Ao Dai – Custom made in Ho Chi Minh City

by Su-Ann

Girls in Ao Dai on bicycle by Edgie168 via

Fancy some custom-made clothes tailored just for you? One of the unusual things I did on my trip to Ho Chi Minh City was to custom-make an Ao Dai – Vietnamese national costume.

I was inspired to tailor one from watching the school girls cycle to school in their Ao Dai-inspired uniforms. I thought to myself, if the Ao Dai was comfortable enough to cycle in, I want one of those!

Ao Dai vs. Chinese Cheongsam

The tunic top of a traditional Ao Dai, like the Chinese Cheongsam, spots a high collar and is tight-fitting around the upper body like a Cheongsam. But this is where the similarities end. The high slits on the sides of the tunic top give way to a pair of flowing pants that are worn underneath, giving the wearer greater flexibility and comfort than a Cheongsam. Modern versions of the Ao Dai feature boat-necks, and some are strapless, in place of the high Chinese collar.

Ao Dai Tailor in Ben Thanh Market

I spent my first day looking for a tailor in Ho Chi Minh City. I found one at the Ben Thanh Market who met my needs. She ran a tiny shop that sold fabrics in a nondescript shop. She was friendly, courteous and patient with us.

Ao Dai Shop by Yoshitomo Oda via

Ao Dai Fabric

The Ao Dai fabrics come in a plethora of colours and designs. The designs may be hand-painted or embroidered onto the fabrics. Personally, I am drawn to many styles of the fabrics. The colours, textures, patterns and designs of the fabrics are all extremely well-executed. It was difficult for me to choose just one pattern – we must have spent at least 2 hours browsing!

The pattern / design on the tunic top is the highlight of an Ao Dai. A good tailor makes the best use of the fabric design, featuring the design at its best, such as on the sleeves, or part of a border design for the neck line, or flowing down the tunic top, or across in the middle of the tunic. The pants that go with an Ao Dai are usually high-waisted as the slits at the sides of the tunic invariably go pretty high. The pants are usually made in plain colours to match the tunic, and are very flared and flowy.

Free Delivery to Hotel

The best part about my tailor was that it took her less than three days to churn out three custom-made Ao Dais and two made-to-measure dress-pants suits for me and my travelling companions! We didn’t have to go down to the shop – she had them delivered to us at our hotel in District 1. The tailor who took our measurements was very meticulous and careful, and it paid off. All the made-to-measure clothes fit us perfectly, and the quality of the tailoring is exceptional.

All in all, it was a happy USD$50 spent in Ho Chi Minh City for a made-to-measure outfit I will never get elsewhere in the world. And I will return to make more.


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