This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Vietnamese clothing" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (February 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Vietnamese clothing
Việt phục
Rio mã châu áo tấc.jpg
Áo tấc is a type of costume born under the Nguyễn Dynasty, a type of costume often worn on important occasions such as weddings, funerals, festival... This is one of the most popular Việt phục types today.
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabetViệt phục
Trang phục Việt
Quần áo Việt

Trang phục Việt (Chữ Hán: 裝服越), Việt phục (Chữ Hán: 越服) or Quần áo Việt (Chữ Hán: 裙襖越), all literally meaning Vietnamese clothing, is the traditional style of clothing worn in Vietnam by the Vietnamese people, including the unofficial national dress of Vietnam, the áo dài. The clothing in Vietnam has both indigenous and foreign elements due to the diverse, dynamic cultural exchanges in which ancient Vietnam partook in; this eventually led to the birth of a distinctive Vietnamese style of clothing.

The image of the Áo ngũ thân and Nón ba tầm on the postcard
The image of the Áo ngũ thân and Nón ba tầm on the postcard
Nguyễn Dynasty officials
Nguyễn Dynasty officials

In today's daily life, Vietnamese people often wear Western clothing called Âu phục, but now its common name is just Quần áo thường ngày.


The clothing and textile history of Vietnam reflects the culture and tradition that has been developed since the ancient Bronze Age wherein people of diverse cultures were living in Vietnam, the long influence of the Chinese and their associated cultural influence, as well as the short-lived French colonial rule.[1]: 9  The dynamic cultural exchanges which took place with those foreign cultural influences had a significant impact on the history of clothing in Vietnam; this has eventually lead to the birth to a distinctive Vietnamese clothing style, the Áo dài is only one of such clothing for example.[1]: 9  Moreover, as Vietnam has multiple ethnicities, there are many distinctive styles of clothing which reflect their wearer's ethnicity.[1]: 20 

Since the ancient times, textiles used and produced in Vietnam have been silk in Northern Vietnam, barkcloth, and banana fiber cloth; kapok and hemp were also generally used prior to the introduction of cotton.[1]: 1–2, 17 

For at least a thousand years, Vietnam was ruled by the Chinese in the north while the South of Vietnam was ruled by the Indian-culture influenced, independent kingdom of Champa.[1]: 1–2  During this period, the clothing styles which were developed in Vietnam contained both indigenous and imported foreign elements; the upper classes tended to be more easily influenced by those foreign influences than the common people.[1]: 1–2  The upper classes of Vietnam in Northern Vietnam tended to wear clothing which mirrored the fashions of the Chinese, and this style of clothing persisted even after the end of the Chinese rule in the independent kingdom of Đại Việt and in Champa.[1]: 1–2 

For centuries, peasant women typically wore a halter top (yếm) underneath a blouse or overcoat, alongside a skirt (váy or quần không đáy). It was until the 1920s in Vietnam's north area in isolated hamlets where skirts were worn.[2] Before the Nguyễn dynasty, the cross-collared robe (áo giao lĩnh) was worn popularly.[3][4]: 295 

Bách Việt period (1000 BC - 1 BC)

Most of ancient northern Vietnam was referred as the Baiyue region in ancient Chinese texts.[1]: 26  Prior to the Chinese conquest, the Tai nobles first came in Northern Vietnam during the Dong Son era, and they started to assimilate the local Mon-Khmer and Kadai people in a processed referred as Tai-ization or Tai-ification as the Tai people were politically and culturally dominant in Baiyue; this led to the adoption of the Tai people's clothing and the formation of dress style influenced by the Tai people.[1]: 20, 26 [dubious ]

The Han Chinese referred to the various non-Han "barbarian" peoples of north Vietnam and southern China as "Yue" (Việt) or Baiyue, saying they possessed common habits like adapting to water, having their hair cropped short and having tattoos.[5][6]


