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History Vietnamese Traditional wedding clothes

While traditional wedding clothes of Vietnam have always been very diverse depending on the era and occasion, it is known that after the Nguyen dynasty, women began to wear elaborate Áo dài for their weddings which were modelled on the Áo mệnh phụ (royal Áo dài) of Nguyen dynasty court ladies. The style of the Nguyen dynasty has remained popular and is still used for modern weddings. The difference of the Áo mệnh phụ from the typical Áo dài is the elaborateness of its design (usually embroidered with imperial symbols such as the phoenix) and the extravagant outer cloak. With this gown which is preferably in red or pink, the bride usually wears a Khăn đống headdress. The groom wears a simpler male equivalent, often in blue.
Previous to the Nguyen dynasty, it is likely that women simply wore fancy, elaborate versions of Áo tứ thân.

Vietnamese Wedding Picture

Vietnamese wedding dress basics

Vietnamese wedding dresses have a long history steeped it tradition. It is important to understand the national Vietnamese dress before exploring the wedding dress. For both women and men, the national dress of Vietnam is called “Ao Dai” – for every day wear and for special occasions.

Ao Dai means “long dress”. Early versions comprised of 4 to 5 panels of silky, flowing fabric, layered over loose-fitting trousers of the same material. The number of layers usually signified the wealth of the person wearing it – the more panels or layers, the more wealth. Some of the very wealthy would even wear more than one ao dai at the same time.

Presently, most ao dai consist of only two pieces – a dress worn over loose silk pants, the dress varying in length from just below the knee to the ground. The dress consists of two to four panels, has a well-fitted bodice and is split on the sides from the waist down. Early versions had buttons up the front or side, but in recent years, the seams run diagonally from the neckline to the underarm and seem to be the preferred style.

The necklines usually vary between two styles – the “boat” or the “mandarin” style. The “boat” style is more open, off the neck and preferred in warmer climates. The “mandarin” style is a high stiff collar – the length of the collar depending on the person wearing it. Sometimes, the collar is formed by the many layers (or colors) of the ao dai – as many as seven at once.

Occasionally, a low-scooped neck style will be worn, but these are less common. Most ao dai are custom tailored, made to fit each individual body. Some of the lesser quality ao dai are now being mass produced, but they are less fitted and designed.

Colors vary with the ao dai now, but originally were indicative of a person’s age and social status. Schoolgirls continue to wear solid white, symbolizing their purity. As a girl ages, she begins wearing soft pastels. The bolder colors are reserved for married and mature women.

For her wedding, the bride wears an outer robe (the ao choang) over the ao dai to create a more formal look. Red is considered the marriage gown color, although bright pink may also be used. At times, gold silk trims the ao dai and/or the ao choang. Unique trimmings are often painted or embroidered on the garment. The couple’s names, Chinese characters or beautiful images are used as trimmings along the collar, cuff or back.

The bride’s head is adorned with a matching headpiece, either the non la (a cone-shaped hat made from dried, woven leaves) or the khanh vanh. Many say this most popular style resembles a flying saucer.

During the wedding day, the bride and groom may change their clothes as many as three or four times – from a western-style wedding gown and white tuxedo, to the ao dai for both the bride and groom, to formal evening gown and black tuxedo.

Overall, the ao dai is a graceful, stately costume, flattering to almost any figure. It has become a popular garment in western culture as well, with numerous internet sites available for ordering ao dai – as a custom made or a pre-made dress.

Ha Noi to put on birthday suit (1)

HCM CITY — Designer Vo Viet Chung is getting ready to make a once in a century achievement – a 1,000m long ao dai (traditional long dress) to celebrate the 1,000th birthday of Ha Noi-Thang Long in 2010.

There are going to be a lot of pin-pricked fingers and strained eyes but Chung is determined to get the dress finished by June this year. He expects the ao dai will win a place in the Viet Nam Guinness Book of Records.

Chung says he’s spent around VND1 billion (around US$63,000) on the dress so far.
But don’t be fooled by the imminent deadline, because Chung’s project has been taken some painstaking planning.

"The dress is a piece of embroidery art," he says. "I spent a lot of time researching embroidery techniques but the dress also employs the style of old water colour paintings."

The train of the dress has nine layers, each embroidered with a flying dragon. These symbolise the nine branches of the Mekong River. "I also included the dim silhouette of our famous queen in the south, Nam Phuong," he says.

