1. Stitching the stories of legends and sorcery into each outfit, one of the many gods will come down to earth and possess the spirit medium whom wears it. Only very special people are chosen by the temple to preform this role, men provide the vessel for the female gods and women embody the male. Viet Kinh devotees use a staggering 57 costumes in their spiritual ceremonies whilst worshiping the Gods of the Four Worlds.
Costumes can vary in price depending on the wealth of the temple and craftsmanship. The most expensive attire will use the finest silk with majestic motifs hand embroidered in metallic gold threads. Jacket can range from $50 – $1000.
2. Costumes cover women and children in a kaleidoscope of colors from head to toe using heavy pin stripe appliqué, hand embroidery and neon beaded fringe work. The Flower Hmong women of Bac Ha could give Anna Dello Russo a run for her money with their clashing color combinations and vivid style. Flower Hmong cultural dress is a contradictory fashion fusion of both traditional craftsmanship teamed with modern mass produced materials.
3. Red Dao costumes are particularly striking in contrast to the green rice paddy fields they cultivate. Their costumes are trimmed with red and white borders, their trousers intricately embroidered with motifs of family life and animist symbology, and their headdresses are often embellished with silver studs, coins and tassels.
4. The Ha Nhi Vietnamese hill tribe are actually a Tibetan- Burmese speaking minority living in North Vietnam. They have 2 very different traditional dresses depending on their location.
The Ha Nhi of Lai Chau wear an exciting combination of multi colored striped sleeves, silver studded triangle details and a head dress which is made from beads, ribbons, pompoms and tassels.
The Lao Cai Ha Nhi wear indigo blue and hand weave and dye their fabrics before embroidering simple yet pretty linear geometric trims on the cuffs, sleeves, collar and central panel.
5. LoLo of Lung Cu are un distinguishable from regular Vietnamese people as they wear regular western style clothes everyday. But a few times a year they celebrate very special occasion by donning the most elaborate and decorative outfits imaginable. A wide labour intensive variety of textiles techniques is employed to this cultural costume such as batik, appliqué, embroidery, tassels, ribbons and buttons
6. The Lao Lu people from Lai Chau Province in North Vietnam cultivate both cotton, silk and natural dyes to make their costumes. They select colorful fabrics with bird, tree and flower patterns to patchwork together in long small strips on the skirts and decorate their jackets with silver studs, coins and pompoms.
The most complicated part of the outfit is the rhombic weaving pattern on the skirt which takes years of practice to learn. Lao Lu women are deemed not fit for matrimony until they can make their own clothes.
7. The Flower Lolo of Meo Vac in Ha Giang Province hand appliqués just under 4000 rainbow colored triangles onto each traditional dress. 5 triangles can take up to 2 hours to sew (I know because I’ve done it). Constructing a single outfit takes around 1 year to make, clothes are made by mothers for their daughters and only worn for very best occasions.
8. Black Lolo reside in wooden stilt houses high in the mountains surrounding the small town of Bao Lac in Cao Bang Province. They are identifiable by the black cultural clothes they wear which are appliquéd with yellow, pink and green ribbons sewn into strips and geometric symbolic patterns.
9. Glitter girls of Ha Giang dress like disco balls for one reason, to attract the boys. They not be the most skilled with a sewing machine but these girls know how to make a high impact entrance with minimal effort.
10. Elaborate hand embroidered and cross stitched sleeves, collars and belt sashes are then co-ordinated with beeswax batik skirts making the Black Hmong people one of the most diversely skilled textile tribes in Vietnam.The Black Hmong can be identified from a distance by their indigo dye saturated fingers. The pride piece of any Black Hmong outfit is a shiny sleeveless jacket where the hemp has been literally polished to perfection.