“Ao yem” – the symbol of Vietnamese women

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Ao yem
Ao yem

Images of graceful girls in national charming long dress have been a symbol of Vietnam. However, looking back the historic development of national dress, Vietnam not only has ao dai” but also “ao yem” – the indispensable dress of ancient girls.

Overview of ao yem

“Ao yem” appeared in Vietnamese life in a very old day, yet, not until Ly dynasty was it basically shaped. During those days, “ao yem” was called “yem”. A very simple garment consisting of a square piece of cloth with one corner cut away to fit under the woman’s throat. This scrap of fabric is secured across the chest and stomach within strings. Traditionally, this halter-top was worn beneath a shirt, the flaps of which were often left unbuttoned to reveal “ao yem”. Urban women favoured white, pink or red ones, while those in the suburb preferred brown or beige, suited for their rustic environment.

Through the stream of history, “Ao Yem” was changing incessantly with improving design.
Through the stream of history, “Ao Yem” was changing incessantly with improving design.

History of ao yem

Ao yem is an ancient Vietnamese women’s bodice to cover the chest of women. Through the stream of history, “ao yem” was changing incessantly with improving design. However the revolutions of “ao yem” only happened at the beginning of the last century when western trousers and skirts entered Vietnam. In 17th century, “ao yem” did not have any big change of model. Entering 20th century, “ao yem” was used widespread with plentiful designs and models.

Ao yem had been appeared in the historical compilations dating back to the Trung Queens era. Through the feudal time, ao yem did not have many changes in size and shape. Ao yem made its way down after the Duy Tan movement of Phan Chau Trinh in the early of the 20th century. The movement started in Danang in the Central Vietnam and then spread out the whole country, Phan Chau Trinh encouraged people having the short hair, white teeth, wearing short shirt, changing the old lifestyle. Then, people started to imitate the western fashion style, and ao yem became out of date with the young generation at that time. After the August Revolution, 1945 and the born of Democratic Republic of Vietnam, ao yem was the undergarment of the old people, and seemed almost disappear along with many other traditions and customs.

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The ao yem classification

In the past, ao yem was formed due to the environmental condition. Vietnam is affected by the tropical climate with the long, hot and humid summer, so the lighter and airier clothes are better to avoid the heat and the harmfulness of infections. If they didn’t have to go far, they only wore ao yem and skirt to work without any sort of underwear. There is one kind of “ao yem”, which was often worn by ancient ladies, being called “yem deo bua”. Its name derived from the fact that it has a small pocket of musk beside, which was an advantageous weapon of ancient ladies. Furthermore, “ao yem” created many original love stories. In the old days, when a girl dated with her boyfriend, she put a piece of betel inside her “ao yem”; it was called “khau trau dai yem”. Perhaps there is no kind of betel more supernatural than this one.
It is an age-old dress which is maintained until today. “Ao yem” was used by all levels of society from working class to upper one. It was also used widespread in traditional festivals, therefore becoming the national traditional clothes of ancient ladies. While the wearers may age, the ao yem retains its timeless charm.

Ao yem

Ao yem in modern Vietnam culture

Today, the “ao yem” is appreciated for its cultural and artistic values. On festive occasions, women throughout Vietnam are embracing the ao yem and other traditional clothes with renewed enthusiasm.

Ao yem now becomes a fashionable item that appears on the runway of fashion shows. Ao yem is often mixed with the modern items and accessories to make up the sexiness and elegance of modern Vietnamese women. Instead of being an undergarment of women as in the past, nowadays ao yem is transformed to be a shirt to show off the sexy beauty of women with the naked smooth back.

After all, fashion is to show off the beauty and to hide the unattractive features on human’s body and ao yem is playing in its right position to enrich the sexiness of women that is no need to hide in contrast to the “covering all but showing all” beauty of ao dai.

Nowadays, ao yem is not only a kind of underwear of Vietnamese women, but also a fashion item to show how sexy Vietnamese women are. Ao yem becomes a part of Vietnamese culture beside ao dai, and other costumes. If you want to know more about ao yem, let’s come to Vietnam via Vietnam travel to find by yourself. Thank you!