The Ao Dai is the lovely garment worn by Vietnamese women on a daily basis. It is comfortable and elegant, suitable for every occasion. It has developed over time without too many drastic changes but there is also another female garment that you will perhaps learn about if you research into Vietnamese history? It still exists today and if as part of your tours in Vietnam you visit any museums, you are also likely to see the Ao Yem there. It was worn by every female from the working classes up to the nobility. Women would invariably wear the Ao Yem at traditional festivals that occur right through the calendar.
The Yem as it was originally known was first worn many centuries ago and changed little over time. It was a square cloth with a corner cut away to fit under the throat. It was tied across the body with strings. All Ao Yems have a V-shaped at the base but there are different styles. The two most common variations are the Co Xay and Co Xe. The Ao Yem Co Xay has a rounded collar while the Co Xe has a deep V-shaped neck. There is a further type that should be mentioned; the Yem Deo Bua which had a small pocket from musk. It has appeared in many love stories in Vietnam.
The Ao Yem was a garment also worn by workers. Village women wore them during their daily lives, often brown in colour, always a colour to suit rural areas. In cities women tended to choose white, especially young women, pink and red. On special occasions, even in the villages, women changed into more brightly coloured yems as a sign that there was a celebration. There are lucky colours in Vietnam and colours like pink and yellow are two of them. If you happen to be in a village on a Vietnam travel package during one of the many festivals, you will be able to see villagers enjoy themselves. Such days are a sharp contrast to the daily life which involves plenty of hard work.