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Evolution of Vietnamese Clothing (and Ao Dai) by lilsuika Evolution of Vietnamese Clothing (and Ao Dai) by lilsuika
8/24/12: Added 3 new figures.

Refs here: [link] and [link]

I love historical clothing and seeing how it evolves. I’ve longed to see the evolution of Vietnamese clothing but always came up empty handed due to lack of information... until now. I owe a lot of the references to the documentary “Searching for Vietnamese Clothing” (Đi tìm trang phục Việt) which impressively took the filmmaker’ 3 years to film and sources from the Internet ([link] [link]). I created this timeline because as a visual person, I like to know how clothing changed by seeing it side by side.

I attempted to make a timeline with only primary references (i.e. paintings, sculptures, and photographs from that time period). I tried to stay true to the original sources’ as much as possible but I can’t say that this is completely accurate. A few art pieces were really hard to decipher (the sitting Buddhist statues in particular) and not being able to see them in person required me to take some educated guesses. I used my own color preferences with the statues that did not have color to reference from. Regrettably I had to skip a few early dynasties because artifacts of those eras seem to have been lost to time or I couldn't pinpoint the dating.

Continually a work in progress and more may be added.

Artist Observations:

*Due to approximately 1,000 years of various periods of Chinese domination and rule, dynastic Vietnamese clothing will inevitably share similar qualities with Han Chinese clothing (aka Hanfu). In particular, from 1407 to 1427 the Ming Dynasty took an extremely aggressive attempt to sinicize the country. Many cultural artifacts were destroyed and the natives were forced to wear Chinese clothing. Regardless, there are notable differences. Dong Son Culture (fig. 1) is the time period before any Han influence takes place.

* The colors and textile in Fig. 1 is largely hypothetical though I tried to draw the figure's clothing as accurately as I interpreted it. Looking at the artifacts that the Dong Son culture left behind, I can see that they were a very advanced civilization. Their works of art were very detailed and intricate, so I assumed that the textile their clothing would be just as ornate. I see current day Vietnamese clothing sharing quite a few elements with the ethnic tribes, and believe that ethnic minorities may have retained a possible link to the past. With the Dong Son culture also sharing a link to Tibeto-Burman culture, Dai culture, Mon-Khmer culture, I assumed that it would be okay to look at those cultures for inspiration for the textile/clothing fabric. I thought it might be similar to the long gone ancient Mayan civilization, whose influence in textile still survives in today's Guatemalan and Mexican cultures.

The pattern on her yellow sash thingy (words fail me, bah) came from an Ao Dai which coincidentally had a pattern that came from a Dong Son drum. Coming full circle here. Lol.

* On average, people wore 3-5 layers of clothing and up to 6 layers in the Le Dynasty. 16-18th century scarves and gloves have been excavated. [link]

* Sleeves could reach to 40cm and were typically the length of chin to waist in the Le Dynasty.

* Skirts were banned in 1826 as they were deemed to be “unseemly bottomless pants”. Not all women followed suit as it was easier to work in skirts than pants.

* Buttoned up collars and buttoned clothing does not seem to appear until the late 18th century at the earliest. Interestingly this change seems to coincide with the advent of the Nguyen Dynasty.

* The Ao Tu Than (Fig. 9, 10 and 12) is still around today but as it stopped evolving in the 20th century I decided to concentrate on the Ao Dai (Fig. 14-18).

* The conical rice hat (Fig. 17) was originally only worn by men (which can be seen in many photographs with Nguyen dynasty soldiers) and only became part of women’s wear sometime in the 20th century.

* Le Dynasty wins for being the most stylish and varied. Mac Dynasty for the prettiest. Just IMO.
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Daily Deviation

Given 2012-03-24
RepublicOfVietnam Featured By Owner 3 days ago
Love all of them. The beauty of Sinosphere's clothing!
Stelarography Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2017
Gorgeous! I like them all. Fig 7,8 and 9 are soo cute btw.
Loukho Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Your work is fascinating :)
Grahamhorridge68 Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2017
MarkNvy-Ao-Dai Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2016  New Deviant
Great job, thank you
YensidTim Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2016  New Deviant
Your art is the reason why I got so invested into ancient Sinosphere clothing! thank you so much!
YensidTim Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2016  New Deviant
Although your chart for Vietnam has lots of inaccuracies, I still respect your dedication :)
RedDiamond28 Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2016
The mid 20th century ones remind me a bit of Indian fashion
CP-LunarLight Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2016  Student General Artist
Cool !
linlinooooo Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Niceee !!
Simplebsb1 Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2016
hi,I like your picture and instruction so much,it's first time that I know so much about Vietnam garments,I feel so delighted. But as a Chinese Han, I can't agree with what you said on Ming Han People, Vietnam garments become similar to Chinese ones for the culture influence, it's very common. It's like now both of us speak English now,we can't say Americans or other English native speakers want us to be the same as them,right?
YensidTim Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2016  New Deviant
They are different situations. The Ming did indeed try to assimilate Vietnam when Vietnam was conquered. There are clear historical evidence.
infonic Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2016
Great work! Thank you!
NikitaN3 Featured By Owner May 1, 2016
Impressive work!
atram95 Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2016  Hobbyist Artist
Is Wonderful!!
Athane Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Stuff like this is so cool. I am looking for reference for some character stuff and I am loving collections like this.
lylfairygirl Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2016  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
I showed my mom this post and she told me she went to school in fig. 20 clothes when she was a high school student in Vietnam. I asked her why it was politically controversial and she said because it was seen as too short but she didn't care cuz she thought the style was cute anyways LOL.
CreativeSketchbook Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2015  Student General Artist
But seriously, this helps a lot with getting to know things
Proud to be Vietnamese~ XD
jeannedavies Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2015
I leave fashion clothes and always like to fill my wardrobe with the best trendy outfits that make me look amazing.Christian Hoodie

