The image of women in Ao Tu Than (4- part dress) in the northern rural area has gone into poetry and become a beautiful symbol of Vietnamese women in the past.
History of Ao Tu Than
Ao Tu Than is representation of Kinh Vietnamese. To this day, it is regarded in Vietnam as the archetype of Northern Vietnamese women. The dress’s origins are muddled, as are the origins of the Ao Dai, but many have traced its existence to the 12th century. It started off indeed as a common peasant dress, which is perhaps why it was often in dark browns and blacks.
Vietnamese women in Ao Tu Than
The basic 4- part dress consists of a flowing outer tunic, a long skirt, Yem (Vietnamese brassiere or bodice), and a silk sash. The Tu Than is made from four narrow fabrics, two front flaps were unbuttoned but just crossed and were kept by the silk belt/sash around the abdomen-the popular image of that time. The two flaps is always opened and a little bit low- necked, covered with a Yem generally sewed from white silk or the natural color of silk fibers. Those who were more well- groomed often dyed the Yem in brown tuber water to have crimson (dark red), but if being carefully dyed, the Yem would be brown and suitable for working people.
Nowadays, the Ao Tu Than is no longer commonly used in the daily life of Vietnamese people; however, it remains an indispensable part of traditional festivals in northern Vietnam including Lim festival which celebrates the famous Bac Ninh Quan Ho folk songs. In this festival, female folk singers often wear this attire with “non quai thao”– a kind of conical hat with fringe hanging at both sides, “Khan Mo Qua”– a black crow’s beak kerchief made of heavy fabric and “guoc moc”– a pair of wooden clogs.