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  • Theresa Ngo

Miss Vietnam's National Costume for the 65th Miss Universe 2017: Creative or Gaudy?

Miss Đặng Thị Lệ Hằng is representing Vietnam in the 65th Miss Universe, which will be held on January 30, 2017. In hopes of having Lệ Hằng stand out on the Miss Universe stage among the other 85 contestants, the Miss Universe Vietnam organization held a contest for designers throughout the country to create her national costume. Customarily, Vietnam’s delegates adorn the áo dài and khăn đóng, an iconic image in Vietnamese fashion, however, this year, the organization is going for another look.

The top five chosen designs from the competition are inspired by unique characteristics of the Vietnamese culture, which makes for exclusive designs and create a breath of fresh air for the Miss Universe audience.

The first potential national costume is inspired by dresses queens and concubines wore in the ancient capital of Huế. The head dress and decorative piece on the áo dài’s bodice (the vest) have elements of porcelain and mosaic art. The idea of using royal attire as inspiration is attractive but certain design elements of this outfit are not cohesive. In particular, the gold pants are too long for her figure and the choice of fabric is poor. The dominant pants overpower the outfit and takes the spotlight from the other details on the dress. Furthermore, the porcelain piece on the bodice resembles insect legs which takes away the elegance of the design.

The next outfit is said to have been inspired by elements of the beautiful city of Huế: nón lá (conical hat), Thiên Mụ Temple, Tràng Tiền Bridge. However, only the nón lá is most evident in the design of this costume. In the original sketch, the model is wearing a conical hat with a mini version of the temple placed on top but that element of design is missing entirely in the final product. Again, parts of the design is not cohesive and could have been more attractive if the two giant hats on the sides were painted gold to match the rest of the costume. The oversized hats also resemble two loud speakers.

The inspiration from the art of water puppets is clearly illustrated in this photo of Lệ Hằng. In the original sketch, the dress is a beautiful red color but was the final piece changed to a golden yellow fabric instead. Red is a good choice because it is a stronger color and would deliver a more sophisticated impression. The bottom portion of the dress looks unfinished while the hat should be larger to bring balance to the outfit. Water puppets are interesting ideas providing the execution was better.

This costume is inspired by fairies seen in wood carvings in Vietnam during the seventh century. The inspiration behind this costume is not as obvious as other designs, which brings into question whether it is a good choice at all. If a Vietnamese person cannot not recognize the inspiration behind this national costume, then international viewers of the Miss Universe pageant will not either. The bottom of the áo dài should also be shortened to better suit the model’s height, allowing her to appear taller.

This costume is the best out of the five chosen because of its unique design. It is inspired by the art of making wicker baskets and highlights Vietnam’s agricultural history. One criticism is the poorly made buckle straps on the basket portion of the design which cheapens the look.

All in all, this design may give the Miss Universe Vietnam organization a chance to achieve their goal of bringing something new and different to the Miss Universe stage.

The effort given to bring a twist to Vietnam’s national costume is appreciated and well-admired. After all, the áo dài isn’t the only symbol that makes Vietnam’s heritage unique and beautiful. We are hopeful Miss Vietnam’s national costume will guide her to a spot in the top fifteen this year.

Best of luck to Miss Universe Vietnam, Đặng Thị Lệ Hằng!

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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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