Selecting ceremonial costumes: is long gown fit for a male?

April 19, 2013 | 11:10
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While there was wide consensus that ao dai (long gown) should be the ceremonial costume for women, many doubt it is appropriate for males, according to a meeting on Apr 17.

At the meeting held by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and attended by culture experts and fashion designers, some said khan xep ao the (Vietnamese male traditional headdress and thin black and white ao dai) could be the ceremonial costume for men.

However, deputy minister Vuong Duy Bien pointed out that few wear this costume these days due to inconvenience.

Bien added that ceremonial costumes must be nice, simple, convenient and appropriate for the country’s weather and Vietnamese people’s build.

The costumes should also blend traditional and modern elements, and use domestically-made materials and the “national color”, which has yet to be decided on.

According to Prof. Tran Ngoc Them, a culture expert, male traditionalao dai was used as the national costume [not to be confused with the ceremonial costume] under the reign of Bao Dai, Vietnam’s last monarch, and Ngo Dinh Diem’s presidency, prior to 1975.

Meanwhile, well-known diplomat Ton Nu Thi Ninh maintained that ceremonial costumes can vary depending on the diplomatic purposes and can allow for personal choices, but stressed that it must be traditional costumes when it comes to certain tasks including presenting letters of credence.

Ninh added that ao dai and traditional costumes in general are sometimes donned indiscriminately.

She recalled how embarrassed she was when she accompanied foreign guests to Hue, Vietnam’s former imperial capital, and the Hue court musicians wore unkempt traditional costumes made from cheap materials.

However, Prof. Them asserted that ceremonial costumes do not need to be traditional or culturally unique, and could bear global identities.

He advocated ao dai as the male ceremonial costume, elaborating that femininity is inevitable because from the old times, Oriental culture tends to be more effeminate than its Western counterpart, with Vietnamese culture among the most female-like ones.

Them cited the male ceremonial apparel in Japan and other East Asian countries as examples of femininity.


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