Nanyue (204 BC–111 BC) was an independent state which was founded by a Chinese general.[7] However, in the Kingdom of Nanyue, it was the elite who were primarily influenced by Chinese clothing as the presence of the Chinese was limited.[1]: 21  The clothing of the elites of Nanyue was mixed of Tai and Chinese clothing styles.[1]: 50 [dubious ] The clothing of the Elites include Chinese fashion from the Warring States period and the Qin dynasty; the style of clothing was mainly a V-shaped collar gown which was tight fitting that was folded to the right.[1]: 50  The clothing was multi-layered; it was common to wear three layers of clothing and tended to have narrow and straight sleeves.[1]: 50  The elites women on the other-hand tended to wear a blouse and a skirt.[1]: 50 

Chinese Conquest Period of Vietnam

The Kingdom of Nanyue (204 BC–111 BC) was conquered and colonized by the Han Chinese under the Han dynasty in 111 BC.[7] The Chinese ruled over Northern Vietnam for 1000 years until c. 900 AD.[7][1]: 21  This time, it was the Chinese which lead to acculturation process referred as Sinicization.[1]: 21  The clothing of officials in Northern Vietnam followed the regulations of the Chinese dress.[1]: 50  However, even during the Han dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD), there was still very little Chinese migration into Northern Vietnam.[1]: 21  It was in the subsequent centuries after the fall of the Han dynasty that there was a large influx of Chinese in the region of Annan.[1]: 21 

From period of 40 AD to 938 AD, the direct rule of the Chinese in Northern Vietnam led to the Chinese clothing influence on the local clothing styles, especially the local elites; this also included the leaders who rebelled against the rule of the Chinese who typically wore Chinese-style clothing.[1]: 50  The Elites wore clothing made of silk which were colourful and decorated while commoners wore plain hemp-based clothing.[1]: 50  According to the Hou Han Shu by Fan Ye, the civilization of Lingnan started with Ren Yan and Xi Guang (both Han Officials in Jiaozhi and Jiuzhen respectively) who were credited for introducing hats and sandals to the people of Lingnan along with many other aspects, such as agriculture.[4]: 25 

Non-Chinese immigrants were attracted to the Tang dynasty-ruled Annan, and non-Chinese migrants started settling in the neighbouring areas; the blending of Chinese culture, Mon-Khmer, and Tai-Kadai in northern Vietnam led to the development of the national majority, the Việt people.[1]: 21  The elites followed the Chinese clothing system more closely once the regions had been incorporated into the Chinese imperial system.[1]: 21  During the thousand years of colonization, the Vietnamese adopted Chinese clothing and customs yet were not assimilated into the Han Chinese population.[7]

Lý dynasty to Trần dynasty (1009–1400)

After northern Vietnam became independent from China, the Vietnamese elites both followed the Chinese fashions and created distinctive, but still heavily Chinese-influenced local Vietnamese styles.[1]: 21  The Chinese style dress gradually spread to the Việt people commoners and among the people who were living in the surrounding regions which was being formally ruled by the Vietnamese; however, the form of the commoner clothing were distinct from those worn by the elite class.[1]: 21  Almost all male commoners of the Việt ethnic and ethnic minorities started to wear Chinese style trousers and shirts.[1]: 21 

Vietnamese wore a round neck costume, which was made from 4 parts of cloth called áo tứ điên.[8] Both men and women wore it. There are also other types such as: áo giao lĩnh (cross-collared robe). The garments "áo" (áo is for the upper part of body) are below knee length, and round neck garments have buttons when the cross-collared robe is tied to the right.

The Mahasattva Trúc Lâm Coming Out of the Mountains – Trần dynasty
The Mahasattva Trúc Lâm Coming Out of the Mountains – Trần dynasty

Short hair or a shaven head was popular in Vietnam since the ancient period. Vietnamese men had shaven head or short hair during Trần dynasty.[9] This can be seen in the painting "The Mahasattva Trúc Lâm Coming Out of the Mountains" which portrayed Trần Nhân Tông and men in the Trần dynasty[10] as well as the Chinese encyclopedia "Sancai Tuhui" from 17th century. The convention was popular until the Fourth Chinese domination of Vietnam.

