The beauty of women dressed in ao dai always leaves a deep impression on foreign visitors to Vietnam. Girl students dressed in white long robes take to streets on the way to schools or back home, or gracefully sail on their bikes along streets. Female secretaries in delicate pastels greet you at an office door and older ladies in deep shades of purple, green or blue cut a striking pose at a restaurant dinner. The ao dai appears to flatter every figure.
Its body-hugging top flows over wide trousers that brush the floor. Splits in the gown extend well above waist height and make it comfortable and easy to move in. Although virtually the whole body is swathed in soft flowing fabric, these splits give the odd glimpse of a bare midriff, making the outfit very sensual.
Ao dai is made individually to fit each customer’s shape to create the most graceful possible look. The pants should reach the soles of the feet and flow along the floor.
Comfortability is always taken into account for fashions and beauty. Tailoring must ensure the wearer’s freedom of movements. Despite it is a long robe, ao dai must be cool to wear. Synthetic or silk fabrics are preferred as they do not crush and are quick drying, making the ao dai a practical uniform for daily wear.
The color is indicative of the wearer’s age and status. Young girls wear pure white, fully-lined outfits symbolizing their purity. Older but unmarried girls move into soft pastel shades. Only married women wear ao dai in strong, rich colors, usually over white or black pants. However, ao dai is rarely seen in places where manual work is practiced. The nineties saw a real resurgence of ao dai. It has become standard and common attire for girl students as well as female staff at offices and hotels. Traditionally, ao dai has become the most preferred dress on formal occasions.