Vietnam 200 years ago: casual and holiday dress


The dress of the women has by no means fascinating. A loose cotton frock, of a brown or blue colour, reaching down to the middle of the thigh, and a pair of black nankin trousers made very wide, constitute in general their common clothing. With the use of stockings and shoes they are wholly unacquainted. But the upper ranks wear a kind of sandals or loose slippers.

As a holiday dress, on particular occasions, a lady puts on three or four frocks at once, of different color and lengths; the shortest being uppermost. A woman thus dressed appears in the annexed print, which represent a group of Cochinchinese and may be considered as a fair specimen of their general appearance.

Their long black hair is sometimes twisted into a knot and fixed on the crown of the head, and sometimes hangs loose in flowing tresses down the back, reaching frequently to the very ground.
Short hair is not only considered as a mark of vulgarity, but an indication of degeneracy.

The dress of the men has little if any thing to distinguish it from that of the other sex, being chiefly confined to a jacket and a pair of trousers. Some wear handkerchiefs tied around the head in the shape of a turban; others have hats or caps of various forms and materials, but most of them calculated for protecting the face against the rays of the sun; for which purpose they also make use of umbrellas of strong China paper, or skreens of the leaves of Borrassus or fan-palm and other kinds of the palm tribe, or fans made of feathers.

Text: Sir John Barrow
Photo: illustration from the book, internet

Fragment from the book:
Barrow, John, Sir (1764-1848)
A voyage to Cochinchina in the years 1792 and 1793 : containing a general view of the valuable productions and the political importance of this flourishing kingdom; and also of such European settlements as were visited on the voyage : with sketches of the manners, character, and condition of their several inhabitants.
Publication date: 1806


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