Much of Eastern and Southeast Asian can look somewhat homogenous to the outsider, and Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese culture often gets muddled up, and whether it is expressed as anything from chopsticks to qipao the difference is seen through details. While it is hard to confuse traditional Chinese qipao with a Japanese kimono, it it easy when it comes to Vietnamese Ao Dai. So what are the common differences between them?
Well the most important difference between Vietnamese ao dai and Chinese qipao (Mandarin)/cheongsam (Cantonese) is that ao dai is ALWAYS worn with pants. While the qipao is never worn with pants.
Frog fasteners are typical trait on qipao, they are often very decorative. While the ao dai usually does not have frog fasteners; press studs are preferred.
Ao dai slits always begin at the waist level, that is why pants are necessary. While qipao slit starts on the thigh or even lower.
High collared ao dai have press studs with 1-2 hooks and eye closures at the end of the waist area. Qipao typically have frog fasters, press studs or invisible zippers on the right side.
Classic ao dai are long sleeved, while qipao go the whole nine yards: cap-sleeved, sleeveless, quarter length, three quarter length and long sleeved.
Ao dai sleeves are generaly raglan sleeves – the sleeves are extended to the neck line, which is not typical for qipao.
Both ao dai and qipao can be made of any material desirable. However ao dai designers generally seem to favor featherlight material.
Pictures above cover the “classic” tailoring styles of ao dai and cheongsam/qipao, which may or may not be followed by the latest fashion trends.
Image courtesy and detailed pictures of Nancy Duong