The traditional Vietnamese dress: Ao Dai is a typical outfit of female beauty

The beauty of women dressed in Ao dai, a traditional Vietnamese dress, always leaves a deep impression on the views of the people and visitors to Vietnam.

Female students dressing in long white robes walk on streets to schools or back home, or gracefully ride on their bikes along roads. Female secretaries in delicate Ao Dai greet you at an office door, and older ladies in deep shades of purple, green or blue shaping a striking pose at a restaurant for dinner. This traditional customs of Vietnam appears to praise the beauty of Vietnamese girls and women.

Ao Dai - a traditional Vietnamese dress
Ao Dai is a traditional Vietnamese dress.

When traveling to Vietnam, you can see the beauty of Ao Dai in many places. From female receptionists to the guests at tourist attractions, the elegant style of the Vietnam traditional clothes becomes beautiful and memorial images for your holidays to this wonderful country.

Keep reading the article with Vietnamdrive to find out Ao Dai with the history, beautiful features, average prices, and addresses to buy it.

1. History of the development of Vietnamese traditional dresses

Ao dai is one of the traditional Vietnamese dresses and the national costume. Not only considered a typical cultural feature of Vietnam, but Ao dai is also an artistic symbol, inspiring artists from the early 20th century.

It is interesting when talking about its history of formation and development. Join with Vietnamdrive to learn about the changes of the Vietnamese traditional outfit through the periods and developing stages of the nation. 

Like the traditional costumes of other countries in the world, it is hard to know correctly what was the origin of the ao dai and when did it appear? Its history of creating Ao dai has still discussed.

Many people believed that the ao dai originated from the Chinese cheongsam (suon Sam). But some others said that the ao dai started from costumes during the Trinh and Nguyen dynasties in the 18th century.

Also, some thought the traditional Vietnamese dress dated back to the Hai Ba Trung period (circa 40 BC). The following is what we can study the process of development of Vietnamese ao dai.

1.1. The foundation of Ao Dai

Since the beginning of the 18th, the Vietnamese people made Ao Tu Than (four flaps of dresses) which helped them work in the fields easily. It is because they could tie 2 flaps in front or at the back together to avoid being dirty. The clothes originated for the farmers, so the color was dark to look it cleaner while working in the rice fields or the dusting soils in the countryside.

Urban women, who worked less in the field, often worn Ao Ngu Than ( five flaps of dresses) to distinguish themselves from the poor working class. Ao Ngu Than has four ties like Ao Tu Than with a fifth flap putting under the front flaps as a gentle tie. 

Ao Ngu Than had a wide neck and body, the people had used widely to the early 20th century. But, both kinds of these outfits have not worn anymore for daily activity. The people in North Vietnam just used during some traditional festivals.

Traditional Vietnamese dress - Ao Ngu Than
Ao Ngu Than – Photo: @ phinguyenthuylinh (MC, editor)

Despite this, these clothes may be the foundation of Ao Dai, the traditional Vietnamese long dress for the girls and ladies after many tailors changed it at the end of the 20th century.

1.2. Ao Dai of the Trinh – Nguyen Dynasty divided in 1744

According to historical records, the first ao dai appeared in 1744. At this time, the country was divided into two regions – South and North.

Trinh Lord in North Vietnam allowed people to wear a jumper with a wide seam and wrists. This costume was sewn from four long flaps until foot, split from the hip; the front neck was diagonal; the hip has a black belt, and this jumper was worn with the skirt.

Meanwhile, in the South, Lord Nguyễn Phúc Khoát requested all the people of Dang Trong (the South) had to wear costumes distinguished from Dang Ngoai (the North). They created an outfit with a standing neck, neither wide or narrow sleeves, and two long flaps that cut at both sides.

When the Nguyen Dynasty (from 1802 – 1945) reunified the country, ao dai had become popular in the country. 

1.3. Lemur’s Ao Dai (1934)

Painter Nguyen Cat Tuong with the stage name Lemur in French had sketched a long dress into different designs under the influence of Western costumes.

The most typical is a dress with puffy sleeve near the shoulders, a heart neck and a bow, and the seam hugging the body.

However, at that time, women did not wear a bra like nowadays but only wearing “yem”, so the chest of the outfit was not beautiful. Therefore, the painter Nguyen Cat Tuong asked an owner of a swimsuit shop on Hang Bong Street in Hanoi to propose to add a bra to the women’s chest when wearing long dresses.

ao dai lemur
Ao dai lemur – Photo: hanoimoi

Then, the Nguyen Dynasty invited Lemur to design a collection of modern dresses for Queen Nam Phuong (the last Queen in Vietnam). However, his long dress still has critics because the design was too extroverted, not suitable for Vietnamese traditions and customs, so it was not used in vogue anymore.

