vietnam travel covid 19 updates

Stay updated with the latest news of the COVID-19 situation in Vietnam and information for traveling to Vietnam. Read more here.

Vietnam Travel Information

i Tour Vietnam | Top-rated private Ho Chi Minh City tours and Vietnam travel guides.

Vietnamese Clothing: Ao Ba Ba


What is “ao ba ba”? When you first hear the word, you may find it seems weird to you since this is a Vietnamese word with no proper translation. Ao ba ba is a traditional Vietnamese garment that has become symbolic of the culture, elegance, and beauty of women in the Southern countryside. This Vietnamese clothing could surprise you with its unique and simple design, its significance in people’s daily lives, and its origin. If you find this piece of apparel fascinating, check out where you can get one for yourself at the end of the blog.

Origin of the Ao Ba Ba

Vietnamese clothing ao ba ba 6

Ao ba ba has long been a traditional costume for the Southerners. However, its origin is yet to be known, and there are a lot of theories around the story of the ao ba ba’s first appearance in Vietnam. Some think that the ao ba ba resembles a man's shirt with a round collar and a narrow shirt that Le Quy Don - an 18th-century Vietnamese poet, encyclopedist, and government official - obliged his citizens to wear at the end of the 18th century.

Another theory is based on Son Nam writer’s point of view. He stated that the Southern people loved the shirt of a group of Chinese people living on Penang Island in Malaysia who named Baba. Some people do not agree because there is no ethnic minority name “Ba Ba” with the meaning of Malaysian-Chinese people. However, some experts find the word “Baba-Nyonya” in Bahasa Malaysia calling Peranakan people, in which, “Baba” refers to “male”, and “Nyonya” refers to “female” on Penang Island during Britain’s colonization. Interestingly, Peranakan women have a costume like ao ba ba named “kebaya”. Therefore, it is believed that the ao ba ba was a redesign and modernization of the kebaya, a result of trading and cultural exchange between Vietnam and Malaysia since the first half of the 19th century.

Evolution of the Ao Ba Ba and the Design

Vietnamese clothing ao ba ba 4 Vietnamese clothing ao ba ba 5

A traditional set of ao ba ba includes a pair of silk pants and a collarless, long-sleeved shirt. There is a line of buttons in the middle of the front of the shirt made from 2 equal parts, and a cut on both sides going to the waist creates two flaps split equally. On the front’s bottom, two square pieces of square cloth are usually attached to form pockets on 2 sides. This Vietnamese garment is loose and very comfortable to move around, explaining its popularity in both genders in the last centuries.

Vietnamese clothing ao ba ba 1

In modern times, a new version of the ao ba ba has been made with some changes in the design and material to adapt to the need for wearers and to keep up with contemporary fashion. The new Vietnamese clothing is more fit for the female lines of a body with a tighter waist and chest part.

The two front pockets have been removed, while more colors and beautiful patterns are cleverly added by the designer instead of dark and plain color textiles used in the past centuries. Despite the change, fortunately, the simplicity and traditional features that are of great importance in Vietnamese culture, are still preserved and remained.

Ao Ba Ba Usages

In the past, the peasants and the farmers, especially in the Mekong Delta wear the black ao ba ba as a uniform when working in paddy fields every day due to its convenience. People in the delta also love to put on this comfortable Vietnamese garment in daily activities as well as special occasions. When dark colors such as black, and brown are worn like working attire, bright colors are used in festivals and performances.

If you want to dress like a real Vietnamese local, a combination of ao ba ba, “Khan Ran” (checkered neck scarf), and a conical hat would be a perfect disguise to mix in with country life! “Khan ran” where “khan” means scarf, and “ran” means stripe, is a long Vietnamese black and white checkered shawl. These days, this image is only often seen in the Mekong Delta, Southern rural areas, and cultural performances, but it is still regarded as a symbol of Southern women’s feminine and inner beauty.

To have fun trips in Ho Chi Minh City, check out our authentic motorbike tours with professional local guides!


How the Ao Ba Ba is Made

When sewing the ao ba ba, it is important not to do the cutting lines on the shoulder parts. The back of the shirt is 1 piece while the front one has 2 pieces with button lines in the middle, sometimes 2 pockets are added at the bottom of the shirt. These parts are sewn together, and finally, some patterns are additionally embroidered as decoration.

