The art of the Red Dao people’s costume decoration

Thursday, 2018-07-05 09:53:41
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Red Dao women dressed in their colourful and elaborately decorated traditional costumes (
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NDO – The craft of making the colourful and elaborately decorated costumes of Red Dao women in Bac Kan province is careful and demanding process in every step, from dyeing to weaving and sewing.

Despite the advent of modernisation bringing a new breath into cultural life, the art of costume decoration has been preserved and promoted by local women.

Every Red Dao girl was taught tailoring, needlework and embroidery from a very young age. Before getting married, a Red Dao ethnic woman has to complete her own traditional outfit.

The traditional costumes of Red Dao women are divided into daily and ceremonial costumes, in both of them, red is an indispensable colour.

In their daily lives, Red Dao women wear a blouse, trousers, belt, and headwear. A set of ceremonial costumes includes a tunic, scarf, belt, and trousers, which are lavishly embroidered with motifs and patterns.

The most important part of a Red Dao woman’s outfit is the long-sleeve blouse, which covers over their trousers and is commonly made in black or indigo. The sleeves are decorated with lines of patterns, while the belt is embroidered with motifs such as herbs, tiger’s footprints, flowers, stars and pine trees.

The trousers are primarily decorated in two tubes with horizontal stripes from cuffs to knees.

A strip of red fabric wraps around the women’s hips, which is adorned with two rows of embroidered white jigsaw under red, blue and yellow tassels.

Underneath the tunic, Red Dao women wear a traditional bodice, which is embroidered in red and yellow and decorated with handmade silver flowers.

The men typically wear a short shirt with long trousers, and a head-scarf.

Every Red Dao girl was taught tailoring, needlework and embroidery from a very young age. (Photo:

To safeguard the unique decoration of Red Dao people’s traditional costumes, Bac Kan provincial authorities have made field trips to study and support the practice in Ngoc Phai commune, Cho Dong district, where a majority of women still wear their traditional costumes in their daily lives.

Trieu Thi Sinh from Ban Cuon 2 hamlet in the commune has more than 60 years of experience in weaving and embroidering costumes. It takes a Red Dao woman up to one or even two years to finish a full traditional outfit by herself. The sophistication in every step of the process has made the uniqueness of Red Dao people’s costumes, distinguishing them from other tribes’ clothes.

Head of Cho Don district’s Cultural and Information Office, Ha Thi Khanh said that the district’s authorities have assisted locals in fully restoring the manual decoration of Red Dao ethnic costumes while taking actions to pass on the indigenous techniques to younger generations.

In the coming time, local residents will be provided with financial support to display and promote their products, which are expected to generate income for them.

Thanks to the efforts made by local residents and authorities, the art of the Red Dao people’s costume decoration in Ngoc Phai commune, Cho Don district was recently recognised by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism as a national intangible cultural heritage.