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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
joanstar Featured By Owner 3 days ago  Student
He banned skirts?What's this,hight school?
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
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 Artist
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 General Artist
You totally deserve a daily deviation ^^ This is outstandingly gorgeous!
Zedahd Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2014
Pretty remarkable post. I simply came across your blog and desired to say that I have really enjoyed searching your blog posts.Bollywood sarees
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 General 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.

Shichisei90 Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2014
Refs: 1 and 2  for fig.7  ^_^

Moogiesgirl77 Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2013
Oh wow, they are absolutely gorgeous, thank you!
AileenRT Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2013  Student Filmographer
Thank you so much! I'm in charge of a Vietnamese fairy tale project at work and your study of the clothing has been an IMMENSE help. Thank you so much for your drawings and your extensive research that you posted in pintrest. You Are Awesome! :happybounce:
turquoisesparkle Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
OMG I LOVE THIS! I've been waiting for someone to do something like this, It's really hard to find information like this all together, you should compile a book.
ComplexVariable Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
As a historian, may I say: 
YAAAAAAAAAAAY! :happybounce: 
FireGemini Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
could you do one of korea? :D these are all so beautiful, and just... their faces are so ... amazingly graceful and breathtaking !
bloomingtonlady Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013
if you could read vietnamese, there are good resources out there. clothing for kings, court officials, the common people, etc. whatever you have is wrong.
windymoser Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2013
I don't know about most of it, but the Le and Nguyen dynasty are close enough
redchrysanthemum27 Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2013
This is interesting :) Thank youHeart 
sundaygir1 Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2013  Student General Artist
great work!
CapitalCode10 Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2013  Student Photographer
I just love how great it is. You are just amazing. :)

takaa Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2013
Step by Step How You Can Work From Home
ksr29 Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2013
Sevey Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2013
I love your drawing style, you add grace beauty and pose to every model and design. I love the fact that you took such time to study all these historical dresses and spent such time providing beautiful and realistically rendered details. Absolutely gorgeous. Thank you so much for sharing!
fearielfire Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Why was the bamboo motif controversial?
Evilcatv Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2013
tuyệt quá, cám ơn chị nhiều lắm lắm luôn, em tìm tư liệu mãi <3<3<3
lavenderl Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Very nice
megadragongirl Featured By Owner May 29, 2013
Fashion history has always been so interesting to me:)
theCuchuoi Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2013
wow, I was amazed
are you Vietnamese?
anan2410 Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2013
No, she comes from United States 
Derrysome Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
History has always been my favorite.
girlofhearts101 Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2013  Student Artist
This is very beautiful!!!:heart:
MoonstreamFeline Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
This is so beautiful!! I was really happy to find this, because I'm half Vietnamese but also because I just love it okay
CitrineG Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2013  Student Digital Artist
I'm in love with the Tran Dynasty clothing.
What social classes are these women(or does it vary)?
theCuchuoi Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2013
well I think those for higher class like royal and aristocracy people
and a little bit exaggerated, too
PhotoPhobee Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Figure 15: That hat.....
MysteryDiamond95 Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2013
Wow the dresses look like they used to be comfortable D: I hate wearing the current dress for Tet, way to tight, I can't breathe >_<
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Submitted on
February 29, 2012
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