The costume of women in South Vietnam has gone through many stages of development, but still preserves its distinctive and unique imprints of the traditional culture.
Initially, the women’s costume in the North of Vietnam was ao tu than (four-piece blouse) with a bodice, a skirt and a headscarf of the ancient Vietnamese women. When the country was separated into Dang Trong (the South) and Dang Ngoai (the North), the Lords of Dang Trong instituted a cultural reform, including a costume reform to differentiate local people’s costumes from those in Dang Ngoai.
In the 18th century, the southern women wore long five-flap shirts with black loose trousers, with their hair in a high bun and they walked barefooted both at work and in the town. And this five-piece shirt was considered as the forerunner to the current ao dai of southern women, which was preserved due to the development of the sericulture and fabric weaving. As there was a class division in the feudal society, common women wore long black shirts made from coarse materials, whereas upper class women wore shirts made from smooth and cloths with "main colors" such as yellow, blue, red and purple. They usually wore long shirts in blue or violet, their hair in a bun, curved shoes and flat balm hat with fringes. Besides, dark hues were considered more suitable for women living in wet areas.
At that time, the wedding gown comprised a halter-neck and a long-sleeved shirt, which were redesigned from ao mo ba mo bay (shirt of several flaps), to be suitable to the sultry weather.
In the 19th century and early 20th century, due to the influence of the French culture, the ao dai was harmoniously designed between the traditional culture and the western style. It was made tighter, clinging to the body and more colorful, from thin materials and worn with loose white trousers. In the 1970s, the south was the vanguard in renovating the costume. Southern designers made it cling to the body with narrowed flaps, especially they made use of the Raglan shoulder to avoid creases and give the dress a softer, more flowing appearance.
Then, the ao dai became the traditional dress of the Vietnamese women. It helps wearers look charming and attractive, elegant and romantic. Moreover, it also graces the lissomness and gentleness of the women.
Nowadays, the Ao Dai is still the much-feted costume of Vietnamese women at wedding parties, festivals and offices. Hence, many famous fashion designers such as Minh Hanh, Si Hoang and Lien Huong design the Ao Dai in different styles with unique patterns, which harmoniously combine the beauty of traditional style and the modernity of the West.
Besides the traditional dress, the ao ba ba (loose-fitting blouse), which entered Vietnam from Chinese traders and was redesigned several times, has become the distinctive costume ofsouthern women . Initially, the ao ba ba was black and tailored with pockets and splitting flaps at the hip. It was worn along with a bandana, suitable to the life of women in watery areas. Later, designers made it tighter with the Raglan shoulder, and in light and bright hues that make the ao ba ba more feminine and beautiful
Ao Yem and its History
Images of graceful girls in national charming long dress have been a symbol of Vietnam. However, looking back the historic development of national dress, Vietnam not only has ao dai but also ao yem – the indispensable dress of ancient girls.
In the old days, ao yem was called yem. It is an age-old dress which is maintained until today. Ao yem was used by all levels of society from working class to upper class. It also was used widely in traditional festivals therefore it was the national traditional clothes of ancient ladies.
Ao yem appeared in Vietnamese life in a very old day but until Ly dynasty it was basically in shaped. Through the stream of history, ao yem was changing incessantly and improving its design. However the revolutions of ao yem only happended at the beginning of the last century while western trouser and skirt were entering Vietnam. In 17 century, ao yem did not have any big change of model. In 19 century, ao yem has a square piece is cloth with one corner cut away to fit under the woman’s throat. This scrap of fabric is secured across the chest and stomach with thin strings. There were three common models of ao yem: ao yem co xay, ao yem co xe, ao yem co canh nhan.
Entering 20 century, ao yem was used widespread with many of rich designs and models. Ao yem which has brown color and was weaved by rude cloth was for labor. Urban women favored white, pink or red ones, while women in the countryside wore ao yem in brown or beige, colors suited to their rustic environment. On special occasions, like the Lunar New Year or festivals, rural women would also wear brightly colored ao yem.
