Photographer's Note


Saigon’s Schoolyard

When talking about Vietnam, foreigners don’t remember well its history or geography. But they always remember “áo dài”.

In Viet Nam, the “áo dài” is the traditional dress for women. Developed from Chinese court clothing in the 1930s, this style of clothing went out of fashion in the north in 1954 and in the south in 1975. Recently, however, it has made a comeback and is regaining popularity in the south among schoolgirls and office workers, and is being worn at formal functions. An indication of social standing, the áo dài is worn by women who work as shop assistants or who have a higher social status, while manual workers typically wear a loose top and baggy pants called an áo bà ba.
Pronounced “ao yai” in the south, but “ao zai” in the north, the áo dài is considered to be an elegant, yet demure, garment. Traditionally, long, wide-legged trousers are worn under a high-necked, long-sleeved, fitted tunic with slits along each side. The outfit’s pants reach to the soles of the feet, often trailing along the ground. Over time, the dress tunic has evolved, keeping with fashion trends, and has grown shorter and shorter until it now falls just below the knees. The áo dài can also be identified by its mandarin-style or boat-neck collar. Young girls wear only pastel colored or white garments while married women wear either dark or bright tunics over black or white trousers.
Historically, Vietnamese men dressed in mandarin style suits. With a tunic shorter and fuller than the áo dài, the suit’s color was traditionally determined by the man’s class and social rank. For example, a purple suit denoted a high rank while blue denoted a low rank. Status was also indicated through a variety of embroidered symbols. Today the mandarin suit is rarely worn except for in traditional dance or music performances.


There is a very popular Vietnamese idiom: “Next to the devils and ghosts are students (nhất quỷ, nhì ma, thứ ba học trò). Don’t believe it? Try!

For more info about “áo dài”, please check this link.


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Additional Photos by Ngy Thanh (ngythanh) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 471 W: 125 N: 2332] (8458)
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