Countries Dao Hmong Lao Lu Lolo Traditional Dress Traditional Dress & Textiles Traditional Textiles Tribes Vietnam

10 Vietnamese Textile Hill Tribes Every Fashion Lover Should Know


 Are you looking for the best fashion show in Asia? Do you love handcrafted artisan ensembles? Unknown to most is that Vietnam has a staggering 54 different ethnic minorities, many of whom’s cultural costumes are more creatively crafted and indigenously inventive than those so called couture designers in Paris. 

  Check out Haute Culture’s essential guide to the real originators of individuality and style in South East Asia.

Photo: Lu Hu People at VWM

1. Red Dao costumes are particularly striking in contrast to the green rice paddy fields they cultivate. Their costumes are trimmed with red and white borders, their trousers intricately embroidered with motifs of family life and animist symbology, and their headdresses are often embellished with silver studs, coins and tassels.


Red Dao women at market by John Molds at Faces of Vietnam

 Photos: Haute Culture & John Molds at Face of Vietnam

Textile Tour of Vietnam 2017

2. The Flower Hmong women of Bac Ha could give Anna Dello Russo a run for her money with their clashing color combinations and vivid style. Flower Hmong cultural dress is a contradictory fashion fusion of both traditional craftsmanship teamed with modern mass produced materials.

Costumes cover women and children in a kaleidoscope of colors from head to toe using heavy pin stripe appliqué, hand embroidery and neon beaded fringe work.

Photos: by Haute Culture and John Molds at Face of Vietnam

3. Viet Kinh devotees use a staggering 57 costumes in their spiritual ceremonies whilst worshiping the Gods of the Four Worlds. Stitching the stories of legends and sorcery into each outfit, one of the many gods will come down to earth and possess the spirit medium whom wears it. Only very special people are chosen by the temple to preform this role, men provide the vessel for the female gods and women embody the male.

Costumes can vary in price depending on the wealth of the temple and craftsmanship. The most expensive attire will use the finest silk with majestic motifs hand embroidered in metallic gold threads. Jacket can range from $50 – $1000.

Hoa Vietnam cultural costume haute culture

Photo: Vietnamese Women’s Museum

4. The Ha Nhi Vietnamese hill tribe are actually a Tibetan- Burmese speaking minority living in North Vietnam. They have 2 very different traditional dresses depending on their location.

The Ha Nhi of Lai Chau wear an exciting combination of multi colored striped sleeves, silver studded triangle details and a head dress which is made from beads, ribbons, pompoms and tassels.

The Lao Cai Ha Nhi wear indigo blue and hand weave and dye their fabrics before embroidering simple yet pretty linear geometric trims on the cuffs, sleeves, collar and central panel.

Photos:John Molds at Face of Vietnam

5. LoLo of Lung Cu are un distinguishable from regular Vietnamese people as they wear regular western style clothes everyday. But a few times a year they celebrate very special occasion by donning the most elaborate and decorative outfits imaginable. A wide labour intensive variety of textiles techniques is employed to this cultural costume such as batik, appliqué, embroidery, tassels, ribbons and buttons.

6. The Lao Lu people from Lai Chau Province in North Vietnam cultivate both cotton, silk and natural dyes to make their costumes. They select colorful fabrics with bird, tree and flower patterns to patchwork together in long small strips on the skirts and decorate their jackets with silver studs, coins and pompoms.

The most complicated part of the outfit is the rhombic weaving pattern on the skirt which takes years of practice to learn. Lao Lu women are deemed not fit for matrimony until they can make their own clothes.

7. The Flower Lolo of Meo Vac in Ha Giang Province hand appliqués just under 4000 rainbow colored triangles onto each traditional dress. 5 triangles can take up to 2 hours to sew (I know because I’ve done it). Constructing a single outfit takes around 1 year to make, clothes are made by mothers for their daughters and only worn for very best occasions.

haute culture flower lolo minority costume vietnam

8. Black Lolo reside in wooden stilt houses high in the mountains surrounding the small town of Bao Lac in Cao Bang Province. They are identifiable by the black cultural clothes they wear which are appliquéd with yellow, pink and green ribbons sewn into strips and geometric symbolic patterns.

Ha Giang Cao bang Vietnam Textile Tour Haute Culture lolo noir bao lac

Black Lolo lady sits enjoying the view near Cao Bang in Vietnam

9. Glitter girls of Ha Giang dress like disco balls for one reason, to attract the boys. They not be the most skilled with a sewing machine but these girls know how to make a high impact entrance with minimal effort.