Hồ dynasty (1400–1407)

In 1400s, Lê Quý Ly wrote a poem to describe his country and his government to the Ming dynasty envoys, explaining shared cultural status between Dai Ngu and Ming by referring to the Han and Tang dynasties when Dai Viet was a part of China, "You inquire about the state of affairs in Annan. Annan’s customs are simple and pure. Moreover, official clothing is according to the Tang system. The rites and music that control intercourse between the ruler and the officials are those of the Han [...]".[4]: 72 

Fourth Chinese domination of Vietnam (1407–1427)

When the Han Chinese ruled the Vietnamese in the Fourth Chinese domination of Vietnam, due to the Ming dynasty's conquest during the Ming–Hồ War they imposed the Han Chinese style of men wearing long hair on short-haired Vietnamese men. The Vietnamese were ordered to stop cutting their hair and instead to grow their hair long and switch to Han Chinese clothing within a month by a Ming official. Ming administrators said their mission was to civilize the unorthodox Vietnamese barbarians.[11] Women had to wear Chinese style clothing.[12]: 528  The Ming dynasty only wanted the Vietnamese to wear long hair and to stop teeth blackening so they could have white teeth and long hair like Chinese.[13]: 110 

Later Lê dynasty (1428–1789)

In 1435, Nguyen Trai, a scholar official, and his colleagues compiled the Geography (Du dia chi) based on the lessons he had taught to the prince, who then became Emperor Le Thai Tong; his teachings also included how Vietnamese were different from their neighbours in terms of language and clothing customs: "The people of our land should not adopt the languages or the clothing of the lands of the Wu [Ming], Champa, the Lao, Siam, or Zhenla [Cambodia], since doing so will bring chaos to the customs of our land".[4]: 138 [13]: 82  They viewed the Ming as having been affected by Mongolian customs in terms of clothing customs (e.g. with their hair hanging down the back, white teeth, short clothing, long sleeves, and bright and lustrous robes and caps) despite returning to the ways of Han and Tang and the people of Lao as wearing Indian-style clothing like the robes of Buddhist monks "like the irrigated fields of dysfunctional families".[4]: 138 [13]: 82  Therefore, they considered that all those styles, including those of Champa and Khmer, should not be worn as they disregarded the customs of the Vietnamese, who continued to follow the rites of Zhou and Song dynasties: in the Du dia chi, it is written that according to the scholar Ly Tu Tan, during the reign of Tran Du Tong, Emperor Taizu of Ming bestowed a poem saying, "An Nan [Dai Viet] has the Tran clan, and its customs are not those of the Yuan [Mongols]. Its clothing and caps are in the classic pattern of the Zhou dynasty. Its rites and music follow the relationship between ruler and minister, as in the Song dynasty” and therefore Emperor Taizu promoted the ambassador of Dai Viet (Doan Thuan Than) by 3 ranks to be equal that of Joseon.[4]: 138 

The Lê dynasty encouraged the civilians to return to traditional customs: teeth blackening as well as short hair or shaved heads. A royal edict was issued by Vietnam in 1474 forbidding Vietnamese from adopting foreign languages, hairstyles and clothes like that of the Lao, Champa or the "Northerners" which referred to the Ming. The edict was recorded in the 1479 Complete Chronicle of Đại Việt of Ngô Sĩ Liên.[4]: 87 

Revival Lê dynasty

Main article: Dragon robe

The dragon robe (Long Bào) was worn in Vietnam since the Restored Late-Lê period, Phan Huy Chú wrote in the Categorized Records of the Institutions of Successive Dynasties (Lịch triều hiến chương loại chí):[14]

"Since the Restored Later-Lê era, for grand and formal occasions, (the emperors) always wore Xung Thiên hat and Long Bào robe...."