There is one kind of ao yem which was often wore by ancient ladies was called “yem deo bua”. The name was “yem deo bua” because it has a small pocket of musk beside and it was an advantage weapon of ancient ladies…furthermore, ao yem made many original love stories.In the old day when a girl had a date with her darling, she usually put a piece of betel inside her ao yem; it was called “khau trau dai yem” and maybe there is no kind of betel more supernatural than this kind of betel.
Today, the ao yem is appreciated for its cultural and artistic values. And on festive occasions, women throughout Vietnam are embracing the ao yem and other traditional clothes with renewed enthusiasm
Traditional Ao Dai for Tet
Most Vietnamese people wear new clothes to celebrate Tet, or the Lunar new year, in order to promote a fresh beginning to the year. Although Western-style outfits are more convenient for daily chores, the traditional tunic, or ao dai, reappears each Tet. These tunics add to the festival’s formal atmosphere.
In the past, all ao dai were lined. The two layers of fabric formed a set, or kép(in Vietnamese). On formal occasions, another light ao dai, always white, was worn as an undergarment under the kép to form a triple set of layers called m? ba. This was the proper way to wearao dai until only a few decades ago. To deal with sudden encounters, such as the frequent visitors who often drop in without notice around Tet, a “hasty”ao dai could be thrown over whatever the host was wearing. From the mid-1950s, the ao dai was simplified and the kép layer eliminated.
For centuries, male and female ao dai were cut similarly, except that the neck of the women’s ao dai was about two cm high, while the male collar measured 3.5cm. The wide, down-curved hem, about 80cm across, hung about 10cm below the knee. Royal’s ao dai were of standard cut but were fashioned in different colors and materials.
Long ago city ladies had their ao dai made from colorful silk brocades and lampas. French influence popularized velvets in shades of burgundy, dark green and dark blue. While town women wore five-paneledao dai, or nam ta, women in the countryside had front-opening four-panel ao dai called tu than. The rural tu than were made from hemp-based fabrics, normally in a brown or brownish-fuchsia color.
The tu than tunics worn by wealthy countryside people at Tet were beautiful,with eight flowing silk strips in front. The inner-most layer featured two strips in the color of a lotus flower, about two meters long and 25cm wide, which wrappered around the waist and the knotted to make a bow in front. Next came the two long ends of a light yellow crepe money belt, and finally a bow and strips formed by a soft green silk belt. The two dark brown front flaps of thetunic were lightly tied under those strips to enhance their vivid colors. Well-dressed Men
As for men’s ao dai, father Cristoforo Borri, an Italian Catholic priest who traveled through the northern Principality (today’s northern Vietnam) in the 17th century, wrote in his 1631 book “Relations de la Nouvelle Mission des Peres de la Compagnie de Jesus au Royaume de la Cochinchine” that most northern men wore a blackao dai over other layers on most festive occasions. This remained unchanged in Vietnam until recently.
Traditional ao dai pants were moderately wide with a low crotch. Conventionally, married women wore black satin pants with their ao dai. Young maidens and men wore white ao dai pants. In Hue people of all ages and sexes wore only white pants. Hue’s upper-classes of both sexes added tree pleats to their pant’s outer edges so that the pants flared out when they moved. These pleated pants are called chít-ba.
Following the mishaps of history that have marred so many traditions, Vietnam is bouncing back in peace time. With Vietnamese people’s innate pride in their culture, it will not be long until visitors can witness a traditional Vietnamese Tet, complete with authentic and colorful ao dai
The Beauty of Ao Dai Hue
Many people say that residents of Hue (the old imperial city of Vietnam during 1802-1945), from the members of reputed families to ordinary traders and retailers, are always decent in their speaking and gestures. Wearing an old Ao dai (traditional long dress) torn out with time, or made with luxurious velvet or silk, Hue women always retain their gracefulness and gentleness.
According to Phan Thuan An, a researcher of Hue's culture, variations of the Ao dai from Hue have been closely linked to historical ups and downs. Under the Minh Mang Dynasty (1820-1841), to solve the differences of clothes worn by people from different regions after the conflict of the Trinhs and the Nguyens (1623-1777), King Minh Mang issued a royal ordinance about the uniform nationwide, under which royal concubines and maids had to wear the Ao dai when they left the royal palace. Ordinary people had to wear trousers and they were prohibited to wear skirts. To adults, Ao dai was a "must" outfit.
