Vietnam Embassy in Stockholm

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COSTUME

Costume is one of the three essential needs of the people's material life (food, accommodation and closes). These were the earliest cultural commodities man has ever produced. Costume is always subject to change in accordance with historical development.

Generally speaking, the traditional costume of the Vietnamese people was very simple and modest.

A man used to wear brown shirt and a pair of white trousers. His headgear was simply a piece of cloth wrapped up in to a scarf, and his footwear just a pair of clogs or sandals. When going to attend a formal ceremony however, he would have two additional items. that of a long gown slit on either side and a turban. The gown and turban usually in black or brown were made of cotton or silk. In feudal time there was a strict rule governing dress code. "Ordinary people are not allowed to wear cloths with dye other then black,brown or white. Costumes in yellow were reserved for the King.Those in purple and red were reserved for high ranking court officials, while dress in blue were exclusively worn by petti court officials". Men's dress has gradually changed along with social development. The traditional set of long gown and turban had to have given way to more modern looking suits, while business shirts and trousers have replaced customary long sleeved shirts and wide trousers. However, traditional costume still survives especially efforts are increasingly being made to restore traditional festivals and entertainment which use such traditional costumes.

For her part, a woman used to more attractive dress. Young girls used to wear short shirts in a light brown colour with long black skirts. There headgear was a black turban with apeak at the in front. To make their waist look smaller they used to tightly fasten a long piece of cloth in either pink or violet. On formal occasion they wore a special dress which included three layers of ao dai, a long gown with slits on either side.

The outer garment was a special gown called ao tu than, which was brown or light brown in colour, with four slits divided equally on its lower section. It was made silk. The second layer was a gown in a light yellow colour and the third was gown in pink. When a girl had her three gown on, she would fasten the buttons on the side and leave those on the chest unfastened, so that it had a V shaped collar. This allow her to show the different colours on the upper part of three gowns neatly folded one after another. Beneath the three gowns is a bright red brassiere, part of which is exposed to cover the girl's neck. To supplement her beautiful formal dress the girl would have a conical palm hat fastened with a red or yellow silk ribbon to make her look both elegant and modest at the same time.

However, over the passage of time the traditional ao dai has gone through certain changes. Now the long gown is tailored carefully to make it fit the small and slender body of a Vietnamese girl. The two long slits make the gown have two free floating pleats in the front and at the back of her body. The floating pleats give some room for the exposure up to her thigh of a long pair of white silk trousers.

As part of her formal dress, the girl would have an elegant looking conical palm hat which is traditionally known as non bai tho (a hat with poetry written on it). The traditional conical hat which has been in use from time immemorial is particulary suitable for wear in a tropical country such as Vietnam, where fierce sunshine and hard rain are commonplace . To make a beautiful hat , a hat maker has to choose young palm leaves which have been dried under continued sunshine. Beneath the almost transparent layers of the dried palm leaves in attached a drawing of a small river wharf, with a small bamboo boat on the passing by. Below the drawing is usually written a piece of poetry which would be recited by the hat wearer.
In recent years some foreign fashions have been introduced to Vietnam, but still the traditional ao dai remains preferable by woman in both urban and rural setting.