1.4. Le Pho Ao Dai and Ao Dai Tran Le Xuan (1958)

After the trend of Lemur Ao dai was no longer popular, another painter Le Pho continued to change the Ao dai with elegant lines that were more suitable to Vietnamese women and culture.

The most typical of his design had the features of the four-flap and the five-flap clothes of North Vietnam.

From the 1950s, Le Pho Ao dai became popular with a high collar, long sleeves with no bulging, buttons on the right of the dress.

ao dai tran le xuan
Ms. Chieu Xuan wears Ao Dai of Tran Le Xuan style. Photo: Tran Son/Vnexpress

In 1958, Ms. Tran Le Xuan who was the wife of the President of the Republic of Vietnam designed a modern Ao dai with a boat-shaped neck, shorter sleeves combined with Western-style gloves. This kind of design was also criticized and removed later.

>>> You can want to read the famous Vietnamese painters.

 1.5. Raglan Ao Dai (1960)

In the 1960s, the tailor shop in Dakao (Hanoi) created a raglan style. The long dress had sleeves connecting from the neck to the armpits; the front and the back flaps were are connected by a row of buttons from the top down to the armpits and along one side.

This type of sewing had overcome the aesthetic imperfections when making Ao Dai, helping the Vietnamese long dress to be closer to the body.

Vietnamese traditional dress - ao dai reglan
Ao dai Reglan – Photo: canifa.com

1.6. Ao dai from the 1970s to the present

From the 1970s onwards, Vietnam has begun to make innovations in many fields, and Ao dai also has big changes.

Many fashion designers have come up with long dresses having different styles, fresh colorful materials, modern patterns combined with small details on the neck, sleeves,…

Although having big changes, the traditional Vietnamese dress has had a perfect look with countless impressive designs and style, but it has still retained the traditional Vietnamese characters.

ao dai
Ao dai is a beautiful dress in Veitnam.

The proof is that many Vietnamese girls and women wear Ao Dai in different activities of life. And, the image of the Ao dai has appeared in foreign newspapers and fashion magazines, and it becomes a traditional costume of Vietnamese people.

Above is the changes and development of Vietnamese long dress through periods of the nation.

Now we will go deeper into the style of Ao Dai of nowadays at each area, the North, Middle, and South in Vietnam. This part gives you have a close look which is suitable for your favorite fashion-style.

2. Styles of Ao Dai in the different areas in Vietnam

Each region has a unique beauty of the traditional Vietnamese dress. When it comes to the image of the Northern Ao Dai, people will immediately think of the elegance and fondness of the Trang An people in Hanoi.

The traditional long dress in the Central region of Vietnam has the strong influence of the typical Hue purple-color Ao Dai and features of the long flaps of Nam Phuong Queen. And the Southern Ao Dai is the rich collections, showing the vibrant, modern rhythm of Saigon.

2.1. Hanoi Ao Dai in an elegant way

From the past until now, the original Hanoians always feel very proud of the elegance of the Trang An people. Ha Thanh girls often appear in pure white ao dai, very discreet, polite, not ostentatious or flashy. That beauty has the appearance of elegance and family-breeding girls.

Autumn is the best time to travel to Hanoi Vietnam
A beautiful photo of a girl in Hanoi with a white Ao dai- Photo: @chunglungtung

The weather in Hanoi with four seasons is also more special than other destinations in Vietnam , so the material of Hanoi Ao Dai is also very diverse. Velvet is used in winter, chiffon is used in summer, silk in autumn and spring. Its colors and patterns are also gentle and slightly dull.

Meanwhile, in Ho Chi Minh City, ao dai often has vibrant colors, and Hue girl’s ao dai looks as quiet as the way of living in the central region. Besides, Hanoi girls often add a shawl to add to the elegant beauty.

2.2. Purple Hue Ao dai presenting the dress in Central Vietnam

Referring to the purple long dress, we easily imagine the traditional costume of Hue girls. The image of Ao dai with a poem conical hat has inspired poets to have great poems.

Ao dai Hue
Ao dai Hue with a typical purple color – Photo: Vietnamdrive

Hue people always harmonize in dress and using colors, and this is the highlight of Hue style. Hue women in the past often perceived purple as an elegant and royal color.

They have rarely expressed their feelings in a strong way. When having fun, they just have a little smiling. Hue girls and women like the slight scents like lotus flowers, orchids … Thus, the lotus flowers often appear on their Ao dai.

And, the purple color on the long dress of Hue girls is not only a favorite color but also show their personalities of faithfulness.

Along with a soft voice, Hue female people also know how to create their own style of wearing a long dress. Hue Ao Dai is not long up to heels like in Saigon, the collar is mediumly high, the shape is not too tight, cutting flaps is not too high.

