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  • Theresa Ngo

Historical Áo Dài and Khăn Đóng Featured in Chopsticks Alley Talk Episode 11 - Tet Edition

If you had a chance to tune in to Chopsticks Alley Talk Live Show on January 22, 2016, these Áo Dài, The following Vietnamese traditional dresses were worn by our models as they explained the history behind each outfit.

All Photos by Josiah Heng

Model: Alexandra Huynh

This áo dài was designed by Madame Nhu, wife of politician Ngô Đình Nhu. This version of the áo dài became controversial because it strayed away from the traditional design with a high-collared neck. The boat neck is very popular today because it is more comfortable.

Model: Theresa Ngo

The fabric is called gấm, which is brocade. Brocade is a thick fabric with intricately embroidered designs. Even though brocade has existed for hundreds of years, it is still popular today, especially during the Tet season because the fabric looks very festive and elegant.

Model Carolyn Le

Traditionally, the gown is red and elaborate. The color red brings luck to the couple, so it’s often the color of the áo dài as well as the decorations such as linens, flowers, and food. Some Vietnamese Americans brides opt for white áo dài as a way to integrate the style of the western bride. The bride usually wears a khăn đóng headdress for her wedding which is made of yards of fabric flattened and rolled into its shape.

Model: Danny Doan

No longer just the raglan sleeves. Newer style for men’s áo dài incorporates the suit jacket shoulders to give the wearer the illusion of having broader shoulders while enhancing a slim and fit frame. The pants are generally western dress pants and not the typical silk pants that women often wear with their áo dài. For a while, Vietnamese men strayed away from the áo dài but with the newer generation, men’s áo dài is regaining its popularity.

Model: Samia Verbist

Empress Nam Phương lived from 1914 to 1963 and was married to the Emperor Bảo Đại. This áo dài is inspired by clothing from the Ming Dynasty of China. Gold was only to be worn by royalty and the headgear (khan dong) is only worn on special occasions.

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Theresa Ngo


Theresa is currently a biology student at the University of San Francisco. She is interested in fashion and hopes to share her thoughts on the current fashion industry as well as Vietnamese involvement in the industry through her stories. As a Vietnamese-American, Theresa has a strong love for the Vietnamese culture and wants to contribute to its preservation for future generations here and abroad.

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