History and Poetry combine in "Ao dai"
The "Ao dai" appeared in Vietnam long ago and has been a common garment for women. Teachers and university or highschool students wear it at school, office workers use it, and Vietnamese air stewardesses display it wonderfully during flights. This kind of garment is also used for social gatherings, such as festivals, ceremonies and parties.
Apart from women, men also wear "Ao dai", but usually only in ceremonies. The "Ao dai" for men looks almost the same as that for women but has differences in the collar, sleeves, waist, and the length of flaps. A traditional ceremonial costume for Vietnamese men comprises an "Ao dai", a turban, and wooden shoes.
Some experts say the history of the "Ao dai" relates to the war between Trinh and Nguyen Lords. After Nguyen Hoang had been nominated governor of Thuan Hoa, he gradually built his southern land into an autonomy, independent of the goverment of King Le and Lord Trinh in the northern land. The border between the two regions of Vietnam at that time was the Gianh river in Quang Binh province.
In 1744, Lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat, a grand duke, pronounced himself Prince as a counterpart to Lord Trinh. He build Phu Xuan (Hue today) into a capital. He wanted the southern land to have its own cultural characteristics and escape the influences of the northern land's customs. The people's costumes should be renovated, he decreed. The dress for women was designed in reference to the dress of Cham women living in the southern land, but retained the beauty of the four-flap dress of the northern land country girls. Later, this garment became a favorite in both regions.
In the course of time, the "Ao dai" has undergone changes in design. It was loose, then tight. The collar was high then low, round then flat. The garment reached the wearer's heels and, at other times, was a bit below the knees.
The modern "Ao dai" is relatively colse-fitting for the body of a woman to display the beauty of her shape. It suits the small stature of Vietnamese women. When walking in the wind, a woman in an "Ao dai" may look more charming because of the flying flaps. The sleeves are loose, sometimes three-quarters of the arm's length, making the wearer look healthy and youthful. The image of school-girls in "Ao dai" going home after shool, with white flaps flying in the sunset, is beautiful and poetic. The "Ao dai" makes school-girls more feminine and tender.
Foreign girls studying in Vietnam and many visitors like "Ao dai" very much. They often have one or two pieces made to take home.
You know, I post this topic because some people confuse "Ao dai" with the traditional costume of Shanghai. They also say that because my country was controlled by China for a long time, so the culture was affected by China. The "Ao dai" is just different from the traditional costume of Shanghai in some points. It has trousers, its sleeves are longer than the traditional costume of Shanghai.
I agree that our country's culture is a little familiar with China but our costume is our own and this is a creation of Vietnamese people.