LANTERN LADIES: Girls wearing áo dài at a costume show in Huế. VNS Photo Phước Bửu
Việt Nam’s former capital Huế is proud of its áo dài history, the traditional national dress, and has been making plans to revive the elegant garment to its former glory. Phước Bửu reports.
THỪA THIÊN-HUẾ — Việt Nam’s former capital Huế is proud of its áo dài history, the traditional national dress, and has been making plans to revive the elegant garment to its former glory.
Researchers in the heritage city said that in Huế everyone used to wear áo dài any time they left their houses, both women and men, and they want this tradition to be restored to bring a taste of the old to the modern world.
The researchers have urged the local government to promote the idea in order to attract more visitors. They also said that reviving the áo dài would reaffirm Huế was the birthplace of the traditional dress.
Researcher Nguyễn Xuân Hoa said the áo dài was created under the rule of Võ Vương Nguyễn Phúc Khoát during the Nguyễn Lords rule (1558-1777). The lords were the ancestors of the later Nguyễn Dynasty (1802-1945).
“At that time the lord of Đàng Trong (the southern part of old Việt Nam) wanted a costume that differentiated locals from residents of Đàng Ngoài (the northern part of old Việt Nam),” he said.
“So the áo dài was created.”
In 1837, Minh Mạng, the Nguyễn Dynasty’s second king, issued a decree to make the áo dài a national dress for all regions. He instructed all people to wear the garment on a daily basis, not just for special occasions.
Hoa explained that the costume was designed in different styles for different occasions and to differentiate social classes.
ELEGANT: A foreigner models an áo dài desingned by Đỗ Trịnh Hoài Nam. Photo thethaovanhoa.vn
According to researcher Trần Đình Hằng, director of the Việt Nam Culture and Arts Study Institute in Huế, although the costume was born in the city, it has been a national legacy for almost 200 years, so different styles can be found around the country.
“But the áo dài from Huế stands alone in terms of this national dress in terms of colour, fabric and style,” said Hằng.
A popular comeback
Researchers and local authorities in Huế are eager to make the áo dài popular again in Huế.
Phan Ngọc Thọ, chairman of the People’s Committee of Thừa Thiên-Huế Province, told a recent seminar to promote the popularity of áo dài that he admired the old generations’ attitude to the national costume.
“Before 1975, women in Huế always used to wear the áo dài. Even when she was in a rush, my mother always dressed up before she left the house,” he said.
Earlier this month, Thọ agreed to offer free entrance to the city’s citadel on March 7 and 8 for women wearing the traditional dress on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
Researcher Hoa suggested the local government should invest in a regular festival to promote the áo dài.
“If possible, staff at the citadel should all be dressed in the áo dài,” Hoa said. The researcher also wants local authorities to hold ceremonies at the resting places of Võ Vương Nguyễn Phúc Khoát and King Minh Mạng to commemorate them.
Researcher Hằng supported Hoa’s ideas and recommended a centre be built for the study, trade and exhibition of áo dài in Huế to serve visitors.
According to renowned fashion designer Minh Hạnh, Huế has a sound platform to carry out these ideas, including material suppliers and skillful tailors.
Hạnh suggested the local government should work with tailors to provide a fast service for tourists, who were only staying in the city for a short time, wanting to buy an áo dài.
The researchers pledged to work with authorities. They also suggested calling on the private sector to, for instance, open an áo dài shop at the local airport. VNS