The aodai is as synonymous with Vietnam as the Vietnamese themselves. Yes, this is the national costume and it sure is a thing of beauty! The dress purposely emphasizes the slim Vietnamese woman’s curves and features, and to top it all off, the conical hat (which completes the overall costume) further reminds us where she is from.
The current aodai as we know it draws its influence from fashions of China’s imperial courts. It then evolved into a traditional four panel gown and eventually to five panels in the late 19th century. Wearers would show off their wealth and prosperity by wearing multiple layers, which was considered expensive at the time.
Finally, in the 1930’s the modern style of the aodai took its shape. A Hanoi artist took inspiration from France and had the dress practically touch the floor and emphasized the shape and curves of the wearer. The 1980’s saw a boom on aodai fashion. State enterprises, institutions and schools began adopting the dress as a uniform. Aodai beauty pageants were also becoming much publicized events. The dress is now standard for weddings, for celebrating T?t and for other formal occasions. And the aodai is also becoming common wear out on the streets.
The aodai embodies beauty, grace and elegance. The tight fitting of the dress, while revealing, is not an accident. Most dresses are personally tailored to perfectly fit into the wearer’s body. There is a saying about the dress. “The ao dai covers everything, but hides nothing.”
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