Ao Dai

“Ao Dai” is still unique and special not only to the eyes of Vietnamese, but also to the eyes of foreign visitors. Different from Kimono or hanbok, Ao Dai is wore in many occasions. Everyone can wear the ao dai for special occasions, festivals and traditional events such as Tet holidays, weddings, as well as remaining the uniform in schools. That will make Vietnamese women more beautiful and more graceful.
Girl student wearning Ao dai & conical hat

Girl student wearning Ao dai & conical hat

A song complementing the Vietnamese women in Ao Dai, Vietnamese’s version: “Em trong mat toi”, composed by Nguyen Duc Cuong

Yesterday and Now of “Ao dai”
No one really know when did the tradional costume “ao dai”come into being and how it got its form. Ancient dress of the Vietnamese, the carvings on the Ngoc Lu drum from a few thousand years ago show that the women were wearing dresses with two slits.
Ao dai in the old days
Early versions of the Ao Dai was originally applied to the outfit worn 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 in the 18th century. This outfit evolved into the áo ngũ thân, a five-paneled aristocratic gown worn in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Traditional Vietnamese women in Ao dai
The updated look was promoted by the artists and magazines of Tự Lực văn đoàn (Self-Reliant Literary Group) as a national costume for the modern era.
Ao dai in the 1930s

Now, the men less wore it, 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.

Vietnamese Man wearing Ao dai in his wedding

Vietnamese Man wearing Ao dai in his wedding

Young girl wearing ao dai in a lotus flower pond

Young girl wearing ao dai in a lotus flower pond

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.

Vietnam Airlines's stewardesses are beautiful in Ao dai uniform

Vietnam Airlines’s stewardesses are beautiful in Ao dai uniform

I had chosen for myself a red Ao Dai with yellow pants in my engagement party, had I never ever felt confident and charming in any other dresses than in Ao Dai.

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. There are many shops making Ao Dai in Ho Chi Minh city, Hue, Hoi An and Ha Noi. Those shops can make Ao Dai very quickly, even just in one day.

Try yourself with our Ao Dai to discover your inner beauty

Try yourself with our Ao Dai to discover your inner beauty

There was a nice Vietnamese song about Ao Dai: “Wherever you go, Paris, London or the faraway land, if you see Ao Dai flying on the street, you will see the soul of Vietnamese there”. During this month, our Ao Dai will be on shown in Italy as part of the event “Vietnamese days in Tuscany region”.

To Vietnamese people, The Ao dai so romantic, elegant and charming will always create feminine style associated with the beauty of Vietnam. It is difficult to think of a more elegant demure outfit that suits Vietnamese than the Ao Dai. This dress represents transcends all ages, it reaches the lives of people from all walks of life. In short, The Ao Dai is always conjured in the hearts of all Vietnamese and is still the dress of choice on social occasion of Vietnamese as national pride.

Here are some addresses of tailors where you can make your Ao dai in one day if you travel to Vietnam, I do believe once you make it, you will love it.

Ngan An fashion design, Address: 27 Ngo Thi Nham St., Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi
Huong Giang tailor, Address: 58 Tue Tinh St., Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi
Tuan Ngoc Ao dai, Address: 87/31 Nguyen Dinh Chinh, Ward 15, Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh city
Thu Thuy A Dong Silk, Yaly, Hoi An.

14 thoughts on “Ao dai – The Allure & Grace of Vietnam’s National Dress

    • Thanks Johanna, Ao Dai does make the woman more “woman”, especially for such a beautiful girl like you, if you’ve got the chance to visit Hanoi, definitely I’ll take you to make one! Cheers:-)

  1. I flew Vietnam Airlines a few years ago and the stewardesses were all wearing a modernised version of the Ao Dai.
    They looked so beautiful that I kept ordering drinks so that they would walk by, and I could check them out! I was quite drunk when I eventually landed in Ho Chi Minh! Unfortunately it was just a transit stop for me, but I felt like I got a feel for the essence of Vietnam, just by seeing the Ao Dai!

    • Hi Jeremy, your story is really interesting, cannot imagine how drunken you were if your flight was to the other faraway land:-) The Ao Dai itself always boasts well the woman’s beauty, they even look more beautiful on the stewardesses as many of them are models and Miss Vietnam:-) Thank you for your story, i do like it:-) Cheers!

  2. I would like to get one of this dresses for Sara… where can I get one? 😉
    Such a nice blog min!!!! I will keep following it!!!

    • Hi Oscar, thank you for your nice comments, if you come to visit Hanoi, i’ll take you to make a special Ao Dai for your wife, i am sure it will be perfect for Sara. I will keep you updated with my blog posts, good luck!

  3. Hi Min,

    What an interesting post! I had no idea that Vietnam had an iconic dress, which is very beautiful. I found very interesting the history of dress and I loved that you put different pictures of the dress.


    • Hi Lina,
      Thank you for your nice comments, i’m glad that you like the post. The Vietnamese women are very proud of this beautiful dress which makes the woman look more charming. I hope i can show you how I look in Ao dai one day;-) Good luck!

  4. Hi Min,
    I didn’t realise there were so many meanings with the colours women can wear the ao dai and their status.
    I remember staying one hotel and each day all the staff would wear different patterns – but they were always so colourful and have such an intricate design. I’d ask to take photos each morning because they were so pretty 🙂

    • Hi Katie,

      It’s fabulous to hear that you had seen our Ao dai with intricated designs. Did you make your own one? I am sure it would fit well with such a fashionable girl like you:-) Show me the pictures you got sometimes, very excited:-)

  5. Hi Min
    Wow this is a great blog… even though im Vietnamese, i didnt even know there was that much to ao dai! I never really looked at it twice to be honest… but now i see it very differently then how i use to…

    • Hi Rob, thanks for your comment, i hope you can have a more insight understanding of Vietnamese Ao dai because it represents the image of Vietnamese women, a hidden charm beauty:-) Cheers!

  6. Hi Min,

    Never knew what the national dress would look like in Vietnam, I guess there are many things I don’t about this country ! the dress does look extremely graceful and nice colours too!! did you wear this for your wedding too? this is so pretty! especially the split design by the side!

    • Hi Ting, thanks for your lovely comment, i’ve always choosen Ao dai as the party dress on special occasions, I will show you the picture I wore Ao dai in my engagement party:-) All the best, cheers!

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