Despite the modern lifestyle and culture, for centuries, Hue Ao dai has been durable, faithful, and imbued with national identity.

2.3. Ao dai in Saigon in rich color

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) is also the homeland of all kinds of traditional Vietnamese long dresses from luxury, splendid, lovely to casual, youthful, mischievous …

Young women in Saigon always impress with their youthfulness and confidence. Despite wearing a long dress, t the Saigon girls still walk quickly but still maintain a flexible and feminine appearance. This particular feature has formed from the bustling life of Saigon since the end of the 19th century.

ao dai saigon
Ao dai with Saigon style – Photo: @phanvuquoccuong

Saigon does not have a cold season to have a huddle, quietly or pensive in thick warm velvet dresses. The weather in Ho Chi Minh is often hot, so the girls like to use silk material to make their Ao Dai.

Besides, Saigon is the homeland of the people from all over the country, where all cultures are accepted. So, the ao dai in Saigon looks like thousands of looks, and the young Saigon girls are always comfortable and natural as life is always active.

3. Price to make a traditional Vietnamese dress

When preparing to make a pretty Ao dai, the first thing is to buy beautiful pieces of clothing, and then find a reputable tailor to make it. 

The price of a lovely Ao dai is very different from materials, designs, pieces of jewelry on it, skills of tailors, and time to make it. The average cost can range widely from 800,000VND to 5,000,000VND.

3.1. Average price list of tailoring

This price is for a Vietnamese long dress excluding clothing that you can buy somewhere to carry to the tailor shop to make it.

  • Normal Ao dai for students: from 300,000 VND – 700,000VND
  • Ao Dai for a Vietnamese wedding: from 800,000 VND – 2,000,000 VND
  • A common long dress (material of chiffon, silk, glossy fabric…): from 500,000 VND to 1,000,000 VND
  • Lace long dresses: from 600,000 VND – 1,500,000 VND

3.2. Price list of Ao Dai package

The package price includes sewing work and fabric, usually choose the fabric right at Ao dai stores, a set has a long dress and paints.

  • Ao dai for wedding (bridal dresses): 1,500,000 – 5,000,000 VND / set
  • Ao dai for men: 1,000,000 – 3,000,000 VND / set
  • Normal dresses (common materials): 800,000 – 2,000,000 VND / set
  • Uniform dresses (for students, workers…): 500,000 – 1,500,000 VND / set (depending on the quantity and fabric)
  • Middle-aged Ao Dai: VND 800,000 – VND 4,000,000 / set

Also, there are additional costs for designing lace embroideries, crystal, bead… Additional prices range from 200,000 VND to 3,000,000 VND.

Tip: Ao dai has a strongly personal fashion style. Most of the available-made dresses in Vietnam do not fit for wearing beautifully. So, you need to come to a tailor shop and order a tailor-made Ao dai. The time to make it can have different from shops from 6 hours to one week. And, Hoi An is the fastest order, but it costs a higher price.

4. Addresses to buy and make a beautiful Ao Dai in Vietnam

Owning a beautiful and graceful Ao dai to adorn on important occasions in life is the desire of most Vietnamese women. Therefore, to choose a reputable and professional address to make it is an important choice. So, we introduce you to the most famous addresses in different cities of Vietnam that you can come to have your Vietnamese traditional dress.

Traditional Vietnamese dress
Ao dai is always an attractive traditonal dress.

4.1. Addresses for Ao Dai in Hanoi

Ao Dai Ngan An 

  • Address 1: 90 Pham Ngoc Thach, Trung Tu, Dong Da, Hanoi
  • Address 2: Address: No. 27 Ngo Thi Nham, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi
  • Phone: 024. 35 737 456
  • Website: www.aodainganan.com

Ao Dai Minh Duc

  • Address: 41 Dang Tien Dong, Dong Da, Hanoi
  • Phone: 0912.395.531
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aodaiminhduc/

Thuy Linh garment factory

  • Address in Hanoi: No. 21, Thai Thinh 1 Lane, Thinh Quang Ward, Dong Da, Hanoi.
  • Hotline: 079.6380.331 – Ms. Linh.
  • Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/xuongmaythuylinh
  • Website: https://xuongmaythuylinh.vn

Thanh Mai Ao Dai

  • Address 1: 428 Bach Mai, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi
  • Address 2: 435 Hoang Quoc Viet, Cau Giay, Hanoi
  • Phone: 0906.284.933
  • Website: aodaithanhmai.com.vn

