Ao zai (ao dai), the national women’s outfit of Vietnamese women
Once in Vietnam, you will immediately notice the thin Vietnamese women wearing the national garment of their country. This garment is called ao zai (ao dai) and can be seen a lot in real life. Modern beauties wear their ao zai not only on stage. Ao zai is a woman’s shirt made of silk with long sleeves worn over trousers. Today you can find models wearing ao zai with short sleeves or even without sleeves on the pages of fashion magazines, but the traditional dress is the one with long sleeves.
Ao zai: its appearance and change of style over time.
It is considered that one of Nguyen lords named Phuc Khoat introduced the ao zai. Back then, there were unbreakable canons that tailors had to adhere to when cutting and tailoring a suit. The dress had to have a closed collar and five flaps, symbolizing the parents of the wearer of the ao zai, the parents of the wearer’s wife or husband, and the wearer himself. Ao zai also was supposed to have five buttons. They meant kindness, courtesy, intelligence, loyalty, and generosity. The ao zai were brown or black and belted with colored belts.
Later, ao zai under the influence of fashion has changed, and a variety of colors started to be ised for making this garment. An outfit with an open collar appeared.
Interestingly, the side cut of the shirt may vary. Its location has changed over time. Today, women from Central Vietnam have it below the belt, and the southerners, on the contrary, a few centimeters above the belt.
Who wears ao zai in modern Vietnam.
Today the national costume is worn by high school girls. It’s a uniform of banks and other institutions employees. Some hotels and stores choose such clothes for their salesmen and administrators.
And, of course, Vietnamese women wear ao zai on special occasions. For new year’s holidays and weddings they usually choose red ao zai. This color in Vietnam symbolizes good luck and happiness. Those couples who honor the traditions of their people choose ao zai as a wedding outfit. Modern brides often prefer European wedding dresses, but put on ao zai for a photo shoot.
Schoolgirls wear ao zai of the modest but still elegant white color, associated with the spiritual purity of young girls. In general, the colors of the outfit can be very different. Most often, young girls choose lighter outfits, and older women prefer deep saturated shades. Trousers can match the shirt or may differ in color from the top of the garment. Ao zai is often decorated with beautifully executed embroidery. The motives of embroidery can be flowers or ornaments, and sometimes the whole stories.
When you see the girls in ao zai, you immediately notice how perfectly this outfit fits the figure. The fact is that in most cases, ao zai is sewn according to individual measures, not on an industrial scale. When cutting the dress, the smallest features of the customer’s figure are taken into account, so the costume fits its owner like a glove.
Ao zai is so strongly associated with Vietnamese culture that it has long been an element of many works of art. Images of girls in ao zai can be seen on embroidered silk paintings and lacquered wooden boxes created by Vietnamese craftsmen.
Ao zai can be a man’s outfit, though in the modern world men wear it only on special occasions.
The tourists who came to Vietnam from different parts of the world often also want to buy ao zai. You can buy those garments ready-made or you can order them at an atelier. The seamstresses of Hoi An are especially famous for their skills. They can sew these beautiful national dresses quickly and efficiently.