Ao Dai – The tradition of Vietnam

By Réhahn

Do you know Ao dai is still remained as it is “Aodai” in dictionary?
No word is suitable for translating it.

Do you know Ao dai is still remained as it is “Aodai” in dictionary?
No word is suitable for translating it. This truly showcases the national tradition behind this type of clothing in Vietnam.
No matter how many times is Ao Dai changed with several alters in styles and formation, the Vietnamese traditional dress still maintains the unique feature that is totally different from clothes of other.

Some people think that Ao Dai is similar to the Mandarin dress but they ignore the fact that Mandarin dress existed from 1920 while Ao Dai  was created a long time before. It means Ao Dai is the distinctive traditional dress of Vietnam.

In the 18th century, long dresses were still preferable by Vietnamese women. However, in 1744, under the Nguyen Dynasty, Lord Vu Vuong – an official managing the North of Central Vietnam had proposed a change of clothing for both men and women with an ensemble of trousers and a gown that buttoned down the front.

It seemed to be a lead to the revolution of a new costume named Ao dai when it’s first introduced in a fashion show in the 1950s. Two Vietnamese tailors, Tran Kim and Dung had created new clothing with raglan sleeves and a diagonal seam that runs from the collar to the underarm.


Vietnamese people are always proud of ao dai which is perfectly made to highlight the graceful curve of women’s body. From necklace to splits above waist, Ao Dai brings to wearers the comfort to wear and move around. Pants with length above soles is an excellent combination with long flaps of Ao Dai. Synthetic or silk fabrics are favorite patterns to make Ao Dai thanks to its cool and fast-dry function.

Nowadays, there are some variations to provide a new fresh outlook for the traditional clothing. The flaps are cut shorter just below knee; necklace is not seen in some alternative forms. A variety of colors is an extra point to make Ao Dai suitable for people of all ages. It now doesn’t stick to the age for color choice as before. Currently, some women love to mix the original Ao Dai with jeans or kaki pants.


For a long time, Ao dai has become a national symbol of Vietnam. Even though people don’t wear it as often as they did before, you can easily catch an image of high school students or a receptionist in Ao Dai. Generally, the Vietnamese wear Ao Dai in special occasions as graduation, weddings, national holidays,… Depending on each event, designs and styles of Ao Dai range from simplicity to luxury.

For example, Vietnamese high students prefer to wear Ao Dai with pure white or blue and simple garment while brides tend to choose the Ao Dai with sophisticated style offering a lovely and opulent look for their wedding photos.

In the past, Ao Dai was worn by both men and women. Nowadays, the Vietnamese men only choose Ao Dai on some formal occasions like wedding or ceremony.


Ao Dai is always honored in the worldwide festivals or competitions like Ms. World, Ms. Earth, or international conference as APEC organized in Vietnam… It’s also chosen to be mainstream clothing for some festivals of Vietnamese community around the world.

On the festival “Vietnamese day in Spain”  (2009), 30 Ao Dai designs of David Minh Duc designer were presented in Europe. The Ao Daifashion show also took place in Milan (Italy) and Madrid (Spain). The collection provided a thorough understanding about the Vietnamese traditional dress from its origin to the images ofAo Dai in daily life.

In some events related to Vietnam, many foreign artists decide to wear Ao Dai as a movement to show their respect and friendliness to the Vietnamese.

Vietnam, Mosaic of Contrasts is available here:

Vietnam - Mosaic of contrats II

Vietnam – Mosaic of contrats II