Recently, I submitted an entry into a sewing contest. For it, I motivated myself to finally learn how to make an ao dai (ow-yai, meaning long garment), the national garment of Viet Nam, my country of origin. I used a pattern for a base, Folkwear 139. However, I customized it to fit a 5’10” friend who was my sewing model. I also fixed how the shoulders were done because sewing it as instructed left a very jagged shoulder “dart”, which was essentially what I was doing more than sewing it together as a seam. Then I extended the neck line from the body up so it didn’t leave such a big collar. Finally, on my real garment, I redrafted the front and back pieces to remove the vertical darts so as not to disturb the beautiful big print, and took out a dart on the sleeve.
My first ao dai was made of drapery because for the contest, we had to buy fabric from the contest hosting store, and that was all they had that was nice and Asian looking. It was a Chinese print, but we Vietnamese are close enough to the Chinese for it to be legit for me. The next ones I make, I’ll westernize and also use nice fabrics I have in my stash that I bought in New York and Los Angeles, for this garment which I had been meaning to learn how to make for a while now. Those should be good! I can’t wait to fit them into my schedule!
The garment is a beautiful one, and I’m definitely not biased to it because of my Vietnamese heritage, either (no sarcasm). All you need to do is see women (and even some men), move around in it to see how beautifully it flows, and hangs on people when worn. See the video at the end to see what I mean. There are so many styles and possibilities with it, too. Seriously, a lot more women in the western world needs to have one of these! In big US cities, they can be bought for as cheaply as $20 US, but can also be rather pricey at the higher end. Still, go out and look for some if you were a woman who doesn’t own one of these garments, and add it to your wardrobe. Pretty much a conversation starter at anything you go to, even Vietnamese events, I guarantee you!