Unique museum dedicated to ao dai

10:55 | 17/12/2018
The beauty of ao dai (traditional long dress) and its diversified adaptations are reflected through exhibits at the Ao Dai Museum in HCM City.
unique museum dedicated to ao dai
A part of the museum is dedicated to Hoi An Old Quarter. Photo courtesy of Dau An Viet Nam Company

Founded in 2014 by designer Le Si Hoang, the museum has become a popular destination for Vietnamese and foreign tourists.

Located in Long Thuan Garden, District 9, the 2ha museum embraces traditional wooden architecture with rice fields, bamboo bridges and lotus ponds.

Designer Hoang said it took 12 years for him to establish the museum thanks to his love for the traditional attire.

“The long robes have aesthetic, historic and cultural values,” he said.

unique museum dedicated to ao dai
Traditional long dresses in different periods on display.

“The dresses help people look more graceful, but also require them to behave and move carefully due to the sophisticated designs and long folds.”

“The dresses show off the beauty and elegance of both men and women.”

From the basic design in the 17th century, the dress has changed from the Le Mur long dress in the 1930s, the hippy long design in 1960s and other designs inspired by different cultures from around the world.

Hoang said the ao dai was an important expression of traditional culture and the national costume. Both men and women wore the dress on important occasions, so the museum was opened to honour it.

“I hope the museum will preserve the Vietnamese long dress and promote it around the world,” said Hoang.

At the museum, visitors can view 500 long dresses from different periods, from the first designs in the 17th century to the modern designs today.

unique museum dedicated to ao dai
The peaceful landscape of the museum.

On display are garments owned by the Nguyen (1802-1945) royal family, and dresses belonging to the country’s first female general Nguyen Thi Dinh (1920-92), as well as former Vice President Nguyen Thi Binh who signed the Paris Peace Accords in 1973 on behalf of the National Front for the Liberation of South Viet Nam, and diplomat Ton Nu Thi Ninh.

Stories about these long dresses and their owners are also featured.

Museum manager Huynh Ngoc Van said: “Beyond the function of formal attire, each long dress has its own story, journey and mission.”

The museum also showcases dresses worn by cai luong (southern reformed opera) People’s Artist Bay Nam, ca tru (ceremonial singing) artist Nguyen Phu De; actress Hong Anh and the dress she wore to attend Cannes 2013; and businesswoman Thu Huong and the dress she wore to compete at Mrs World 2011 in the US.

“Some people are not particularly famous, but they are important in the fields they are working in,” said Van.

unique museum dedicated to ao dai
An art performance held at the museum.

“We are so happy that visitors can learn more about the people who wore these outfits.”

The museum also houses exhibitions of Bau Truc pottery, a traditional handicraft of the southern and central people, silk scarves and other accessories for long dresses.

The museum also hosts art performances, exhibitions, fashion shows and seminars to get visitors, especially children, involved in designing long dresses.

Thieu Thi Tan, a former revolutionary prisoner who was held at Con Dao Prison, said she was moved to tears by the museum.

“I can feel the soul of the nation through these exhibits,” she said.

“Designer Hoang told me that it’s time for each of us to protect and promote our national culture. This museum is a way of doing that.”

“It’s not a place to store traditional costumes, it’s a place to preserve our culture.”


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