Every day clothes in Vietnam are the same as in other places.
Clothes from long ago are called traditional clothes.
At special timespeople wear traditional clothing.
In Vietnam traditional clothes are long pants and a long top.
The top has slits on the sides up to the waist.
In Vietnam today, most people wear western style clothing such as shirts, tee shirts, skirts and pants or jeans.
They wear lightweight clothing, traditionally cotton, because of the climate. In colder weather, particularly in the north, they wear coats and woollens.
The traditional clothing of Vietnam
Traditional clothing is called ao dai, pronounced ow zye in the north and ow yai in the south. 'Ao' means jacket or top, and 'dai ' means long. The costume consists of a flowing tunic worn over long trousers. The women's close-fitting tunic or dress has a high neckline, long sleeves, and is split to the waist at each side and buttoned down the left side to the waist. It is worn over long, flowing pants, usually black or white.
The men’s ao dai often has a shorter and fuller tunic, and is generally worn only at weddings, ceremonies or to perform traditional dance. Men and women who work in some airlines, high class hotels, restaurants and expensive shops are sometimes required to wear ao dai as their uniform.
The ao dai originated in Vietnam in the 1744, when men and women were ordered to wear buttoned gowns over trousers. There have been modifications through the years, such as moving the buttons from the front to the side and shoulder. Today the top of the women’s tunic is tight-fitting, and there are more variations in neckline. There are some small variations in each region, such as a four panel tunic or the addition of a scarf.
Traditionally, the colours of the ao dai would indicate a woman’s status: for example, all white for young girls, pastel colours for unmarried women, and brighly coloured tunics over black or white trousers for married women. Today this is not always rigidly the case.
In some parts of Vietnam, generally in the mountain areas, there are small groups of people who came to Vietnam hundreds of years ago from neighbouring countries. They are known as ethnic minorities, and live in villages in their old traditional ways. They speak their original languages and wear their traditional clothing as their everyday wear.
School clothing in Vietnam
In most secondary schools, girls in the final years are required to wear ao dai, either all white, or white with black pants, instead of the school uniform worn in earlier years.
For younger students the school uniform is, in many schools, white shirt, blue pants or skirt and a red scarf tied around the neck.
This varies from school to school.
In more remote country areas, students may not have to wear a uniform.
Workers' clothes in Vietnam
Farm workers and labourers wear shirts and loose cotton pants that can be easily rolled up when working in mud. Women sometimes wear skirts.
Most country people wear sandals or go barefoot.
Hats in Vietnam
All over Vietnam, people in all walks of life wear the traditional cone shaped straw hats called non la, made of palm leaves.
They are waterproof and shade the face, so are equally useful worn in both intense heat and heavy rain. The non la can be dipped in water and worn to cool the wearer.
A non la has a cloth strap, often silk, that keeps it on the wearer’s head, hanging behind the neck, or used when carrying the hat.
Those made in Hue are famous for the poems written in them, that can only be seen when the hat is in sunlight.
The non la is now often considered to be part of the national costume of Vietnam.