This is the dress that has got tongues wagging in Vietnam for being not Vietnamese enough. Thuy Dung, former Miss Vietnam 2008, and fashion model, recently wore this dress down the runway at a Spring-Summer fashion show in Rome. She has since come under attack for wearing a dress that is “too Chinese” in style.

“Ao dai” is the name of the traditional long Vietnamese dress worn by women and is perhaps one of the most iconic parts of Vietnamese culture. However, some in Vietnam aren’t happy with the recent evolution of this cultural symbol.

After participating in a fashion show that was aimed at celebrating Vietnamese style, Miss Dung has come under attack for modeling a piece that modified the country’s traditional formal dress and was seen as being “too Chinese”. Critics have called the design a “desecration” of the traditional ao dai long dress, even going so far as to say that, “Inappropriate changes may fail to convey the beauty of Vietnamese traditional costumes.” Since the fashion show was meant to showcase traditional Vietnamese clothing, it’s not hard to see their point. In the past, critics have been unhappy with modifications to ao dai made by designers in the name of fashion and have discouraged the use of “foreign motifs” like the dragon design worn by Thuy Dung.

The motif, design, and off-the-shoulder strapless style of the dress were not in keeping with the traditional, conservative ao dai. Typically, the dresses feature a high neck and long sleeves and are worn with trousers underneath (seen below).

ao dai wiki

The dress in question was designed by Thy Nguyen, and the influence of the Cheongsam (Chinese qipao) – the one-piece Chinese brocade dress – are evident.

The designer has defended her dress, saying, “[Designers have] the right to choose whatever material they believe represents the outfit’s special qualities, even if it is from a foreign source, and especially when mixing tradition and modernity.”

As the neckline of the traditional ao dai has crept down over the last decade, the level of criticism has risen. The red dress recently sported by Thuy Dung is just the latest in a series of controversies surrounding former Miss Vietnam contestants in showcasing the ao dai. Mai Phuong, winner of Miss Vietnam 2006, caused a stir when she modeled a version of the ao dai that was deemed too racy.

white ao dai

This white dress (featured above) was so transparent and revealing that she was almost stripped of her Miss Vietnam title.

And this orange ao dai, worn by Hoang My, the first runner-up in Miss Vietnam World 2010, was also deemed to be “revealing” by critics for its side splits and one-shoulder strap design.

orange ao dai

What do you think? Was the dress not Vietnamese enough? Is it okay to modify traditional national dress in the name of fashion? Let us know in the comments below!

Source: Shanghaiist
Top image: People’s Daily Online
Images: Wikipedia (Dmitrichang777), dtinews.vn