Daily Deviation
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Evolution of Vietnamese Clothing (and Ao Dai)

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By lilsuika   |   
Published:
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.
Image size
1259x5848px 1.35 MB
Comments628
anonymous's avatar
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moonlitinuyasha1985's avatar

You got any for Korean clothing?

Maraqua's avatar
MaraquaHobbyist General Artist

I'd love to see if you could do an Indian sub-continent version of this! Pakistan would be really interesting to see.

thedarkladyazimuth's avatar
Does the 16th century Mac dynasty dress have a specific name?
ValorousOwl's avatar
ValorousOwlStudent General Artist
as Viet Kieu, this kind of thing is really important for me to see. Thanks for making it.
ErsatzCAPanda's avatar
ErsatzCAPandaStudent Traditional Artist
Simply beautiful and so much attention to detail given to each outfit!
Nice work on this, you deserved that Daily Deviation.
doglover9754's avatar
doglover9754Hobbyist General Artist
Figure 7 is my fave...
SwordTiger8888's avatar
wow. excellent
AkitaNakraArts's avatar
AkitaNakraArtsHobbyist Artist
OMG my traditional clothes
MrShitPost's avatar
MrShitPostHobbyist
i'm more proud of my country cause of this <3
hannahelizabethh's avatar
hannahelizabethhStudent General Artist
your asain cultural infographics are very interesting :)
6Stain9's avatar
6Stain9Hobbyist General Artist
Now I know how beautiful it looked! Beautiful pieces of clothing, colourful, and I really like the textures/pattern you used for some pieces
starryeyed-nz's avatar
starryeyed-nzHobbyist Traditional Artist
Fabulous!
pitioti's avatar
really interesting and beautifull 0O0
sorrowscall's avatar
The one from the 14-15th century Tran Dynasty was especially lovely. 
DerpyNyan's avatar
Ok, this is just fantastic, and hella useful. A++ for this awesome piece of art!
Ponpoii's avatar
PonpoiiHobbyist General Artist
Woah these are so amazing! You are excellent you wonderful artist you!
goldwinmagusib's avatar
goldwinmagusibStudent Digital Artist
Speechless 😱👏
ShaShaSha777's avatar
Figure 1 and 13 are my personal favourites.
AxellineOfficial's avatar
this is so beautiful, and quite educational too tbh
I mean, I never really looked up how certain cultures' clothings evolved, and now I'm very intrgued in seeing other stuff like this 
AnisSyazwani's avatar
AnisSyazwaniStudent Digital Artist
is it ok if I use these designs as inspirations?
Poker0419's avatar
Poker0419Student Digital Artist
fig 1 looks like a sassy mom
ScissorNapper's avatar
ScissorNapperHobbyist General Artist
This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing...!

One of the dresses remind me of an outfit that Mulan from Disney wore. owo;

I also share your opinion, that the Le and Mac Dynasty had the prettiest style. ^^;
Legionaire1776's avatar
Legionaire1776Student Artist
Huh. That's actually pretty neat.
GothikAngelica's avatar
GothikAngelicaHobbyist Digital Artist
My God this is absolutly beautiful!
anonymous's avatar
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