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1800s Northern Vietnamese woman dressed in Áo tứ thân, with the "Non Quai Thao" hat characteristic of northern Vietnam

The Áo tứ thân or “4-part dress” is one out of several traditional Vietnamese costumes.



The Áo tứ thân can be considered one of the oldest enduring Vietnamese cultural relics, having been worn widely by women centuries before the ao dai.

As Vietnam expanded southward, the Áo tứ thân gradually became associated specifically with northern women.

The Dress

Four-panel traditional dress

Áo tứ thân was the dress of common women, which explains why it was often made with plain fabric in dark colors, except when it was to be worn at special occasions such as festivals or weddings. Regardless of its many different forms, the basic Áo tứ thân consists of:

  • A flowing outer tunic, reaching almost to the floor. It is open at the front, like a jacket. At the waist the tunic splits into two flaps: a full flap in the back (made up of two flaps sewn together) and the two flaps in the front which are not sewn together but can be tied together or left dangling
  • A long skirt, worn under the tunic
  • Yếm, an ancient bodice worn as an undergarment by women. It comes in many fabrics and colors, worn under the skirt and outer tunic
  • A silk sash which is tied at the waist as a belt

The dress as it is most typically worn today (almost exclusively in northern-related festivals) tends to be extremely colorful, using different hues throughout the dress, from the tunic to the bodice and the skirt.

The Áo tứ thân and its place in modern-day Vietnam

The dress is now obsolete in terms of its daily use in Vietnam, but it can be seen often in traditional occasions such as festivals, especially in northern Vietnam.

In southern Vietnam, the simpler silk pajamas costume Áo bà ba is preferred for day to day use.

See also

External links

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