the ao dai is also surviving in the business sector. The official
uniform of the government-run Viet Nam Airlines is the ao dai in
pink (international flights) or sky blue (domestic flights) with
a Mandarin style collar. In addition, banks, hotels, and other businesses
encourage their female employees to wear ao dai because it exudes
a dignified and attractive image for the company. The current fashion
in Saigon is the high, rounded collar ao dai with slim raglan sleeves,
and worn with very long, billowy pants cut on the bias. The sewing
shops are overbooked with orders for this style of dress.
of Viet Nam, the ao dai still maintains a strong presence. Although,
it is solely worn during family events like Tet, marriages, and
funerals/post-mortem gatherings, it represents a deep cultural bond
which still exists for many overseas Vietnamese, despite the time
and distance away from the country. Even for those too young to
remember life in Viet Nam, the connection to their roots is embedded
in them. Some have recognized and benefited from this connection.
For instance, well-known design schools such as New York's Parsons
School of Design and Fashion Institute of Technology boast a growing
number of Vietnamese fashion design students. It is not uncommon
that these young designers, as well as Vietnamese professionals
seasoned in the field, derive inspiration from their background,
in which the ao dai plays a major role. Years ago, designer Vinh
Pham gained much recognition for his iridescent "Butterfly
Imager" ready-to-wear collection, based on the ao dai.
designers such as Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and
Ralph Lauren have all successfully derived ideas from Vietnamese
costume for past collections. The peasant pants outfit (ao ba ba)
and simple ao dai have been transformed into elegant haute couture
adaptations. This, in turn, spawned a myriad of knockoffs among
mass market manufacturers. The movie industry, with its captivating
images of Vietnamese women in traditional dress, involuntarily promoted
this look in clothes. Films like "Indochine", "The
Lover", "Heaven and Earth", and director Tran Anh
Hung's "The Scent of the Green Papaya" and "Cyclo"
showcase the grace of traditional Viet Namese dress against an alluring
the Vietnamese overseas communities, video series like the popular
"Paris by Night" keep the ao dai ever-present in people's
daily view. The series, like many similar variety presentations,
often features ao dai fashion shows and famous singers wearing elaborate
ao dai's on stage. Ao dai beauty competitions like those in Viet
Nam also take place frequently in America and in Europe. There as
well, such events draw an impressive audience. This exhibits that
though people do not regularly wear the ao air, it nevertheless
rests ardent among their interests.
people are of the contrary opinion. They believe that the ao dai
is becoming obsolete due to the influence of western culture and
dress. They overlook, however, the fact that the ao dai has already
survived centuries of repeated foreign subjugation and assimilation.
It has weathered many social changes and fickle emperors. Yet in
the simple modesty and elegance of its design, there rests a force
which seems to defy the ages.