10. The Black Hmong can be identified from a distance by their indigo dye saturated fingers. The pride piece of any Black Hmong outfit is a shiny sleeveless jacket where the hemp has been literally polished to perfection. Elaborate hand embroidered and cross stitched sleeves, collars and belt sashes are then co-ordinated with beeswax batik skirts making the Black Hmong people one of the most diversely skilled textile tribes in Vietnam.

black hmong ethnic minority

Black Hmong gathering for local event

Do you love tribal textiles? Have you been to Vietnam? Did you see any of these tribes? Who was your favorite and why? I would love to here from you, comment below with any links to inspirational or useful websites about cultural costume and textiles in Vietnam.

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Useful Resources

  8.  Cu Tu Ya Ya

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  • Hamid
    October 6, 2015 at 8:53 am

    very interesting, it could be better if you guys could add some info on anam people, or tribes living in central highlands of vietnam
    vietnam holidays

    • donna
      October 7, 2015 at 8:23 am

      great thanks for the tip il check it out

  • Shirley Gibson-Hardie
    October 6, 2015 at 9:11 am

    A well written and informative piece, really enjoying following your adventures

    • donna
      October 6, 2015 at 10:05 am

      whoop woop, and I’m enjoying living them for everyone!

  • Melissa Giroux
    October 6, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Wow! These costumes are so colorful! 🙂 I am really impressed!

    • donna
      October 6, 2015 at 10:04 am

      Thanks Melissa, I have visited most of them myself and thought it was time to share a round up!

  • Rhoni
    October 7, 2015 at 12:47 am

    They remind of Peru’s textiles and costumes, very similar. Beautiful.

    • donna
      October 7, 2015 at 3:25 am

      yeah, I’m going there next year! can’t wait.

  • Gabi
    October 7, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Oh My God! I do want to start a collaboration of some kind with you! I am -other than a travel blogger- a fashion translator, I work for quite well-known brands in Milan, and I do hereby formally invite you to write whatever you wish for my blog, I’d be honored. I LOVE YOURS!
    Please keep the hard work, this kind of cultural articles related to fashion are rare, fashion is not all “latest M@C lipstick/palette!” This is formidable, inspiring, overwhelming.
    Gabi, The Tiny Book

    • donna
      October 8, 2015 at 12:11 am

      wow great I’m so glad you love it, you have my permission to share the post on your site. I have only just started the project 2 months ago but I plan to travel for at least 2 years. Sign up to the email so you don’t miss a post. thanks for your support Gabi.

    • donna
      October 8, 2015 at 12:12 am

      ps I still love mac lipsticks xx

  • Gemma
    October 7, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    Wow, I love the textiles of Vietnam! they are so vibrant. It’s a shame how westernised countries have lost their traditional clothing. In Guatemala many of the local women wear traditional Mayan clothing because they prefer it to modern, westernised clothes, and when I was there I could totally see why!

    • donna
      October 8, 2015 at 12:14 am

      awesome I look forward to visiting there next year. it’s interesting because I don’t think the UK has a national costume. We have these awesome pagan festivals that I will research in the future.

  • Voyager
    October 8, 2015 at 6:15 am

    Very insightful and colourfully resplendent photos

  • Linh
    October 8, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    love it!

    • donna
      October 23, 2015 at 3:54 am

      hi Linh, loving your new blog too!

  • Ana K
    October 8, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    Wow! This was such a cool piece. I didn’t realize just how much cultural variety there is there! Learned something new 🙂

    The colors are just so radiant and so are those women! I loved this piece 🙂

  • Tosca
    October 18, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Hey Donna! This is such a great insight in your adventure 🙂 When I read your personal description I thought I’d read about myself! 🙂 Have fun on your journeys and keep posting about it!

    • donna
      October 18, 2015 at 10:24 am

      Hi Tosca, thanks for getting in touch. glad you enjoyed the piece, I’m writing a new article about Thailand now. Please tell me a bit more about yourself?

      • Barbara
        October 23, 2015 at 3:27 am

        Oh Thailand? Will you be coming to Chiang Mai? Would love to get in touch if you are in town.

        • donna
          October 23, 2015 at 3:53 am

          dear Barbara I am in chiang Mai now for another 5 days

  • Barbara
    October 23, 2015 at 3:25 am

    Wonderful piece Donna. We have been designing with indigenous textiles of South East Asia for several years and yet you unearthed some new ones for me here. When we started we had no idea how many groups there really were in this area of the world.

    • donna
      October 23, 2015 at 3:52 am

      yes Barbara I know, everyday I travel and see more and more, groups that are not in any books. I still have so much more to publish. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram for up to date details of what I am up to!

    • Barbara
      October 23, 2015 at 4:08 am

      Drop me a line if you fancy a meetup.

  • Thomas Wanderlust
    November 18, 2015 at 9:48 am

    What an awesome article of textiles of Vietnamese ethnic minorities! Thanks for your sharing.

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