library9 Featured By Owner Edited Dec 6, 2015  Student Artisan Crafter
peach dance avatar :peach: this will help alot with an idea of mine! +fav  thank you
BeastyPeach Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
For fig. 1, how do you get that fade on the red bit?  Where there's a touch of a lighter red at the top, but the textures look like --I don't wanna say splatter effect-- but this weather worn look to it.  It looks sexy!  
LotusBloomAgain Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2015
I finally understand more 'bout my country history clothing more. Thank you very much for drawing this.
botinker Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2015
wonderful @.@ so amazing. I have never ever research a wonderful thing like this. Thank you lilsuika 
ShawnaElzie Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2015  Professional Photographer
Vietnamese dressing is very similar to the Chinese, I bought a funny looking gown from a store when I was in Vietnam last and till date I have found and ocasion to wear the gown to,lol  findvietnam has guides and trends on Vietnamese fashion.
Akatariel Featured By Owner May 7, 2015
Am I allowed to use these as a reference point? ouo You'll be credited, 'course, if I ever put anything up. I just needed this so much in my life, you don't even know. xD
CreativeSketchbook Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2015  Student General Artist
Oooh I own quite a bit of late twentieth century stuff :3
Morrigansfury Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Lili, why do you create such awesome designs? Give me a fraction of your talent.

I kidd. I especially love the Mac dynasty design, it looks so comfortable and it seems to be from the Tang Dynasty. And it's in my favorite color lavender.
joanstar Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2015  Student
He banned skirts?What's this,hight school?
well! acording to my knowledge is because during his reign a lot of men and woman in the central  area wear skirt type borrow from the Khmer ethic out of convenience, seeing that is will ruin the tradition clothing of ancestors so his issue that ban, specially for men actually, but.... i'm not sure why.... but the women thought that ban apply to them too, so....the skirt is gone !
KyonaraRisingStar Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2015
That ban on skirts was quiet surprising since a lot of Western historical fiction loves the trope of the rebellious woman who dares to wear pants - men's clothing.
Meeplogic Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2015
OMG THANK YOU SO MUCH, I needed this reference for a character design. ^_^
pneumacat Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2014  Professional General Artist
very nice :D
xelanesque Featured By Owner Edited Nov 2, 2014  Student Digital Artist
I really like Fig 6
Marchjn Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2014
Somehow as a Chinese I feel very sorry for making you wear all those stuffs... It shall be extremely warm to wear that in such climate in Vietname
windymoser Featured By Owner Edited Nov 28, 2014
It actually gets cold in the north during December-March.  The north is very different from the south.
StephaniaArts Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2014
Thank you so much for this beautiful homage to vietnamese native garbs! As a half vietnamese, I absolutely adore this :)
irwingreylord Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
oh, so many good ones! but I think I'll go with the 16th century Mac Dynasty maiden. the clothes is nicely feminine and comfortable while showing a decent amount of lovely skin, and the hair so beautifully long and straight, and very importantly, I think the hairline/hair emphasises the beauty of the face. 
phionapham Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2014
As a Vietnamese myself and having tried to look for information about the evolution of Vietnamese traditional clothing, I cannot thank you enough for this beautiful piece of work. You totally make my day <3 Keep up your wonderful work 
ghostmuto Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You totally deserve a daily deviation ^^ This is outstandingly gorgeous!
clokverkorange Featured By Owner May 23, 2014
Wow, Figure 7 looks like something you would see in a runway show in modern times. 
AvalonYoru Featured By Owner May 22, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Stunning do you mind if I use some of these designs as character references?
stephyweffy Featured By Owner May 22, 2014  Student Digital Artist
oh my gosh fig.4 is so beautiful the colours work so well together
woot4anime64 Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2014  Student General Artist
beautiful! think I like fig 3, 18 and 21 the most (◍•ᴗ•◍)
MSKM2001 Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2014
Beautiful work
Epiblast Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2014
I'm trying to design clothing for fantasy characters, and real historical fashion is a great resource.
darklord86 Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2014
So beautiful, I love this!
Dreams-are-our-lives Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2014  Student Writer

Question (and you can ignore it if you think I'm being a complete idiotic prat) For Fig 7. in the Mac Dynasty....what do you think that clothing? It seems much like a Hanfu, but did they have a specific name for it?

Sorry if I'm being an idiot.

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Submitted on
February 29, 2012
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