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Through the Lens of Time: Vietnamese Culture

Ao Dai

Photo Credit: Vietnamese Culture []

Traditional Clothing

The ao dai (pronounced “ow zai” in the north and “ow yai” in the south, meaning long dress) is the traditional dress of the Vietnamese people.  It is a fitted full-length dress worn over loose black or white pants.


Once worn by both men and women, the ao dai dates back to the 1700s when Lord Vu Vong of the Nguyen dynasty decreed that everyone should wear a short dress over loose fitting trousers.  It evolved into a dress, primarily for women, with a more fitted bodice and longer shin-length front and back panels worn over satin pants.   


Colors of the dress vary according to age and status. Young girls wear white, older, unmarried women wear soft pastels, married women wear vibrant colors, and red is worn at weddings.


Today, the ao dai is usually worn for formal occasions and celebrations.