Trach Xa village promotes the charm of Vietnam’s Ao Dai

Trach Xa village in Hoa Lam commune, Ung Hoa district, Hanoi is famous for the craft of tailor making Ao Dai (Vietnamese traditional long dresses). For many centuries, many generations of tailors in the villages have contributed to preserving and promoting the charm of the traditional Vietnamese costume.


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Do Van Thuong, who has been involved in traditional tailoring for around 20 years, and two designs of Ao Dai  

A village with a long standing history

According to Nguyen Van Nhien, an 80-year-old villager who has been involved in traditional tailoring for 65 years, the craft of making Ao dai, in the Trach Xa village, originated hundreds of years ago. Nguyen Thi Sen, a concubine of King Dinh Tien Hoang, learnt the craft of tailoring from imperial maids in the palace. She then returned to Trach Xa village and taught the villagers the art of sewing and tailoring. As time passed by, the craft was handed down through generation to generation and has now becomes the career of the majority of the villagers.

Le Van Duan, who has 30 year experience in tailoring, said that most of the steps in the making of Ao Dai in Trach Xa are done manually. Hand stitching technique can produce even sewing lines and thus lend gracefulness to the two laps of the dress.

Children in the village learn the basics hand stitching at the age of six or seven and they are able to create a complete outfit of Ao Dai by themselves a few years later.

Do Van Thuong was born into a crowded family, his childhood was closely attached with the sewing needle, thread and tailoring ruler. He learnt how to sew at the age of six from his father after returning home from school. When he was 17, he passed the entrance exam to the University of Languages and International Studies. However, he had to quit his academic dream due to the family’s financial difficulty.

He then joined with his father as he travelled from the north to the central regions to earn living by tailoring, before deciding to head to Hanoi in 1992 in order to begin his own career. He was an intern at an Ao Dai tailor on Cau Go street, which gathers many tailoring shops famous for making Ao Dai. In 2005, he returned to his home village and opened his own shop, which has received orders from customers in Hanoi and has created jobs for 30 locals.

Not only famous for making Ao Dai, Trach Xa villagers have also won much appraise for tailoring royal and festive costumes. Nghiem Thanh Cong, whose family has 25 years of experience working in the craft, said that to recreate the royal outfits, he has to carefully study the forms, styles and decorative patterns through the internet, newspapers and the descriptions of elders in the village.

He has posted pictures of his hand-made outfits to his Facebook account in order to advertise the charm and diversity of Vietnamese costumes.

Rally all efforts to keep the ancestors’ trade alive

Despite many historical ups and downs, tailor-made Ao Dai in Trach Xa have never been modified in accordance with modern trends, even when modified Ao Dai dominated the market and won the favour of most customers.

Do Van Thuong said that modified Ao Dai are made on mass production lines with assorted styles and colour, thus bringing a wide range of selection for customers. However, they lack the traditional Vietnamese cultural soul. Although traditional Ao Dai has one and only style its cultural value exists despite changes through the years.

Trach Xa village is now home to 500 households, with 90% earning their living from Ao Dai tailoring. However, the majority of orders come in the first few months or late in the year, so the income of the village has not yet stabilised. Despite this fact, the villagers still nurture their passion for the trade as they always bear in mind that it is a valuable asset handed down by their ancestors and is an indispensable part of the community.

Do Van Thuong said that his greatest concern is how to fuel the love for the craft among the younger generation in the village. The trade requires not only talent but also patience and carefulness. He has shared his work experience and tailoring techniques with youngsters in the hope of encouraging them to preserve and promote the craft.

With the support of the local authorities, the Trach Xa Tailor Cooperative was established in 2011 to develop the brand name of Trach Xa’s Ao Dai. The cooperative has implemented many activities to promote the image of the traditional craft of making Ao Dai, to customers at home and abroad by organising many Ao Dai Festivals, as well as the Hanoi Traditional Craft Village Tourism and Culture Festival 2015.

The cooperative’s operation, together with Thuong’s efforts and elder Nhien’s strong statement that ‘I will quit the job only when I can no longer hold the sewing needle firmly’, have created a firm foundation so that the traditional craft of tailoring in Trach Xa will be well preserved by the whole-hearted villagers and continue to develop further.

Nhan Dan



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