The áo dài appears in the English dictionary as “aodai”, which means it is a strong symbol of the Vietnamese culture.

 Through many ups and downs, the ao dai has become a pride of the Vietnamese. In order to get to today’s position, the ao dai has gone through a long history with many memorable landmarks.

Origin of history

It is impossible to determine the accurate original date of the ao dai. However, on the carvings of the Ngoc Lu drum several thousand years ago saw the glimpse of the long dress, the costumes of women in costumes with two dresses.

ao dai
Ao dai worn by Huyen Thoa princess (before 1910s)
Vietnamese and Vietnamese long dresses - 2
Giao Lanh ao dai

The distinctive feature of ao dai is the two pieces of dress. Regardless of many changes during Vietnamese history, the only thing that differentiates the traditional Vietnamese costume with ones of other cultures is the two pieces of clothing. Many people think that Vietnamese ao dai is another version of the Chinese women’s cheongsam, but the cheongsam appeared only around 1920s, while the Vietnamese ao dai was created long before. That proves ao dai is a cultural feature of Vietnam.

The earliest type of dress is Giao Lanh. Legend has it that, the respect of Hai Ba Trung (2 heroines that fought against China from colonizing Vietnam) , Vietnamese women avoid wearing two-tune dresses that are tailored to four panels symbolizing four parents

Vietnamese long dresses and now - 3
Áo tứ thân

Besides, due to the old technique, the fabric was woven into small pieces so they needed to pair four pieces to make a new dress, known as áo tứ thân. The shirt consists of two pieces in the back of the back (called the jacket), the edges of the two pieces are connected and hidden inside. The two pieces are tied up and put down into two dresses in the middle, so no button is needed. Normally, the hem of the shirt is lifted. Only when there is a funeral (husband or parent) and the edge of the fabric to expose instead of hidden in. This is the image of a rustic, modest four-pieced dress.

It was not until the reign of King Gia Long (1802-1819) that the new ao dai changed to a five-pieced robe, which now has a small body representing the wearer. In 1884, when the Hue court ruled in French hands, Western culture began to enter Vietnam and brought a lot of change with ao dai. From here the ao dai goes through a different history and reveals many of today’s dress styles.

Modern áo dài

After the opening of the Hanoi College of Fine Arts, there were many enthusiastic artists with making ao dai easier to wear for modern people. Le Mur is the first one. Le Mur is the French name of Cat Tuong, who made a major reform and turned the four-pieced dress into only two pieces – front and back. The upper body is sewed hugging the curves of the body of the wearer to make them look lovely. To add to the feminine look, the front buttons are shifted to an open area along the shoulders and along one side.

Then, Le Pho Le Mue and Le Long dress were welcomed at Da Nang Women’s Fair. This is a combination of Le Mur shirt and four-pieced dress, very close to today’s modern dress: shoulder strap and sleeveless, closed neck, button on the right, body hugging, two dresses Soft fly. At this time the famous raglan sleeves of today’s dresses have not appeared, Le Pho dresses remain the same shape and Vietnamese women love and wear it throughout the ages. Only in the 1960s, the Dung Dung factory in Dakao, Saigon, created a raglan style with the arms and the body of the shirt curved to fit the female curve. With this piece of clothing and loose pants cut long, ao dai becomes a seductive and charming clothes that are appropriate to the image of the modern Vietnamese woman.

Áo dài Việt xưa và nay - 4
A Hue girl in ao dai
Áo dài Việt xưa và nay - 5
Áo dài cổ thuyền – An ao dai design by Madam Tran Le Xuan