The dress will use traditional colours from the Nguyen dynasty like red, blue, indigo and purple and the material is also symbolic. "I’m using materials from the three areas of the country; from the north I’ve chosen Van Phuc (Ha Dong) silk; the south, Tan Chau and My A silk; from the centre Da Nang and Lam Dong silk. These will be blended with Phuoc Thinh silk, the total will make up around 1,000m of material," he says.

Ha Noi to put on birthday suit (2)

Chung is decorating the dress with a treasure chest of gemstones, pearls, diamonds and rubies. To give the finishing touches to the ao dai’s regal glamour he and his assistants are weaving in gilded thread, silver lame and synthetic materials.

Over 20 tailors have been employed to embroider separate sections of the dress, mostly at the designer’s studio. Smaller-scale jobs are allotted to working-teams but Chung will be making the final touches.

Although Chung started making the dress last year, the seeds for the project were sown as early as 2001.

"When I studied fashion in Italy between 2001-02, I attended the debut ceremony of a record-breaking evening dress with a 100m-long train. It was then I first thought about making my ao dai."

"I plan to display the ao dai at the Viet Nam Culture Week in France. The trip will be sponsored by HCM Department of Culture and Information," the designer says.
Chung is no stranger to records. Last year he became the first Vietnamese designer to be invited on France’s TV programme French Fashion. — VNS

Sharing a poem on Ao Dai

Dear Author,

As a Vietnamese I must be grateful to you and to your article on the Ao Dai of Vietnam.

I would like to share with you a poem on the Ao Dai Vietnam, firstly in Vietnamese then later in English. If Ihave a chance to meet you or to serve you as a tour guide, I will recite the poem in Vietnamese.

Ao dai doi canh tien bay
La hon dan toc, huong say cua doi
Don so hai manh tuyet voi
Than sau, vat truoc thanh loi nuoc non

Ao Dai, the two wings of a fairy
The spirit of the Vietnamese people and the perfume of life.
Very simple with two wonderful flaps
One in the front and the other in the back
And it makes beautiful words of the country

Hope you like the poem.

Vietnamese Brides Marry in Traditional Red

The vociferous bang of thousands of exploding firecrackers and magnificent flowing silk dragons dancing in the road.
Sumptuous feasts of auspicious-sounding dishes and sweets.

Red envelopes stuffed with cash and given out to children.
East Asians are ringing in the Lunar New Year in a big way. And many Asian brides select this auspicious time of the year to get married.

Vietnamese people celebrate the lunar year in pretty much the exact same manner as the Chinese people do. There are many similarities when it comes to wedding traditions as well.
For example, Chinese brides, both modern and classic, typically change outfits three or more times on their wedding night.

Vietnamese brides do the same. The bride, in fact, may wear four to five dresses. And the groom changes outfits too!
The traditional Vietnamese wedding dress, known as Ao Dai, is often fashioned in brilliant red and yellow.

It is embellished by intricate embroidery of golden yellow motifs that denote marital bliss and prosperity. It is interesting to note that the national dress for both women and men is Ao Dai, which is worn both for festive wedding occasions and every day use.

The term Ao Dai literally means "long dress" and it is made up of over four layers of silky overlapping fabric, which are pleated over loose-fitting trousers made from the same fabric. It is believed that the more the layers, the more wealth of the wearer. Since this form of dress in a way denotes the financial status of the person who is wearing it, some well-heeled people wear multiple Ao Dai to show off their riches!

Ao Dai has a snug fitting bodice with long slits that run down from the waist and diagonal seams that extend from the neckline to the underarm to accentuate the natural curves of the hourglass figurines.

The brides also opt for an outer robe over the Ao dai for a classic appearance. There are many necklines to opt for such as mandarin collars to complete the picture of this stunning wedding gown.

To redefine conventions, go for the bold low neck style. That will grab attention as you pace down the aisle with your partner hand in hand!

Wedding gowns are almost always red in color though brilliant pink is also used at times.
The exceptional gold trimmings add dollops of exuberance to the wedding garb. Normally the trimmings of traditional motifs, Chinese alphabets or the name of the couple are painted or stitched along the back, cuff and collar.

The bride adorns her head with the typical cone shaped hat made from dried woven leaves or the more popular saucer shaped khanh vanh. The bride and the groom change their gowns at least three times during the wedding.

The wedding trousseau can includes a western wedding gown with white tuxedo, to the Ao Dai and the evening gown with black tuxedo.

These days, Ao Dai has attained a cult status of an elegant stately costume that accentuates all types of feminine frames. It is a popular wedding option among westerners as well, to infuse an Asian a theme into their weddings.

Photo courtesy of Quynh