Costume is an indispensable piece in Vietnamese culture picture. Ao is a common word for cloth and there’re several types of traditional Ao in Vietnam.
Ao ba ba
It has long been said that Ao Ba Ba becomes a symbol of the gentle soul and the elegant beauty of Vietnamese women, especially in the Southern rural areas of Vietnam. Compared with other Vietnamese traditional costume, this special casual wear is assumed to be simpler and easier to make.
It is simply consists of a pair of silk pants and a long-sleeved shirt with two flaps split equally at the two sides of the waist. The front part of the shirt is usually decorated with a middle button line and two pockets at the bottom. This costume is made of silk or soft fabrics and has versatile design varying with the colors used to make this attire. Dark colors, such as black and brow are used for working clothes. Bright and colorful outfits are for special occasions like festivals and cultural performances. In the Southern countryside, Ao Ba Ba is usually combined with Khan Rằn – a long Vietnamese black and white checkered scarf made of round material and conical hat. In the past, Vietnamese peasants used to wear this costume when working in their farms.
Nowadays, it is no longer regularly used as it was in the old days, but it still be used in special occasions like festivals and remains a crucial part in the cultural and spiritual life of Vietnamese people.
Ao Yem Dao
In the old days, “Yem Dao” was used to imply a typical Vietnamese undergarment worn by Vietnamese women from all walks of life. The origin of this unique costume is still unclear, but many researchers have shown that the first version of “yem” appeared in the 12th century under Ly dynasty.
Over time, the design has been remarkably changed. During 18th -19th century, yem dao was a square or diamond piece of cloth crossing woman’s chest with strings to tie at the neck and back. Seeing the color of yem, you can guess something about the wearer: labors usually wore brown bra which was made of coarse cloth. Educated girls wore multi-colored, discreetly elegant bra. Older people preferred dark colors. Yem dao was usually in combination with a long blouse or shirt or worn with Ao Tu Than (four-panel dress). Although modern Vietnamese woman now no longer wears this brassiere, ‘yem dao’ still play a vital part of various traditional performances, as an embodiment of seductiveness and femininity of the Vietnamese woman.