In the early 20th century, especially since 1917 when the Dong Khanh High School for female students was established, female students were ordered to wear Ao dai as their school uniform. At present, students of Hai Ba Trung High School (old Dong Khanh School) and many other schools in Hue are encouraged to wear the white Ao dai and trousers as their school uniform.
Over the past years, although materials and designs of the Ao dai have been changed, women from Hue are loyal to their traditional Ao dai . Their thinking of the garment colours and usage remains unchanged. Besides students who wear the Ao dai at school, Hue women wear the Ao dai when they go to pagoda or during festive days which make them look both elegant and ceremonial. State female employees also like to wear the Ao dai at their offices.
Hue women choose the colour for their Ao dai to be in line with the colour of the sky and surrounding environment and the unique solemn look of the imperial city of Hue. A local saying goes, "look at the colour of the sky in order to choose the colour of the dress". The dress worn at festive days often have bright colours; at worship and ritual ceremonies they are brown, purple, blue and milky, and with hidden designs. On rainy days the dress is often dark, and on sunny days it is light and bright. Hue women like to wear the purple Ao dai, which is not too light or too dark.
The traditional Ao dai of Hue is so beautiful and romantic that it has become a topic for fashion designers to explore its beauty. Some are successful, while many fail, for the Ao dai of Hue is not something easy to renew or change. Famous designer Minh Hanh, who has many years in designing and collecting the Ao dai, said: "If someone designs a Hue Ao dai that does not reflect a Hue style, that dress is not one of Hue ." At Festival Hue 2008, Minh Hanh and other young fashion designers presented to the public a collection entitled "Imprints of the Past". The dress is designed in the old traditional style with classical designs and imprinted with a Hue style, which fully reflects the elegance and grace of Hue women
Ao dai – Piquancy of Hue
Sweep through Hue and the classic grace of women clad in ao dai will surely to make a lasting impression on you. But behind the beauty is a rich history, brimming with cultural significance.
A researcher of Hue culture, Phan Thuan An, said that variations in Hue ao dai are related to the ups and downs of history. History of the Hue ao dai
Under the Minh Mang Dynasty, the King issued a dress code for the whole country. Accordingly, all imperial concubines and servants had to wear ao dai when they set foot in the forbiddance palace. All citizens had to wear trousers, not skirts. Ao dai also became the compulsory costume of adults when they were out and about.
At that time Hue ao dai were similar to those in other regions, which were often dark in colour, and were a tangle of five flaps. Convenience demanded a four-flap version, the ao tu than or four-flap dress (with the two fore-flaps tied or left dangling to match satin trousers and silk belts). The five-flap ao dai has two fore flaps and two back flaps sewn together along the spine.
There is also a minor flap, which belongs to the forepart, at the right side, which hangs to the fringe. The sleeves are joined at the elbow since cloth available at the time had a width of just 40cm. The collar is 2-3cm high with the sleeves wrapped tight at the wrists, with accentuation of breast and waist. The laps flare from waist to foot.
For trousers paired with ao dai, while women in the North and the South favoured a solemn black, Hue women favoured white. Royals and the well to do often wore trousers with three pleats, giving a graceful spread to the leg, and increased mobility.
In the early of the 20th century, especially when the Dong Khanh High School for female students was founded in 1917, all schoolgirls from the central region flocked to Hue to study at Dong Khanh, ao dai became their uniform. They wore white trousers with violet ao dais as going to school, which then were changed to white colour in the dry and blue in the rainy season.
In the 1930s and 1940s, ao dai of Hue as well as of other regions didn’t change. However, they were made of much more abundant materials and colours. Women at that time could select various kinds of cloths imported from Europe, which were replete with bright colours.
The use of imported cloths, with their wider widths resulted in seamless ao dais. The flaps were lengthened, to within 20cm of the ankle. Hue women were renowned for their elegance in white trousers and ao dais. The dress gradually became a fashionable costume among girls in various regions, except among married women.
Hue ao dai would not have today’s design without an innovation initiated by an artist from the Indochina Art College, the owner of the reputed Le Mur tailor shops in Hanoi and Hai Phong, Lemur Nguyen Cat Tuong.
He brought a collection of Europeanised ao dais to the Hue Fair in 1939, which were called “modern ao dai”. These ao dai had two flaps rather than the octopus tangle of five as before. They had puffed out the shoulders, were cuffed at the sleeves, a round collar cut breast-deep and laced, accentuated by a corrugated fringe made of joined cloth of different colours and gaudily laced.
Hue’s women quickly accepted the remodelled ao dai. However, influenced by their inherently unobtrusive style, Hue ao dai were only modernised moderately with two flaps and buttoned from shoulder to waist.
In the 1950s, following trends across the country, Hue ao dai became more figure hugging, with higher collars and narrowed flaps, for an alluring body sculpting form.
In the mid-1960, as more women began to wear bra, Hue tailors stitched ao dai tighter at the waist, in an effort to further please the eye. At the end of the decade, Hue ao dai followed Saigon’s raglan-sleeve ao dai, which hid the troublesome wrinkles that often formed at both shoulder and armpit.
But ao dai with high collars were still fond among Hue women, while others sported the low-necked, décolleté ao dai improved by Tran Le Xuan, sister-in-law of former South administration president Ngo Dinh Diem.
The Hue Ao dai has remained almost unchanged since 1975, although the dress is falling from popularity due to the demands of modern life. In the late of the 1990s, the ao dai made a comeback, at the behest of fashion designers.
However, women in the ancient capital were loath to be strapped back into the tricky dress. Today Hue women are still unobtrusive in their ao dai, which are worn not too thin, with long flaps that are nearly touch ground, high collars and low waist to hide the flash of skin at the flanks. Violet ao dai, a symbol of Hue
An ao dai tailor since 1970, Nguyen Van Chi has seen many subtle changes to Hue ao dai. Even though material and styles have changed, their colour and purpose of ao dai have not. Ao dai with bright colours for the New Year festival; broad ao dai in brown violet, indigo-blue and milky coffee colour with sombre designs for funerals and ceremonies; ao dai in dark colours for rainy days; and light in colour for sunny days.
Most Hue women have at least one ao dai of violet colour, a specific characteristic for this ancient capital. Along with their grace, unobtrusiveness, violet ao dai and non bai tho have become indispensable images that are closely linked to Hue women
In Vietnam, there are 54 ethnic groups, each having unique and specific styles of clothing. Traits often include splendid colors, seemingly contradicting one another in each outfit: black and red, blue and red or blue and white.
The traditional costumes of native Vietnamese nations are woven with natural fiber, such as hemp, silk or cotton. These materials are fine, stable and light, appropriate for a tropical climate. The diversity and abundance of Vietnamese ethnic clothing cannot be completely dealt with in this article; we will only introduce the traditional clothing of the Viet, the most common natives of Vietnam
In days gone by, royal regulations determined the color of clothing. For civilian suits for men, only brown, black, black or white was used; yellow was only used for kings; red was used for high grade mandarins; and, blue or green decorated the outfits of lower grade mandarins.
The traditional costume of the Viet, included for men, brown clothing with turbans and wooden shoes or sandals. Formal dress was of a white and black combination, while women were in smart black shirts and jacket, and light brown shirts. Formal dress for women includes three tunics: one of black or light brown, one of light yellow, and on the inside, a rose tunic. While dressing, all three buttoned at the rib-cage, and the parts from the chest to the neck are turned to show the three different colors. The outfit is topped off with the omnipresent conical hat.
For a very long time, the clothing of Vietnamese ethnic groups has been influenced by foreign dress. Some traditional clothes have been lost, substituted with more modern interpretations
Conical Hat (or Non La)
Take a peasant's common conical hat, add a touch of this and a little of that, and you will have the idea, but not quite an authentic Non Bai Tho or "Poetical Leaf" from Central Vietnam. Just a few simple arrangements added to the conical form are enough to give the Vietnamese leaf-covered hat unique features found nowhere else among Asia’s various types of conical hats.
The legend of the conical hat is related to maternal love and the history of rice growing in Vietnam.
Once upon a time, the legend says, when a deluge of rain was falling there descended from the sky a giant woman wearing on her head four huge round leaves as large as the sky itself and stitched together by bamboo sticks. The leaves protected humankind, then still naked, from the rain. The giant messenger from the sky twirled round the leaves on her head to dispel clouds and rains. Those who followed her were taught by her how to grow crops. One day mankind dozed off as they listened to stories narrated by her. When they woke up the goddess was gone. The Vietnamese built a temple in her memory and honored her as the Rain-shielding Goddess. Following her example, people went into the forests to fetch broad and round leaves (palm) which they stitched together on a bamboo frame. This was to become an indispensable headwear for the farmers on the fields, boatwomen carrying passengers across rivers, travelers under the blazing sun...
However, Vietnamese girls do not like just any conical hat they come upon. The dearest to them is inevitably the one called the "Poetical Leaf "for they become milder, more elegant and more delicate when once they put on a hat, which gives shelter to their blushing cheeks like a crowing bud protected from sun, rain or rough wind. Vietnamese women also use the conical hat to fan off the heat of summer, as a container for a bunch of vegetables, and even as a bowl to relieve the thirst when passing by a well, etc. Romantically, young couples can veil their kisses behind this traditional conical hat during their dates.
The shape as well as the size of the conical hat has evolved greatly. As a rule, the broad-rimmed hat was reserved for women while men wore hats with a higher cone and smaller rims. Then, there were hats made specifically for wealthy and powerful people, hats for children, hats to equip the army, hats for the Buddhist clergy, for the mourners..., more than 50 types in all. Undoubtedly, the two best known and best liked are the conical hat of Chuong village in Ha Tay province, north of Hanoi, and the "Bai Tho", hat of Hue, the old imperial city.
The prototype of Lang Chuong hat is a large disk-like bamboo frame covered with palm leaves and perpendicularly bent on its rim to form a band of about four inches. At the centre is placed a small bamboo frame to fit the head. The strap is usually very elaborately made of silk, adorned with yellow tassels also made of silk. This hat used to be worn by upper-crust families during visits to pagodas or festive occasions.
The present conical hat is, however, patterned on the "Bai Tho" hat originating in the old capital city of Hue and the birthplace of many eminent literary men. It is true that the place where the hat comes from has been romantically famous with its peaceful Huong (Perfume) River and its majestic Ngu Binh (Peace) mountain. Moreover, Hue has been famous for her attractively sentimental, soft-voiced and long-haired girls who often gave inspiration to poets whose creative works have been handed down to the present day. And the "Poetical Leaf" has a prominent place in all that poetical, dreamy and yet scholarly diet of the ancient city. It is so called because the artisan takes great pains to cut the characters of a verse out of a palm leaf and insert them between two layers of palm leaves before stitching them together. The characters will be easily readable when the hat is seen against sunlight. Nowadays the characters are usually replaced by a decorative figure such as a flower, a dragon or even a landscape.
The making of a conical hat is a one-hundred-percent handicraft. The leaves used to cover the hat are brought from the forest. Then they are exposed to the dew for one night to soften them. When the leaves become dry but still soft they are flattened either by hand or by ironing. Only young leaves are selected. Old or dark ones are discarded. A hat usually consists of 16 to 18 rims made from a special kind of bamboo. In order to have a well-made hat, it must be knitted together with a peculiar kind of thread called "doac" made from the leaves of a special kind of reed. Finally, the hat is trimmed and painted with a coat of attar oil to keep it clean and smooth.
The skill of the craftsman (who in this case is more likely a woman) can be judged by the regularity of the leaves arranged on the hat. The roundness of the rim and particularly the fineness of the stitches which must be so done as to reveal no knot.
Although the conical hat is no longer the cities woman's everyday costume, it remains the ubiquitous head wear in the countryside. And a young girl with her conical hat, quite charming in her four-flapped long dress, is always a popular image of Vietnam and the Vietnamese people.
The Making of Silk
Silk is the most precious finery of the orient. Some say silk was invented so that women could go naked in clothes. A more whimsical tale even credits a fourteen - year old Chinese empress with this invention.
For centuries, the wearing of silk was the exclusive right of the Chinese nobility, so the know-how of sericulture, and the weaving of silk was a zealously guarded secret. Even today, more than 4,000 years after its invention, sericulture is almost confined to Asia.
Of all the natural fibers, silk has the greatest affinity for color, yielding shimmering, brilliantly-hued fabrics.
Diversified in colours, weave, and quality, various kinds of silk products all help highlight a distinctive feature of Vietnamese culture. With almost all silk shopping destinations located at the center of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city, it features Vietnam style in visitors' eyes.
Hang Gai, dubbed Silk Street, is obviously a right place to shop for silk in Hanoi, where choices are sometimes overwhelming. Located on the edge of the Old Quarter near Hoan Kiem Lake, Hang Gai consists of two or three blocks of small shops that all specialize in silk and embroidery. The merchandise at the various stores is similar, however, the prices, selection and the service vary. Whether you are looking for a silk T-shirt or a custom-made suit, Le Minh has it all.
Le Minh has been offering quality tailoring at reasonable prices since 1954. The shop is run by two sisters, Bich Hanh and Thuy Ha, who learned their trade from their parents and hope to pass it along to their own children. Le Minh has one of the city's best selections of silk. Bolts of fabric in every possible color, texture and pattern are stacked from floor to ceiling. There is raw silk, patterned silk and Danang silk (it looks tie-dyed). If you want to have something made, you can choose from one of Le Minh's existing designs, bring your own clothes to copy or just show them a picture (simpler is better).
It takes two days to make a silk suit, but if you don't have time to have something made, ready-to-wear inventory is extensive. There are Western and Vietnamese clothes. The most popular item is the Vietnamese style shirt in raw silk with a mandarin collar and traditional frog closures.
Silk shops, including Le Minh, are also places where you can end up buying most of the gifts. There are silk ties, clothes, fabric, embroidered tablecloths, place-mats, napkins, and wall hangings. Written instructions are given on how to care for your purchases.
In Vietnam, there are two main areas being well-known for silk production: Ha Dong, Ha Tay and Bao Loc, Lam Dong. Silk production may be just a family affair, a co-operative, or even a larger business like silk factory in Bao Loc, of which family production is most prevalent.
The production of silk is rather sophisticated. It can be briefly described as follows.
The first step is to raise silkworms which are fed with mulberry leaves. A Fully grown one are about as long and as thick as a human finger, which grows faster at the properly adjusted temperature. On average, they take twenty-five to thirty days to develop from eggs to the cocoon-spinning stage.
When the cocoons are completed, they are selected, sorted and then sold to come into manufacture. During the production process, the cocoons are heated for killing the silkworms inside and then soaked in hot water to soften silk filament which is then wound onto reels.
Because single filaments are so fine, those from five to ten cocoons are wound together by drawing them through a porcelain guide and twisting them into a single fiber, glued together by the melted sericin. The reeled yarn made this way is called raw silk. The more sericin deposited on the filament, the lower the grade of the raw silk. Broken cocoons, partially joined ones, or those spun by two caterpillars together are inferior, and used much like cotton or wool to make spun silk.
Dyes are applied to raw or spun silk, or to woven fabrics after the sericin is removed by boiling. Stronger than any other natural fiber, the delicate look and feel of silk is deceptive. Silk is comfortable in hot weather too, because it absorbs moisture up to 30 percent of its weight without felling wet
T wo parallel and loving boats
With dragon bows and phoenix sterns
Double rows of nails
I carry five boy-lovers per boat
And ten per pair.
But, let you be reproved, you ingrate!
Profiting from me, and forgetting me
What am I?
The above riddle refers to a pair of clogs, footwear imbued with symbolic meaning in Vietnam. One popular legend tells of a pair of stone clogs passed down for generations by a family in Cao Bang, high in Vietnam's northern mountains.
