Áo dài – Traditional Vietnamese dress

In the opening scene of “Good Morning Vietnam” Adrian Cronauer played by Robin Williams, is captivated by a woman in a long white dress. He glimpses her in the crowded streets of Saigon and vainly tries to catch up with her. Her white dress stands out in the dusty streets and like an elusive ghost she epitomizes all that is exotic, mysterious and beautiful in Vietnam. The woman is wearing a traditional Vietnamese dress called an áo dài

A traditional áo dài is a tunic with long sleeves, a mandarin collar, a fitted bodice and side splits from waist to the ankle.  It is typically worn over loose pants. Everyday áo dàis are worn as casual and business attire, while special occasions warrant elaborate versions made with expensive silks and embroidery. Formal wear includes a headdress called a khăn vành dây.  This is a turban made by wrapping cloth around braided hair then repeatedly coiling the cloth around the head into a flat funnel type headdress. This is a process better seen than described. Here’s a quick video with a demonstration by a street vendor

I suspect that modern day versions of the khăn vành dây come pre-built and are worn like a hat. In my photo session, I don’t recall waiting on the model to wind-up her headdress (I would have been fascinated to see it) and in this photo, you can see her hair is bundled at the back.

These pictures were taken in Saigon as part of full day model shoot. I don’t normally post my model photos but I created the featured postcard and thought I’d share it. If you’d like to see more of my postcards, let me know in the comments. I might have a couple more to show 😉

20 Comments

  1. This is so beautiful! I loved seeing the women and girls in Hoi An in particular wearing the áo dài but I don’t recall seeing that headdress. They mostly had bare heads or wore the straw coolie-style hats there. It’s a great idea to arrange a shoot like this but not something I’d ever considered – or considered possible! I’d love to see more 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Amanda. Sometimes when we travel, my husband arranges photo shoots with models dressed in traditional clothing. Normally we do street photography to capture daily scenes but occasionally we do this kind of posed shoot.

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