by Laura Rabbit
June 10, 2004
The ao dai is typically a fitted top, full length with slits beginning at the waist and continuing to the ground. Underneath are pants, usually white. The women in South Vietnam are said to wear this dress much more extensively than those in the north. Whether it is a special occasion or just a day spent riding the city on a scooter, the visions of these beautiful women will leave a lasting impression on you.
For US$40 ($20 deposit and $20 at pick-up) a group of young girls giggled and took my measurements in their small store near the blind massage institute. They spoke almost NO English except "How you are?" It is a miracle that we were even able to communicate to each other, period. I pointed out what I liked and many hand motions were used to indicate the various choices I was to make. I highly doubt that they had EVER made a garment for someone of "American size". I returned two days later and was stunned to find a beautiful silk dress with embroidered detail complete and waiting for me. I was (and still am) totally impressed with the quality of the work and speed in which it was done.
These girls all looked to be about 14, but I learned that that they were all in their 20s. Their smiles and laughter made that day a fantastic memory for me.
Even if you don't need a gorgeous ao dai, the experience alone is worth it. It is obvious upon arriving in Vietnam that the women here are very beautiful and their flowing, conservative way of dressing gives them a certain classiness that I had never seen before.
From journal Uncovering Saigon