The material used to make the traditional ao ba ba was easy to dry like cotton, but now, there are a lot of other choices for fashion purposes. People used to use trees or leaves essence to dye the cloth and make a colorful fabric of black, brown, or green. Nowadays, when a variety of materials are available on the market, you can have a wide range of choices for your favorite one, even bright colors like yellow and pink.

Where to Buy Ao Ba Ba

Vietnamese clothing ao ba ba where to buy

Here are a few suggestions for you to purchase ao ba ba as one of your wonderful souvenirs from your trip to Vietnam.

Ben Thanh Market
Wandering around one of the most iconic and famous local markets in Ho Chi Minh City, you will quickly encounter stalls where the ao ba ba is shown so that you can try and buy. Choosing a textile in the market, then bring it to a tailor is another option.

Hoai Giang Shop
This is one of the most favored shops of locals specializing in tailoring ao ba ba in Ho Chi Minh City. There are a variety of models you can consider.
Location: 40 Tran Quang Khai Street, Tan Dinh Ward, District 1.
Price: From VND 400,000/set


Summary of the Vietnamese Clothing: Ao Ba Ba

The ao ba ba may not be commonly worn like before, but every Vietnamese is aware of its importance in the diversity of culture. Many people are putting effort into preserving traditional clothes wisely through generations while keeping the original characteristics. A traveler with a curious mind and an eagerness to learn should not miss the opportunity to check out the ao ba ba - the traditional Southern Vietnamese garment.

Interested in learning more about Vietnam? Check out our Vietnam travel guides!

Stay Informed

When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.



Guest - Delise Means on Tuesday, 07 September 2021 04:36

Where can I buy the traditional AO Ba Ba in Southern California?

Where can I buy the traditional AO Ba Ba in Southern California?
Guest - Emilia on Saturday, 26 October 2019 14:27

Is it easy to get this custom made for a large size?

Is it easy to get this custom made for a large size?
Guest - Ollie Wilde on Friday, 11 October 2019 22:57

Thanks for the information, can I ask where to find these costumes?

Thanks for the information, can I ask where to find these costumes?
Already Registered? Login Here
Wednesday, 29 March 2023

Captcha Image



This Vietnam travel information page is written by a team of professional tour guides in Vietnam. More about us or visit home page

Vietnam Travel Information

Check out the necessary information for traveling to Vietnam

First Time in Vietnam

To Pack List for Vietnam

Major Cities in Vietnam

Family & Elderly Travel

LGBT Travel

Vietnam Festivals and Holidays

Best Vietnamese Dishes

UNESCO World Heritage in Vietnam

Vietnamese Culture

Religions in Vietnam

Ethnicities in Vietnam

Tipping in Vietnam

Vietnamese Currency Guide

Best Dishes to Try in Vietnam

20 Must-try Vietnamese Dishes

Unusual Foods to Try in Vietnam

Street Food in Vietnam

Vietnamese Grilled Dishes

Rice Dishes in Vietnam

Pho Dishes in Vietnam

Traveling to and within Vietnam

Airport Arrival Tips at Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh)

Airport Arrival Tips at Noi Bai International Airport (Hanoi)

Major Airports in Vietnam

Taking Trains in Vietnam

Bringing Your Own Vehicles to Vietnam

Bringing Your Pets to Vietnam

How to Take Motorbike Taxis

Taking a Ferry in Vietnam

Renting a Car in Vietnam

Vietnam Travel Itineraries

Vietnam One-month Itinerary

Vietnam One-week Itinerary

Taking a Gap Year in Vietnam

Backpacking in Vietnam

Expat Tours in Vietnam

Honeymoon in Vietnam

Vietnam Visa, SIM Cards, and WiFi

Visa Info & Where to Buy Sim Cards

Traveling with Wifi in Vietnam

Vietnam Travel Safety Tips

Travel Insurance

Is it Safe to Drink Tap Water?

How to Avoid Mosquitoes

Food Safety in Vietnam

Getting Vaccinations

Common Diseases and How to Prevent

Wearing Face Masks in Vietnam

Can Tourists Drive in Vietnam?

How to Avoid Scams

Travel Safety Tips

Best Places to Stay in Vietnam

Deluxe Hotels in Vietnam

Best Hotels in Ho Chi Minh

Best Hotels in Hanoi

Where to Stay in Ha Long Bay

Where to Stay in Ha Giang

Where to Stay in Sa Pa

Where to Stay in Da Lat

Where to Stay in Mui Ne

Where to Stay in Hoi An

Homestays in Vietnam

Find more hotels to stay in Vietnam below:

Powered by 12Go Asia system