The Ao Dai – A Traditional Vietnamese Dress

The Traditional Vietnamese Dress

Ao Dai’s (pronounced like “Ow Zai” or if you’re in the Quang Nam Province- “Ow Yai”) are the traditional Vietnamese dress for women. If you’ve ever been to Vietnam, you’ve probably seen a lot of these traditional dresses, whether it was on locally made artwork, girls biking home from school, or even at your hotel reception desk. It consists of silk pants and a matching silk top that has long panels on the front and back. 

traditional vietnamese dress

High School Uniforms

Girls are required to wear Ao Dai’s once they go into High School- Year 10. I don’t know about you, but if I was going into High School and was required to wear a formal dress a daily basis, I wouldn’t be too thrilled.

However, I was surprised from talking to girls here in Vietnam who felt the opposite as I imagined. They reminisced about those summer months leading up to their first year of High School, which would be the first time they would wear their beautiful Ao Dai’s. These special outfits make them feel like they are now a woman. While getting measured to get their tailor made Ao Dai’s, they can’t keep a smile off their faces.

Typically these High School Ao dai’s are all white- if you’re out and about at 3 o’clock when school gets out, you’ll see the girls are biking home from school with their special silky garments’ tails flowing in the wind. Some cities, like Hue, or special schools may have different colored tops, such as deep blue or purple. The girls switch back to their old uniform of shirt and pants when there’s any hint of rain, so you may not see too many in the rainy season. 

Special Occasions

After High School, Ao Dai’s are worn for special occasions, such as Tet or traditional Vietnamese weddings. For these special occasions, Ao Dai’s vary in color and design. Vibrant colors with floral designs, sometimes with lots (and lots) of sequins, are common for special occasions. 

vietnamese traditional dress

One of our lovely tour guides, Dep, is ready for Tet!

After speaking with many Vietnamese women of all ages, it seems most of the locals really enjoy wearing these traditional Vietnamese dresses. Vietnam is a rapidly growing country, yet traditions such as wearing Ao Dai’s are still very prominent. It’s traditions like these that help Vietnam keep its strong culture and makes it a wonderful place to visit. 

traditional vietnamese dress

You can even see young toddlers in cute tiny Ao Dai’s on special occasions!