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History of “ao dai” revealed in Saigon exhibit

In the 19th century, ao nam than (five-part dress), create from two pieces of fabric, gained popularity. The four parts represent the parents of married couples, with the fifth symbolizing the wearer themselves. The outfit always had five buttons, representing Five Constant Virtues in Confucianism, including Kindness, Decorum, Uprightness, Wisdom and Faithfulness. Northern women in the early 20th century usually wore “ao nam than” with buttons moved from the front to an opening along the shoulder and side seam in order to show their necklaces.