Ao Dai Chi

  • Address: 93 Ton Duc Thang, Dong Da, Hanoi.
  • Phone: 0906461972

4.2. Addresses for Ao Dai in Saigon(Ho Chi Minh City)

Ao Dai Hanh

  • Address 1: 6/3 Cach Mang Thang 8, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, TP. HCM
  • Address 2: 178/4 Phan Dang Luu, Ward 3, Phu Nhuan, TP. HCM
  • Address 3: 102 Le Thi Hong, Ward 17, Go Vap City. HCM
  • Phone: 0982.936.339
  • Website: http://aodaihanh.com

Ao Dai Minh Thu

  • Address: 129 De Tham, P. Co Giang, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Phone: +84.28.38361947 – 0918463817
  • Website: aodaiminhthu.com

Ao Dai Cam Tu

  • Address: 382/16 Dien Bien Phu, Ward 11, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Phone: 0903.968.698
  • Website: aodaicamtu.com

Ao Dai My Hanh

  • Address: 660 Xô Viết Nghệ Tĩnh, P.25, Bình Thạnh District, TP. HCM
  • Phone: 0907 951 011
  • Website: aodaimyhanh.com

Ao Dai Tien

  • Address: 457/2 Cach Mang Thang 8, Ward 12, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Phone: 0902685268
  • Website: chuyenmayaodai.com

4.3. Addresses to make Ao Dai in Da Nang & Hoi An

Ao Dai Dan Phuong

  • Address: Lot 50, Morrison Street, Son Tra District, Da Nang City
  • Phone: 0914.033.555 – 0914.478.999
  • Website: https://sites.google.com/site/aodaidanphuongtaidanang/

Ao Dai Hu Loc

  • Address: 66 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Da Nang
  • Phone: 090 564 26 81
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aodaihuulocdanang/

Ao Dai Trang Ngoc

  • Address: 64, Tie La Street, Hoa Cuong Bac Ward, Hai Chau District, Da Nang
  • Phone: 036 586 5559
  • Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/Aodaitrangngoc

Here are addresses to make Ao Dai in Hoi An. I like tailor services in Hoi An, which is very quick, but the price is higher than in other cities.

Bebe Tailors Hoi An

  • Address 1: 05-07 Hoang Dieu. Hoi An
  • Address 2: 40 Tran Hung Dao. Hoi An
  • Phone number: 0235 3923 399
  • Website: https://bebetailor.com/

Ao Ba Ba Tailor Shop

  • Address: 47 Tran Phu. Hoi An
  • Phone number: 0235 3861 119
  • Website: https://aobaba.vn/

Yaly Tailor Shop

  • Address: 47 Nguyen Thai Hoc. Hoi An
  • Phone number: 0235 2212 474
  • Website: https://www.yalycouture.com/

4.4. Addresses to buy Ao Dai in Hue City

Hung Tailor

  • Address: 35 Mai Thuc Loan Street, Thuan Thanh Ward, Hue City

Minh Tan Ao Dai Tailor

  • Address: 57 Nguyen Sinh Cung Street, Hue City, Vietnam
  • Phone: 0234 3828 049

Ao Dai Chi Silk

  • Address: 18 Nguyen Sinh Cung Street, Hue City
  • Phone number: 0234.3933.995

Bich Thuy Tailor Shop

  • Address: 47 Vo Thi Sau – Hue City
  • Phone: 0234 3846519 – 038 591 0023
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aodaihuebichthuy/

Gia Huy Silk Tailor shop

  • 48 Pham Ngu Lao, 44 Vo Thi Sau, Phu Hoi, Hue City, Thua Thien Hue
  • Phone: 090 771 01 69
  • Website: http://giahuysilk.vn

Conclusion

Ao dai is a beautiful traditional outfit that makes Vietnamese girls and ladies more attractive. Although some men wear it, not popular; they just use Ao dai when worshipping, or they become a bridegroom.

Ao dai is made individually to fit each customer’s shape to create the most graceful look. Its body-hugging top flows over wide trousers, which can brush the floor with the Southern Style, a little shorter in Hue and Central Vietnam, and shortest one in Hanoi and the Northern region.

The color is indicative of the wearer’s age and status. Young girls wear pure white, fully-lined outfits symbolizing their purity. Older but unmarried girls move into soft pastel shades. Only married women wear the long dresses in strong, rich colors, usually over white or black pants. The pants should reach the soles of the feet and flow along the floor.

And, a cutting from the shoulders to armpit and above waist make this custom comfortable and easy to wear and move. This feature is a typical design, creating incredible alluring beauty of girls or ladies wearing Vietnamese traditional dress.

Nowadays. you now can find different types of Ao dai in all the designs with modern or classic styles in Vietnam. Also, finding good places to buy and make Ao dai in Vietnam is not difficult, because of many skillful tailor-shops in different cities in Vietnam.  

It is hard to think of a more elegant, demure, and charming outfit that suits Vietnamese women of different ages than Ao dai.

About the author

The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.