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lilsuika's avatar

the difference between Ao Dai and Cheongsam/Qipao


A while ago I was asked about the construction of the Vietnamese Ao Dai and Chinese Cheongsam/Qipao. I had a few dresses at my disposal and figured it would be fun to do a compare and contrast. Due to the relatively small collection, I was only able to photograph a few samples (all tailored circa 2000s, except one I'm sure…). This basically just covers the “classic” tailoring styles of Ao Dai and Cheongsam/Qipao... which may or may not be followed by the latest fashion trends. 

NOTE: For simplicity’s sake, I primarily used the word Cheongsam (Cantonese) instead of Qípáo (Mandarin) because its wider use as an English loanword. 

I’m not a tailor or have any sewing ability whatsoever so please don’t ask me about patterns, darts, etc. ^^;

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Sumi-Sprite's avatar
quick question!!!
Do Cheongsams and/or Quipao have under skirts, or is it usually just the dress itself? I'm trying to be relatively accurate for a story I'm writing. 
Solrosy's avatar
just dress itself 
Sumi-Sprite's avatar
Solrosy's avatar
you're welcome
SailorStarMiracle's avatar
This is actually really helpful, thank you! I've got a lovely article I've thought this whole time was a Qipao/Cheongsam, but looking at this tells me it may be an Ao Dai. I'll have to dig it out to check haha!
MerlinBae's avatar
i'm glad i saw this, i didn't know the difference. thank you for making these traditional drawings, i love to learn ^.^)/
VaeSao-Smiles's avatar
ah! thank you! I was looking for a guide exactly like this, world building asian inspired races currently and was trying to figure out the differences!
LaGolondrina's avatar
Very informative. Kudos for your efforts!
Maddie-Nguyen's avatar
Thank you for covering this, I'm Vietnamese and often my international friends question the differences between Aodai and Cheongsam which I don't know how to answer XD
Tortive's avatar
Have you seen tourists wear aodai without the pants? I'm thinking of this joke I'm making up.

The typical American tourists decides to try on aodai. She looks at the pants and thinks, "forget those! It's too hot! What could go wrong?"

While walking to that trendy restaurant, the tourist notices the locals are giving her weird looks. She brushes it off, thinking those people are living in the past.

No, they aren't. They're giving her weird looks because common sense tells me wearing aodai without the pants is the Vietnamese equivalent to showing your back while wearing kimono. (It's inappropriate.)
MarkNvy-Ao-Dai's avatar
great job. Great to see this information about Ao Dai and the comparison to Cheongsam/Qipao.

FYI: We provide made-to-measure ao dai world wide (Vietnamese skilled tailors). You can contact us via email: for more details.

Thank you
pinkpixiepunk's avatar
this is so useful thanks for sharing
Debbie618's avatar
actually, qipao is also cantonese, much less people call them cheongsam in cantonese now (at least i think)

and i like qipao very much, the slit on ao dai is just way too high
Striped-Petunia's avatar
This is so interesting and useful. Thank you!
LotusBloomAgain's avatar
Thank you for making. This just a few people who mistake Vietnamese ao dai with Chepao.
AlrikN's avatar
Interesting and informative, makes me want to learn more. Sherlock Holmes OMG! I can't contain my excitement!  
Shintsuka's avatar
Ohhhh. I like the Ao Dai better >v< 
The design is more modest in my opinion. Plus I like pants. ;v; 
The high collar and the long sleeves are really cool too!
But I kinda like the frog fasteners and the rounded hemlines on the Cheongsam.  

But it seems like a guy would wear the Ao Dai more than women?? I've seen a couple of movies/manga/books where the guy wears something very similar to what seems to be the Ao Dai?
Minus the girly patterns.
CreativeSketchbook's avatar
Culturally, it's more commonly worn by women
VNPilot12L4's avatar

Actually no, the traditional áo dài was worn by both

What you're seeing here is the modernised version of áo dài, started in the 1930s and reached its peak during the reign of the puppet Ngô Đình Diệm whose sister-in-law Trần Lệ Xuân very liked them and made her own style.

Traditional áo dài started in late 19th century and was more like a simplified version of the earlier áo tứ thân

Comparing a modern to a traditional one

a= modern, b = traditional

Well Cheongsam does have long sleeves... sometimes
sassanik's avatar
Thank you for the write up and explanation! 
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