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The traditional dress for women in Vietnam is the costume that is called "Ao Dai," literally meaning "Long Dress." Early versions of the Ao Dai date back to 1744 when Lord Vu Vuong of the Nguyen Dynasty decreed both men and women should wear an ensemble of trousers and a gown that buttoned down the front. Nowadays, Ao Dai is a two-piece garment made of fabric, full-length dress worn over loose silk trousers reaching all the way to the ground. The dress splits into a front and back panel from the waist down. The dress length seems to be gradually shortening and today is usually just below the knee. Variations in the neck, between boat and mandarin style, are common and even adventurous alterations such as a low scooped neckline puffed sleeves or off the shoulder designs are appearing as ladies experiment with fashion. Women wear Ao Dai of various colors, often with intricate patterns and designs, in formal or work settings. Schoolgirls wear pure white, fully lined outfits symbolizing their purity.
Ao Dai is custom made only. It is an elegant, demure, and yet sexy outfit that suits people of all ages. Anthony Grey described the Ao Dai in his novel Saigon as "demure and provocative& women seemed not to walk but to float gently beneath the tamarinds on the evening breeze." The Ao Dai covers everything but its thin fabric hides almost nothing!
Published on 1/10/04