Through many portraits and images of rulers during Míng, Joseon, and more recently, Nguyễn of Vietnam, one could see that this standard (the wearing of Long Bào) existed for a long period of time within a very large region.[14]

Đàng Trong and Đàng Ngoài

Before 1744, people of both Đàng Ngoài (the north) and Đàng Trong (the south) wore áo giao lĩnh with thường (a kind of long skirt). The Giao Lĩnh dress appeared very early on in Vietnamese history, possibly during the first Chinese domination by Eastern Hàn, after Mǎ Yuán was able to finally defeat the Trưng Sisters’ rebellion. Those of the lower classes would prefer sleeves with reasonable widths or tight sleeves, and of simple colors. This stemmed from its flexibility in work, allowing people to move around with ease.[14] Both male and female had loose long hair.

The Nguyễn lords were key players in promoting Chinese-style clothing in central and southern Vietnam when they expanded their territories and extended control over all the territories which used to be ruled by the Cham and the Khmer.[1]: 73  While expanding their territories, the Việt people were brought to the south and the Nguyen lords allowed Ming dynasty Chinese refugees to settle in those areas, thus creating a mixed society which was composed of Việt, Chinese, and Chăm.[1]: 73  Both Việt and the Chinese brought their own clothing style in Đàng Trong (Huế) and continued to wear their clothing until a proclamation by Lord Nguyễn Phúc Khoát who decreed that all the people under his rule had to changed their clothing into Ming-style Chinese clothing in order to make his people dressed differently from those under the rule of the Trịnh lords.[1]: 73  As a result, the gown and skirt which was worn by the Việt and which was common in the north was replaced by trousers and gown with Chinese-style fasteners; this new form of clothing was described as an áo dài which was composed of a 4-panel gown by Lê Quý Đôn.[1]: 73  In 1744, Lord Nguyễn Phúc Khoát of Đàng Trong (Huế) both men and women at his court wear trousers and a gown with buttons down the front. That the Nguyen Lords introduced áo ngũ thân (predecessor of the current áo dài). The members of the Đàng Trong court (southern court) were thus distinguished from the courtiers of the Trịnh Lords in Đàng Ngoài (Hanoi),[15][4]: 295  who wore áo giao lĩnh with long skirts.[1]: 72 

Nguyễn dynasty (1802–1945)

During unified Vietnam, the people in the northern and southern regions of Vietnam (i.e. previously Champa) continued to wear their local ethnic clothing.[1]: 1–2  In the Southern regions, the people continued to wear their local clothing and became increasingly similar whereas in the northern regions, the clothing worn was very varied.[1]: 1–2  When the Việt people started to assimilate the majority of the Cham and the Khmer Krom living in their new conquered southern territories; and the Vietnamese-ification of the Cham and the Khmer Krom lead to them adopting Việt style clothing while at the same time retaining several distinctive ethnic elements.[1]: 21 

Áo ngũ thân (predecessor of the current áo dài, which made of 5 parts of clothes) with standing collar and trousers was forced on Vietnamese people by the Nguyễn dynasty. "Váy đụp" (skirt) was banned.[16] However, it was up to the 1920s in Vietnam's north area in isolated hamlets where skirts were worn.

The Vietnamese had adopted the Chinese political system and culture during the 1,000 years of Chinese rule so they viewed their surrounding neighbors like Khmer Cambodians as barbarians and themselves as a small version of China (the Middle Kingdom).[17] By the Nguyễn dynasty the Vietnamese themselves were ordering Cambodian Khmer to adopt Han Chinese culture by ceasing "barbarous" habits like cropping hair and ordering them to grow it long besides making them replace skirts with trousers.[18] Han Chinese Ming dynasty refugees numbering 3,000 came to Vietnam at the end of the Ming dynasty. They opposed the Qing dynasty and were fiercely loyal to the Ming dynasty. Vietnamese women married these Han Chinese refugees since most of them were soldiers and single men. Their descendants became known as Minh Hương and they strongly identified as Chinese despite influence from Vietnamese mothers. They did not wear Manchu hairstyle unlike later Chinese migrants to Vietnam during the Qing dynasty.[19]

Áo giao lĩnh still be used during Nguyễn dynasty. Besides, the Nguyễn dynasty created áo nhật bình, khăn vấn.

