The Vietnamese New Year, Tet, is just around the corner.
With the celebrations kicking off on February 8th, the hunt for the perfect Tet outfit is already in full swing. Even though folks in Vietnam typically rock Western-style clothes in their daily lives, traditional attire takes center stage during Tet, adding a touch of formality to the festive air.
Sporting vibrant and dressy outfits isn’t just about superstition; it’s also a must for activities like catching up with family, hanging out with friends, and paying respects at temples and pagodas.
While the timeless Ao Dai is always a safe bet for Tet, there’s a whole array of traditional Vietnamese outfits worth considering. Whether it’s the Northern charm of the Áo Yếm, the regal vibe of the Áo Nhật Bình from Central Vietnam, or the simple yet classy Áo Bà Ba from the South, each outfit offers a unique way to embrace the holiday spirit while honoring Vietnam’s rich culture and traditions.
Weighing the pros and cons of each attire lets you pick one that matches your style and comfort, ensuring you step into the New Year looking and feeling your absolute best.
Beyond the Ao Dai, we’ve handpicked three traditional yet iconic pieces from various regions of Vietnam, giving your Tet wardrobe a stylish twist.
Also Read: Tet Holiday: The Age-Old Tradition Explained
Áo Yếm, hailing from the North, was originally a piece of lingerie for the Áo Tứ Thân (Four-part dress). Yếm refers to a diamond or square-cut piece of cloth that drapes over a woman’s chest and ties at the back, subtly accentuating her neck, collarbone, shoulders, and back. Contribute to the outfit’s soft image is the choice of fabric, which typically includes lightweight silk, shiny phi, tussah silk, or sheer voile, making yếm comfortable and easy to move in.
Additionally, yếm is versatile as it can be paired with various bottoms such as long or short skirts, trousers, and even shorts. Such characteristics complement an ancient Vietnamese saying about feminine beauty: ‘Mình hạc sương mai’ (Body of a crane, bones of an apricot blossom twig), which is used to portray a woman’s slender figure in Vietnamese literature. Perhaps for these reasons, Yếm has gained increased popularity among Vietnamese recently, making it a perfect attire option for Tet.
However, it is important to note that this attire might be somewhat revealing, potentially making it uncomfortable for some.
Áo Nhật Bình
Áo Nhật Bình, also known as ‘Royal Attire,’ which traces its origins back to the Nguyễn Dynasty in Central Vietnam, stands out with its regal and sophisticated aesthetic. The unique characteristic of Nhật Bình lies in its symmetrical design with two parallel flaps across the chest. When these flaps are tied together, they form a prominent rectangular shape. These are accompanied by long, wide sleeves that drape elegantly over the wearer, featuring circular patterns embroidered to showcase a popular motif in Vietnam’s ancient royal art.
Historically, these patterns ranged from floral designs to symbols of ‘blessing’ or ‘longevity,’ serving as a form of classification in ancient society. Until today, all these patterns are highly valued as traditional delicacies and are worn on formal occasions, making this attire ideal for festive dressing, like during Tet. Nevertheless, a potential downside of Ao Nhat Binh could be the attire’s long sleeves, which might pose challenges during certain activities.
Áo Bà Ba
Originating from the South, the áo Bà Ba is a simple yet elegant piece that perfectly encapsulates the laid-back lifestyle of Southern Vietnam. Unlike other attire that drapes the body, Bà Ba refers to a set comprised of a long, button-down silk blouse paired with loose-fitting silk trousers. While silk trousers are commonly seen in Áo Dài or Áo Yếm, it’s the blouse of Áo Bà Ba that gives it its distinctive character. The blouse is designed to cinch at the waist with moderate slits on both sides at the hips, allowing it to fit closely to the body, thereby accentuating the curves of a woman’s figure.
With such a simple design, Áo Bà Ba can be tailored differently with various elements like creative wrist types, sleeves, and especially lotus leaf collars, swallow wings, and woven patterns. Button designs have also evolved from the traditional snap style to innovative options like flower-shaped and pearl buttons, which can enhance the overall look. Specifically, this attire is best complemented when styled with the Khan Ran, the iconic black-and-white checkered headscarf of Vietnam.
The versatility and comfort of Áo Bà Ba, combined with its elegant appearance, make it a popular choice for Tet. Perhaps the only drawback of this attire is its simplicity, which might not appeal to everyone, especially those looking for a more festive and intricate design.