It is widely used in high school for girls. Many public companies, banks and Vietnam Airlines choose ao dai as their uniform.
Ao dai has a long history from the 16th century due to Vietnamese clothes at that time was heavily influenced from the Chinese. There were many Chinese who disliked and rejected Thanh Dynasty and moved to Vietnam. They brought their fashion style and dominated the local. Lord Nguyen Vu Vuong who ruled the South (1739-1765) tried to maintain Vietnamese originated clothing and ao dai was recognized as the national costume. At that time, ao dai was worn with two closed sides and a long skirt. In Minh Mang Dynasty (1828), the King banned women not to wear long skirt inside ao dai because it was deemed too sexy. He changed ao dai, which had to be worn with trousers and no belt.
In 1930’s, Cat Tuong, a painter made an important reform of the ao dai. It was changed to two separated sides, one in the front and one in the back of the body and they were long to reach the ground. Ao dai was tailor made to match with the curves of the woman’s body and was called “Le Mur” ao dai. The button line was moved from the front to under the left arm and along the body rib. He also brought some characters of French dress to his ao dai, such as a lower neck, airy arms and combined line between the shoulder and arm, etc.
Le Mur Ao dai (www.elle.vn)
In 1934, another painter Le Pho deleted the foreign and mixed characteristics of Le Mur ao dai and added in characteristics that are more traditional to his ao dai. The combination was fantastic, have both the new and the old designs, and was applauded by women of the time.
In 1947, North of Vietnam was facing poverty, and Ho Chi Minh encouraged people to save money by using short costumes. Ao dai costed more money, more time to make and more material so it was abandoned for a long time especially in the North. While in 1958, in the South, Madam Tran Le Xuan who was the first lady of the first Republic Government launched her new style of ao dai that was designed to match with hot and humid weather in the South. Her ao dai with lower oval neck and decoration on it marked her style on the South’s women. It is still popular nowadays because of its convenience and practicality in everyday wear.
White ao dai are used by school girls nowadays