1,000 Years of Vietnamese Clothing
A follow up to the previous historical fashion timeline, this time I’ve separated the clothing according to dynasty and social rank from 11th to 21st centuries. The intent was to see a generalized view of how clothes changed from dynasty to dynasty. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough material from Ly and Tran dynasties so I had to lump them together. The majority of historical referenced material is from the documentary “Di Tim Trang Phuc Viet”, and a few are from Wikipedia and Google. Contemporary/modern clothing are from observation and/or refs from Google again.
My refs here. I had to make a few educated guesses on colors, I hope I’m not too far off the mark…
Some notes and observations from the documentary:
• Sui and Tang dynasty ruled Vietnam from 602-906 AD, hence Ly to Tran dynasty will have Sui/Tang influence in their clothing. Ming dynasty only ruled for 20 years but they took an extremely aggressive attempt to sinicize Vietnam, therefore it is no surprise to see very strong Ming clothing influence on Le dynasty people. Nguyen dynasty appears to be a curious mix of Ming/Qing influence (for royals especially) and native styles.
• Vietnamese emperors apparently dressed in Dragon Robes reminiscent to Chinese Emperors as a means to demonstrate that they were equals with China. This purportedly started with the Ly dynasty. Previous dynasties did not attempt to do so due to backlash from China. (Trinh Quang Vu, episode 5)
• Generally speaking, robes reached to the feet in the Le Dynasty whereas the length of the clothes shortened considerably by the late Nguyen dynasty.
• One of the historians (Trinh Bac, episode 17) commented that the Le Dynasty folks continued wearing Ming-styled clothing and refused to accept Qing dynasty styles. On the other hand, it was the Nguyen Dynasty who incorporated some elements of Qing Dynasty clothing into their attire. The documentary also compared and contrasted the royal clothing of Qing and Nguyen dynasties. (robes on the bottom is a comparison I did) One of the striking similarities that you can see is the colorful stripped patterns on the bottom of the robes that existed ONLY in the Qing dynasty and was emulated by the Nguyen royalty.
• The most common woman’s hairstyle in the Le Dynasty seems to be long hair that was either left loose or tied with a ribbon. It looks a lot like the ladies of Heian period in my opinion. Long hair with a hair bun or just buns seem popular as well.
• Speaking of hair… Due to Confucian beliefs that one’s hair is a gift from one’s parents and should not be damaged, it was traditional for male and females alike to grow out their hair and not cut it out of filial piety. (Chinese folk did this up until the Qing Dynasty when Chinese men were forced to shave their hair and adopt the Manchurian queue. Anyone who resisted was executed while monks were the exception from the rule.) If one wanted to cut/perm their hair (e.g. wanting a more modern haircut) they had to obtain permission from their elders and go through an ancestral ceremony. (Truong Ngoc Tuong, episode 19) Obviously this is no longer true today.
o Although to be honest… if no one cut their hair wouldn’t they all look like Rapunzel?
• There was an unearthed Le dynasty mummy that had 23 layers of clothing on it. Gloves were also found on the mummy. There was also boots that had strings on the back for the wearer to tie, which meant the boots weren’t slip-ons. Interestingly there is a piece of fabric attached to the collar of one of the robes and the researchers believe it to be a scarf. You can see some of the screencaps I took here. (Nguyen Lan Cuong, episode 12)
• The number layers on the Khan Dong (turban on fig. 22) told the status of the person. Commoners had 5-6 layers on their turban. Officials and higher class persons had 8-9 layers. (Truong Ngoc Tuong, episode 19)
• Nguyen Dynasty clothing is very loose by today’s standards. Clothing for brides required even more looseness and sleeves were wider than the norm. The clothing of brides was traditionally red or pink on the outside and yellow or green/blue on the inside. Grooms wore blue on the outside and red, pink, or yellow on the inside. (Truong Ngoc Tuong, episode 19)
• Black was the most common color in the Nguyen Dynasty. (Truong Ngoc Tuong, episode 19)
• There was friendly trading with Japan harking back to at least the 16th century. As to whether there may or may not be some Japanese influence on Vietnamese clothing… I don’t really know.
Explanation on the Figures
• Fig. 1 is an imperial concubine who later becomes the Queen Mother (as in the mother of the reigning King/Emperor).
• According to the researchers, the relief statue of Fig. 2 is not of an actual Tran Emperor but someone with the surname “Ngo.” Apparently they believe the outfit is supposed to be cross between a king/emperor’s dragon robe and monk attire. Confused? Yeah, so am I. There is a statue of an actual Tran emperor but the figure has been beheaded by foreigners. I decided to depict this figure anyways because the details are more clear (for the headdress especially), and someday will draw the statue of the actual Tran Emperor. In either case, it is still useful because the clothing styles between the two is somewhat similar.
• The statue I referenced Fig. 3 from was also beheaded by foreigners. I followed the recreated version in the documentary.
• Fig. 7: the reference photo on Wikipedia was in black/white and I couldn’t find the color version. I thought the next best thing was to reference the colors from an excavated robe that belonged to another Le Emperor. Furthermore, a lot of the details were washed out and difficult to decipher. If anyone has a better version of this painting, please let me know!
• Fig. 13 and 14 are probably around 17th century.
• Fig. 14: This style of dress appears to pop up quite frequently on Le dynasty statues and it seems pretty significant so that is why I decided to include it here. Remnants of this particular dress could be found in Nguyen dynasty dancers.
• Fig. 25 appears to be the dress that has preserved the most historical elements. However the ao tu than is typically associated with northern women and is mostly regarded as a “peasant” dress nowadays.
• Fig. 26 and 27 are typical wedding attire. Fig. 27’s attire is derived from the royal Nguyen dynasty dress.
• Fig. 29: The Jing people are ethnic Vietnamese who immigrated to Mainland China hundreds of years ago. I was hoping to see preservation of ancient clothing but alas it seems that their clothing is updated with fashions trends from the motherland. I decided to include them anyways because I thought their fashion take was quite cute with a glitzy touch to it.
Last but not least:
Thank you everyone for your feedback from my last historical fashion timeline! I haven’t managed to get through all the comments but I will try to soon!
If I ever do another fashion timeline it will be a toss up between Thailand, Mongolia, Korea, or Japan. I’m debating whether or not if I want to do Chinese hanfu but there’s 5,000 years worth of Chinese clothing to wade through and there are plenty enough resources so…