The áo dài was created when tucks which were close-fitting and compact were added in the 1920s to this Chinese style. The Chinese clothing in the form of trousers and tunic were mandated by the Vietnamese Nguyễn government. The Chinese Ming dynasty, Tang dynasty, and Han dynasty clothing was referenced in order to be adopted by the Vietnamese military and bureaucrats by the Nguyễn Lord Nguyễn Phúc Khoát (Nguyễn Thế Tông) from 1744.[4]: 295 

Twentieth century

From the twentieth century onward Vietnamese people have also worn clothing that is popular internationally. The Áo dài was briefly banned after the fall of Saigon, but was reintroduced back into the scene.[20] It is worn in white by high school girls, often as part of school uniform in Vietnam. It is also worn by female receptionists and secretaries. Styles can differ in northern and southern Vietnam.[21] The most popular type of Việt phục today is the áo dài for men and women, and suits or sometimes áo gấm (modified áo dài) for men.

Twenty-first century

In the 21st century, some companies and individuals are working on reviving, preserving, and upholding Vietnamese traditional culture, including Vietnamese clothing and designs. In 2013, researcher Trần Quang Đức published the book Ngàn năm áo mũ, marking the first step in restoring traditional costumes in Vietnam. Currently, there are many companies that research and reproduce traditional Việt phục, for example, a company called Ỷ Vân Hiên started to provide tailoring services of ancient Vietnamese clothing which included the Áo ngũ thân and Áo giao lĩnh.[22] Ỷ Vân Hiên company largely reproduces clothing worn in the Nguyễn dynasty period.[23] Other tailoring companies, such as Tran Thi Trang's company specializes in making ancient Vietnamese clothing which was typically worn between the Ngô dynasty and the Nguyễn dynasty.[24] Painter Cu Minh Khoi and his friends launched the Hoa Văn Đại Việt project which digitized 250 ancient Vietnamese decorative patterns which spanned from the Lý dynasty to Nguyễn dynasty and applied them to variety of modern products such as keychains, calendars, T-shirts, and lucky money packets.[22]

In 2018, a book called Dệt Nên Triều Đại in Vietnamese language and Weaving a Realm in English language was published by the Vietnam Centre, an independent, non-government and non-profit organization which aims to promote Vietnamese culture to the world.[25] The book contained historical facts about ancient Vietnamese fashion, illustrations and photos.[26] The book Dệt Nên Triều Đại only covers the early years of the Later Lê era's clothing traditions from 1437 to 1471 AD after the Ming dynasty's forces were defeated by Emperor Lê Lợi.[26]

