Now, what is an áo dài? Áo Dài is the national outfit of Vietnam that embodies beauty and elegance with its shape. Today, áo dàis are worn mostly by women and are worn for high school, traditional festivals, and (you guessed it!) weddings.
This breakdown of the 5 essential elements of a wedding áo dài will hopefully help you navigate through choosing or designing an áo dài for your big day. So, let’s start!
The top garment of a wedding áo dài is the long, split tunic that fits somewhat close to the bodice. It traditionally features a mandarin collar, long sleeves, and side slits that go down from the waist to ankle.
This creates a front and back panel that grazes the floor, making it very similar to the Chinese qipao or cheongsam.
What makes the áo dài distinctive from other national garments like the qipao is the long, loose pants that are worn underneath the tunic. As the wearer walks, the ankle-to-floor length pants in combination with the long tunic adds movement and grace to the overall look.
Fun fact! In the 1700s, Lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat, who ruled over the southern region of Vietnam, mandated that trousers be added to the áo dài to make his subjects distinguishable from the northerners.
The colors in an áo dài is indicative of the wearer's age and status. Young Vietnamese girls wear white áo dài as part of their school uniforms as a symbol of their coming of age. In their mid to late 20’s, Vietnamese women will wear pastel shaded ones. For weddings, the brides usually wear red, white, or pastel colored áo dài.
Bridesmaids wear brightly colored áo dài in yellow, blue, or pink that either compliments or contrasts with the bride’s.
For Đám Hỏi, the Vietnamese engagement ceremony, brides will traditionally wear a red áo dài, representing happiness, luck, and prosperity. More modern brides have worn colors such as green, white, or pink. After marriage, Vietnamese women graduate to wearing richer, more vibrant colored áo dài.
A wedding áo dài is usually made of silk, chiffon, or brocade. Silk is smooth and soft feeling with a lustrous finish and chiffon is sheer and gauze-like. Brocade fabric is made of colored silk and other blends with raised opulent designs.
It is commonly overlaid with flower-like red or white lace patterns. They also often feature intricate and delicate gold appliqué or beading that matches or contrasts the color of the áo dài.
5. Khăn đóng
Khăn đóng is an essential accessory for a Vietnamese bride. It is a circular headdress for the bride and groom to wear during Đám Hỏi that typically matches their respective áo dài. Khăn đóng is made by tightly wrapping long, flattened fabric so that each fold is perfectly placed to create it’s crown-like shape. No surprise there, as khăn đóng literally means “wrapped towel"!
The bridal khăn đóng, however, is more intricate in design and larger than the groom’s. Due to this, it gives the illusion of a taller bride.
Khăn đóng can be in a solid color or have some design to them. More decorative khăn đóng can be created by using a brocade fabric or by beading.
The áo dài is an iconic piece of fashion that's been a big part of Vietnamese weddings. While there are specific elements of the dress that make it an áo dài dress, brides nowadays also have many options when it comes to customizing their áo dài to fit their modern aesthetics.
If you're looking for a modern áo dài to wear for your wedding, get in touch with us here!