Traditional dresses are important national symbols. One can learn so much about a country, its history and culture, by observing the country's traditional dress. Obviously, some traditional dresses are more recognized and are better at representing their countries than others. This page discusses the traditional dresses of Korea (Hanbok), Japan (Kimono), and Vietnam (Ao Dai).
1. Korean Hanbok
The Hanbok (also known as Choson-ot) is the traditional dress of Korea, dated way back to the first century. The dress is famous for its ornate design and bold colors. The Hanbok is worn by both male and female; the male version is significantly simpler in its design and is unicolored. Key accessories include elaborate wig/gache (for women) and hat (for men). Note that the size of the wig signals a woman's social status; the bigger the wig the higher her position in society. The Hanbok is considered outdated for common use, but people still wear it for formal and ceremonial occasions.
2. Japanese Kimono
Nothing is more Japanese than the Kimono, Japan's traditional dress. The dress is described as a weightless robe with wide sleeves and purposeful collars. Women's kimonos are renowned for their audacious colors and elegant embroideries; men's kimonos, on the other hand, are decisively unadorned. Unlike traditional dresses of other countries, kimonos are used both for ceremonial purposes and for daily life. The dress is also the default wedding garment for both Japanese men and women. Housewives and older Japanese often don kimonos at home.
As most kimonos are made of silk, the dress is an exceptionally comfortable wear. But there is one caveat. Kimonos are rather pricey. A well-made kimono can cost in the neighborhood of several thousand dollars. The cost of maintaining the dress is, unfortunately, also very steep.
3. Vietnamese Ao Dai
A famous author once said, "If a lady has never worn Ao Dai, she is for sure not a Vietnamese woman." Indeed, Ao Dai (which can be loosely translated as long silk dress) is the essence of the Vietnamese people and culture. The traditional dress is described as tight-fitting silk tunic worn over pantaloons. The modern Ao Dai's design is heavily influenced by French fashion, though the core design is derived from ancient Vietnamese clothing. The most popular Ao Dai's color is white. As Ao Dai is a female-only dress and is mostly worn by young girls, the white Ao Dai symbolizes youthful innocence and the wearer's coming of age; older women wear Ao Dai as well but only for special occasions.