Examples of garments


  1. ^ The dress was taken as a trophy by Garnier in the capture of Hanoi in 1873
  2. ^ Objects for worship, at the National Museum Vietnamese History
  3. ^ Typically light blue but can be found in brown and is similar to the ones worn by Vietnamese Buddhist monastics in regards to the trademark collar similar to the Áo Giao lĩnh but without the sleeves with hidden pockets. While there are matching pants they are not a required part of the outfit for the laity.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah Howard, Michael C. (2016). Textiles and clothing of Viet Nam : a history. Jefferson, North Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4766-6332-6. OCLC 933520702.
  2. ^ A. Terry Rambo (2005). Searching for Vietnam: Selected Writings on Vietnamese Culture and Society. Kyoto University Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-1-920901-05-9.
  3. ^ T., Van (4 July 2013). "Ancient costumes of Vietnam". VietNamNet Global.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dutton, George; Werner, Jayne; Whitmore, John K., eds. (2012). Sources of Vietnamese Tradition. Introduction to Asian Civilizations (illustrated ed.). Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0231511100.
  5. ^ Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, Issue 15. Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association. 1996. p. 94.
  6. ^ Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association. Congress (1996). Indo-Pacific Prehistory: The Chiang Mai Papers, Volume 2. Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association. Vol. 2 of Indo-Pacific Prehistory: Proceedings of the 15th Congress of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 5–12 January 1994. The Chiang Mai Papers. Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, Australian National University. p. 94.
  7. ^ a b c d Montero, Darrel (2019). Vietnamese Americans patterns of resettlement and socioeconomic adaptation in the United States. London: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-000-00451-9. OCLC 1159420864.
  8. ^ Trần, Quang Đức (2013). Ngàn năm áo mũ. Vietnam: Công Ty Văn Hóa và Truyền Thông Nhã Nam. pp. 88–89. ISBN 978-1629883700.
  9. ^ Wang, Qi (1609). Sancai Tuhui. China.
  10. ^ 石渠寶笈秘殿珠林續編 (PDF) (in Chinese).
  11. ^ The Vietnam Review: VR., Volume 3. Vietnam Review. 1997. p. 35.
  12. ^ Columbia chronologies of Asian history and culture. John Stewart Bowman. New York: Columbia University Press. 2000. ISBN 0-231-50004-1. OCLC 51542679.((cite book)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  13. ^ a b c Baldanza, Kathlene (2016). Ming China and Vietnam : Negotiating Borders in Early Modern Asia. Cambridge, United Kingdom. ISBN 978-1-107-12424-0. OCLC 922694609.
  14. ^ a b c Organization, Vietnam Centre (2020). Weaving a Realm (Dệt Nên Triều Đại). Vietnam: Dân Trí Publisher. ISBN 978-604-88-9574-7.
  15. ^ Tran, My-Van (2005). A Vietnamese Royal Exile in Japan: Prince Cuong De (1882–1951). Routledge. ISBN 978-0415297165.
  16. ^ Woodside, Alexander (1988). Vietnam and the Chinese Model: A Comparative Study of Vietnamese and Chinese Government in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century. Harvard University Asia Center. pp. 134. ISBN 9780674937215.
  17. ^ Chanda, Nayan (1986). Brother Enemy: The War After the War (illustrated ed.). Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. 53, 111.
  18. ^ Chandler, David (2018). A History of Cambodia (4 ed.). Routledge. p. 153. ISBN 978-0429964060.
  19. ^ Choi, Byung Wook (2018). Southern Vietnam under the Reign of Minh Mang (1820–1841): Central Policies and Local Response. Book collections on Project MUSE (illustrated ed.). Cornell University Press. p. 39. ISBN 978-1501719523.
  20. ^ Vo, Nghia M. (2011). Saigon: A History. McFarland. p. 202. ISBN 9780786464661. The new government banned the wearing of the traditional áo dài. Their income from sewing áo dài suddenly plummeted, forcing them to sell everything to survive: refrigerator, radio, food, and clothing. Only after the ban was lifted ten years later
  21. ^ Taylor, Philip (2007). Modernity and Re-enchantment: Religion in Post-revolutionary Vietnam. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 157. ISBN 9789812304407. The contemporary versions of Áo dài are of considerable sociological interest as they represent regional variations, as well as age and gender arrangements (men rarely wear them nowadays and usually dress in Western-style suits
  22. ^ a b "Vietnamese youngsters work to retrieve the glory of ancient culture". Retrieved 7 August 2021.
  23. ^ AGENCY. "The designer making Vietnamese 19th-century outfits fashionable again". The Star. Retrieved 7 August 2021.
  24. ^ "Vietnamese woman revives country's ancient clothes". Tuoi Tre News. 8 October 2019. Retrieved 7 August 2021.
  25. ^ "Home | Vietnam Centre - Bring Vietnam To You". Vietnam Centre. Retrieved 7 August 2021.
  26. ^ a b "Weaving a Realm: Documenting Vietnam's Royal Costumes From the 15th Century | Saigoneer". Retrieved 7 August 2021.
  27. ^ Harms, Erik (2011). Saigon's Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City. University of Minnesota Press. p. 56. ISBN 9780816656059. She then left the room to change out of her áo Ba Ba into her everyday home clothes, which did not look like peasant clothes at all. In Hóc Môn, traders who sell goods in the city don “peasant clothing” for their trips to the city and change back


Media related to Clothing of Vietnam at Wikimedia Commons