Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login


Submitted on
February 29, 2012
Image Size
1.3 MB
Submitted with


158,755 (33 today)
10,344 (who?)


Creative Commons License
Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
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.
Add a Comment:

Daily Deviation

Given 2012-03-24
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
Add a Comment: