Aside from the pointy conical hat, the most iconic symbol of Vietnam to is undoubtedly the traditional elegant figure-hugging long dress known as Ao dai, a split-side tunic over silk trousers. But unlike other traditional dress like the Chinese Honfu, the Korean Hanbok or the Japanese Kimono, the Ao dai is both traditional and modern and worn more frequently by school girls, shop workers and waitresses.
Ao dai are made individually to fit the shape of the customer so as to create the most graceful look. Though white may be the most popular colour of an Ao dai, there are literally dozens of other colours being used from purple to pink, from black to yellow – many used in combination.
Ao da is a cultural metamorphosis that is typically Vietnamese but now combines western elements of fashion as well. Rather than a simple plain look, flowery patterns and the like are being added to the designs. Traditionally the collar is cut to the mandarin style but in recent times some designers have gone for a more contemporary feel by having a lower neckline cut. Indeed, many Vietnamese fashion designers devote their entire careers to developing new looks for the Ao dai which is now gaining international recognition within the fashion world. Ao dai fashion shows can often be seen at Asian festivals all around the world and the Ao dai Beauty Pageant has become a fixture of the entertainment industry in Vietnam.
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