Guide to Traditional Vietnamese Fashion

Countries around the world attract travelers to experience their culture through art, music, local customs, and as well as fashion. One of the major parts of the modern human experience is clothing. It is used as a means of rebellion, social class, and expression. And today, we are going to talk about the traditional fashion in Vietnam.

Vietnam is a multinational country, and it has 54 different groups, each with its own cultural custom and specific styles of traditional dress, costumes, and clothes. But among these, common traits usually include splendid colors that seem to contradict one another in each outfit, such as blue and red, blue and white, and black and red.If you want to learn more, read on as we’re giving you a guide to traditional Vietnamese fashion.

Traditional Women’s Fashion in Vietnam

Many modern Vietnamese women don Western-style fashion. When you go to Vietnam, you will see women wearing black business suits, crisp blouses, and high heels as they walk along Vietnam’s cosmopolitan cities. However, there are still a lot of women who still proudly wear elegant and beautiful pieces of traditional clothing that have endured the test of time. Here are some of the traditional women’s fashion in Vietnam.

Ao Dai

Ao Dai is pronounced like “ow yay” and translated to “long shirt.” In South Vietnam, it is a demure staple of Vietnamese fashion and worn by students, secretaries, and as well as hotel and restaurant staff. It is also worn on special occasions. Ao Dai is usually made of gorgeous Vietnamese silk.

This is a classic dress that dates back to 1774, during the time when Lord Vu Vuong of the Nguyen Dynasty proclaimed a uniform dress for both men and women. The uniform was comprised of trousers underneath a long, buttoned shirt.

When the 1930s came, the Ao Dai was designed the way it looks in the present time. It has a curve-hugging and flattering design. The long short is usually cut to where the midriff is exposed a bot, and the long flowing pants graze the floor. This traditional fashion is a symbol of beauty and elegance in Vietnam.

Ao Yem

The Ao Yem is considered as the cousin of the Ao Dai. It is an elegant and beautiful attire, but arguably with a little less modesty. It is encompassed of a diamond or square piece of cloth that conceals the chest and held together by two strings. One string ties behind the neck and the other across the back. This clothing was once considered as an undergarment and worn underneath a blouse reserve the modesty of the wearer.

The materials and colors used to create an Ao Yem depends based on class and occasion. An Ao Yem in simple blacks and whites are usually worn by common women, but brighter colors are chosen for special occasions, like Tet. There were also many Vietnamese poetry that has been dedicated to the beauty of women wearing an Ao Yem.

Non La (Conical Hat)

a woman wearing Non La or conical hat

The Non La is an iconic Vietnamese conical hat that has mythical origins that date back hundreds of years. According to legend, during a particular harsh rainfall, a massive woman descended from the heavens, protecting mankind from the rain with her hat. The hat was made of four bamboo leaves that stretched endlessly across the sky.

The Vietnamese people followed her example by stitching palm leaves together on a bamboo frame. With this, the omnipresent Non La was made. The Non La has been very important for farmers, fishermen, and travelers in Vietnam who wish for a brief respite from the blazing sun.

Traditional Men’s Fashion in Vietnam

man wearing a Non La while riding a bicycle

The traditional clothing of men in Vietnam was once used to show social status before it became the colorful and elegant style worn throughout the country in the present time. Read on to know more about these clothing.

Tunics and Trousers

Common men usually wore a plain ensemble that consisted of white trousers and a long brown short in feudal Vietnamese society. They were only allowed to wear brown, white, and black pieces of clothing. The colorful clothes were exclusive for court officials and royalty only. Court officials with lower ranks and mandarins wore blue, while higher-ranking officials wore red and purple. The color yellow was reserved for the King exclusively.

The traditional clothes of common men in Vietnam were simple and modest. On the other hand, the King and his officials have an elaborate and colorful outfits, which resembled Chinese styles mandated by the Nguyen Dynasty in the 1800s.

Ao Dai

Ao Dai is the most common traditional men’s fashion in Vietnam. It mirrors the style worn by Vietnamese women. While the women version of this clothing clings to their curves and highlights their figures, the ones for males are shorter, fuller, and worn with regular-fitting trousers. In the present time, Vietnamese men wear it on special occasions and they are usually ornate and colorful with intricate designs. It debuted internationally in 1969 by Vietnamese men at a Lions International Club meeting in Tokyo.

Traditional Hats

Men in Vietnam also wear the Non La. The female version of this hat has a wider brim, while the male versions are higher with a smaller rim. Beneath the layers of dried leaves, you will find a special drawing, usually of a river. Underneath that drawing, a unique piece poetry will be seen if it is held against sunlight. The traditional men’s fashion in Vietnam is also normally completed with a small, embroidered turban.


The traditional costumes of the Vietnamese tend to be very simple and modest. As time passes, these clothes are being influenced by foreign fashion. But the charming beauty that comes from these traditional fashion remains one of the best attractions for travelers when visiting Vietnam.