Cao Bang was situated in what was then known as the Vu Dinh region of Van Lang - as the nation was then called. Vu Dinh was divided into nine zones, each of which was governed by a Po, or landlord. Highly competitive, the nine Po organized a contest to determine who was the most skillful.
One Po displayed his skill at planting rice seedlings, another his prowess at building boats, another his ability to grind a ploughshare into a needle in just one day. One was proud of his poetry, another of his skill at building citadels. The last Po showed off his proficiency at carving stone clogs. This Po managed to make a massive pair of stone clogs, which later generations used to span a stream in Ban Thanh village. This unusual bridge still exists today.
Given Vietnam's hot and humid climate and their days spent wading in wet rice paddies or fishing, Vietnamese people usually went barefoot.
At the end of the 10th century, King Le Dai Hanh often wore nothing but a loin-cloth, his feet bare. A Chinese Tong dynasty official, having been snubbed by King Le Dai Hanh, made a disdainful report about the rustic ways of the Vietnamese court. In fact, up until the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400AD), most Vietnamese people went barefoot.
Even in those early times, however, clogs were not unknown. Ancient Chinese books like Nam Viet Chi and Giao Chau Ky record that in the third century, the leader of a Vietnamese resistance movement, Ba Trieu, wore a pair of ivory clogs. "Lady Trieu Au with breasts three meters long never married," reports a surprising passage in Giao Chau Ky. "Walking on stilts, she used to wear a type of clogs called Kim De Kich."
Formerly, on cold days, men and women from rural areas would don clogs made from bamboo roots when attending festivals or visiting friends. At home they wrote wooden clogs with vertical straps to protect the toes.
In Phu Yen in south-central Vietnam, people generally made their own clogs. They favored thick soles with slightly turned-up tips. The traps, which attached through a hole in the front and a pair of holes on the sides, were braided from soft cloth. Because the sole was curved at the front, the knot of the front strap did not rub on the ground.
The soles of women's clogs were shaped like hour-glasses, while men's clogs -known as "sampan clogs"- had straight soles. Made of white wood, Phu Yen clogs were left unpainted, while those from the central city of Hue were often painted in black and brown with a pale colored triangle on the side of the sole. Only well-to-do men wore painted clogs. Some areas called clogs don, hence the saying "a foot with a shoe, a foot with a don" to indicate rich people who put on airs.
Up until the 1940s, young pupils at public schools in the southern province of Ben Tre wore clogs. Before the August Revolution in 1945, clogs produced in Hue were called "capital clogs" or guoc kinh. These clogs had soles made from coconut shells or light wood, painted white and gold with embroidered straps. An advertisement from a Hanoi newspaper in the 1940s reads:
"Like finding a needle at the bottom of the sea, now, Flying Horse clogs have been discovered!"
In the 1950s and 1960s, wooden clogs produced in Dong Do village in the Thanh Tri district of Hanoi and Ke Giay in Ha Tay province were taken to 12 Hang Ga street or Bach Mai street in Hanoi to be painted and sold. As the following poem reveals,clogs were considered extremely romantic by young girls of the time:
Clogs long unheard
On the tree-lined streets
And spring comes, apples fall,
I remember your zither sounds.
By the 1970s, plastic clogs rivaled wooden clogs in popularity. Considered stylish and comfortable, clogs could offer other, more unusual, benefits. Travelers would sometimes bore holes in the wooden soles to hide gold or jewels.
While countless Vietnamese poets have waxed lyrical about the conical hat and traditional ao dai tunic, clogs have been all but ignored by the nation's bards. One exception is the following Ca Dao poem:
"A walk in clogs round the garden in the morning,
Herons are singing and crying
Half for fate, half for their destiny.
Ca dao poem from south-central Vietnam
On the other hand, clogs are often the subject of riddles:
Two females in colored dresses Each carrying five males on their backs On the way, talk and chat, And left alone at home: fed up! What is this?
From Ba Trieu's ivory clogs to clogs made of bamboo, wood and plastic, this humble footwear has covered a lot of ground on Vietnam