First published on October 6, 2015 on Haute Culture
Forget about the couture designers of Paris for one moment and lets take a look at the originators of individuality in South East Asia.
Vietnam has 54 different ethnic minorities, many of whom’s cultural costumes are creatively crafted and indigenously inventive. So if you’re visiting Vietnam any time soon, here’s an essential guide to the best fashion show in Asia.
1. Red Dao costumes are particularly striking in contrast to the green rice paddy fields they cultivate. Their costumes are trimmed with red and white borders, their trousers intricately embroidered with motifs of family life, and their headdresses embellished with silver studs, coins and tassels.
2. The Flower Hmong women of Bac Ha could even give Anna Dello Russo a run for her money. They are by far the most visually attention seeking Hmong group in all Vietnam. Their clashing color combinations and vivid style is a contradictory fashion fusion of both traditional craftsmanship, and modern mass produced materials. Costumes cover women and children from head to toe using heavy pin strip appliqué, hand embroidery and finally fringed with neon beads.
3. The Hoa Devotees use a staggering 57 costumes in their spiritual ceremonies worshiping the Gods of the Four Worlds. Stitching the stories of legends and sorcery into each outfit one of the many gods will come down to earth and possess the spirit medium. Only very special people are chosen by the temple to preform this role. Men will provide the vessel for the female gods and women for the male. Costumes can vary in price depending on the wealth of the temple. The most expensive attire will use the finest silk with majestic motifs hand embroidered in metallic gold threads. A single jacket can range from $50 – $1000.
4. Ha Nhi tribe are a Tibetan- Burmese speaking minority living in North Vietnam. They have 2 very different cultural costumes. The Lao Cai Ha Nhi wear indigo blue. They hand weave and dye their fabrics before embroidering simple yet pretty linear geometric boarders on the cuffs, sleeves, collar and central panel. The Ha Nhi of Lai Chau wear an exciting combination of multi coloured striped sleeves, silver studded triangle lap and a head dress which is made from beads, ribbons, pom poms and tassels.
5. LoLo of Lung Cu are un distinguishable from regular Vietnamese people as they wear regular western style clothes everyday. But a few times a year when they celebrate very special occasions the most elaborate and decorative outfits appear. A wide labour intentisve variety of textiles techniques is employed such as batik, appliqué, embroidery, tassels, ribbons and buttons.
6. The Lu people from Lai Chau Province in North Vietnam cultivate both cotton, silk and indigo dye to make their costumes. They select colorful fabrics with bird, tree and flower patterns to patchwork together in long small strips before decorating the jackets with silver studs and coins. The most complicated part of the outfit is the rhombic weaving pattern on the skirt. Lu women are deemed not fit for matrimony until they can make their own clothes.
7. The Flower Lolo of Meo Vac in Ha Giang Province hand appliqués just under 4000 rainbow colored triangles onto each costume. 5 triangles can take up to 2 hours to sew (I know because I’ve done it). Constructing a single costume takes about 1 year to make, outfits are sewn by mothers for their daughters and only worn on best occasions.
8. Co Tu Ya Ya or Ta Oi live in Central Vietnam. White lead beads are interwoven into geometric patterns consisting of crosses, diamonds, zig zags and stripes. They show off the time consuming textiles on simple silhouettes in a striking color combination of black, white and red.
9. Glitter girls of Ha Giang dress like disco balls for one reason. To attract the boys. They not be the most skilled with a sewing machine but these girls no how to make a high impacted entrance with minimal effort.
10. The Black Hmong are most identifiable by their indigo saturated fingers. The pride pieces of each outfit are a shiney sleeveless jacket where the hemp has been literally polished to perfection, and the elaborate hand embroidered sleeves, collars and belt sashes.
Do you love tribal textiles? Have you been to Vietnam? Did you see any of these tribes? Who was your favorite and why? I would love to here from you, comment below with any links to inspirational or useful websites about cultural costume and textiles in Vietnam.
cover photo: Lu Hu people at VWM
Cu Tu Ya Ya http://www.ghmhotels.com/ghmjourneys/hidden-in-the-heartland/