I love historical clothing and seeing how it evolves. I’ve longed to see the evolution of Vietnamese clothing but always came up empty handed due to lack of information… until now. I owe a lot of the references to the documentary “Searching for Vietnamese Clothing” (which impressively took the filmmaker’ 3 decades to research) and sources from the Internet. I created this timeline because as a visual person, I like to know how clothing changed by seeing it side by side.
I attempted to make a timeline with only primary references (i.e. paintings, sculptures, and photographs from that time period). I tried to stay true to the original sources’ as much as possible but I can’t say that this is completely accurate. A few art pieces were really hard to decipher (the sitting Buddhist statues in particular) and not being able to see them in person required me to take some educated guesses. I used my own color preferences with the statues that did not have color to reference from. Regrettably I had to skip a few early dynasties because artifacts of those eras seem to have been lost to time or were too stylized.
Continually a work in progress and more may be added.
*Due to approximately 1,000 years of various periods of Chinese domination, the clothing inevitably shares qualities with Hanfu. Regardless, there are tell-tale differences. Dong Son Culture (fig. 1) is the time period before any Han influence takes place.
* The colors and textile in Fig. 1 is largely hypothetical. I have a feeling that the Dong Son culture resembles the ethnic tribes still in VN and took inspiration from there. The pattern on her yellow sash thingy (words fail me, bah) came from an Ao Dai which coincidentally had a pattern that came from a Dong Son drum. Coming full circle here. Lol.
* On average, people wore 3-5 layers of clothing. The climate could be cold (e.g. the Northern regions) and 16-18th century scarves and gloves have been excavated.
* Sleeves could reach to 40cm and were typically the length of chin to waist in the Le Dynasty.
* Skirts were banned in 1826 as they were deemed to be “unseemly”. Not all women followed suit as it was easier to work in skirts than pants.
* Buttoned up collars and buttoned clothing does not seem to appear until the 19th century (perhaps late 18th century at the earliest). Interestingly this change seems to coincide with the advent of French Imperialism/Colonization. Collars started rather low but gradually got higher and closer together.
* The Ao Tu Than (Fig. 9, 10 and 12) is still around today but as it stopped evolving in the 20th century I decided to concentrate on the Ao Dai (long shirt).
* The conical rice hat was originally worn by men (which can be seen in many photographs with Nguyen dynasty soldiers) and only became part of women’s wear sometime in the 20th century.
* Le Dynasty wins for being the most stylish and varied. IMO.