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Ta Thi Tam
The costume of the Muong, especially those worn by women, stands out for its sophistication.
The Muong are the fourth largest ethnic group in Vietnam.
A Muong household makes brocade for a local trade company in Hoa Binh province__Photo: Trong Dat/VNA
The dress that a Muong woman wears consists of the mu (hat), the yem (bodice), the ao pan (blouse), the ao chung (robe), the wal (dress) and the tenh (belt). These are embellished with a variety of jewelry.
The mu is a white linen headdress which is wound around the head and fastened with a pin. The bra of Muong women is yem, a round-necked bodice bound with laces at the neck and back. The bodice, in white, is hemmed at the collar and underarm seams.
The traditional blouse of the Muong is ao pan, a short shirt made with silk or cotton in white, pink or green. The ao pan is a round-necked long-sleeved blouse without buttons hemmed from the collar down to flaps.
The ao chung is an indispensable garment for every Muong woman at important events such as weddings and the New Year festival. The robe, which is worn outside the yem and ao pan, is a long A-line garment fitted at the upper hip and widened towards the hem. The ao chung has an attached collar which is extended to the hem with a long piece of cloth. The robe, which has no button, is often white, but can also be worn in other colors, particularly during the New Year festival. A Muong bride usually wears a blue ao chung which falls below the knees.
The wal is a knee-length close-fitted dress which sets off the beauty and grace of Muong women. The dress, in black cotton or silk, is unique for its sash belt (tlook wal) and hem with carefully and skillfully embroidered patterns. The sash belt, which covers the upper part of the body, is made from three separate pieces of cloth seamed together into three tiers. Each tier is has intricate, beautiful embroidery in geometrical, floral and animal patterns, making the sash a truly great piece of art. The upper and middle tiers are usually decorated with geometrical patterns and the lower tier embroidered with colorful patterns in the shapes of dragons, turtles, phoenixes, fish, deers and the sun, which are stylized from the Dong Son bronze drum patterns. The most precious sash often left by old women to their descendants is made of specially smooth and glossy silk embroidered with dragon-shaped patterns, the dragon being a mythological animal of great symbolic significance.
The tenh is a green or blue silk belt that is elegantly tied by Muong women around their waist.
Muong women mostly make their clothes themselves, from weaving and dyeing the material to embroidering. They are very skillful at dyeing, making glossy fabric with fast colors. They can even make floral patterns in the dyeing process.
These beautiful and elegant dresses are worn along with intricately carved silver jewelry including rings, earrings, brooches, bracelets and necklaces. The bracelet is a very popular piece of jewelry among the Muong. Flat or round, they are usually carved with attractive patterns. Bead necklaces also feature gems in the shape of lozenges or hexagons.
Another adornment worn by Muong women is the day oc tro, a kind of silver container for keeping tobacco or aloe-wood that is suspended from the waistband by a cord. Day oc tro is worn only on festive occasions and is often gift exchanged by young lovers.
Muong women also wear the chatelaine, a silver chain mounted with some carved tiger claws and a small box of snail shells.
The costume of a Muong man is much simpler than that of a woman, but is not less attractive. Typically, the outfit has a shirt, a trouser and a belt.
Muong men wear a long, white, linen shirt that covers the hip. The long-sleeved shirt has a short layer of cloth under the shoulders to absorb sweat and a hem seamed from the collar towards the flaps. The button-up shirt has three pockets, one at the chest on the left side and two at the flaps.
The trouser worn by a Muong man is also made with linen, dyed brown or indigo. It has a wide waistband tied with a cloth string or an elastic band.
The belt is actually a long scarf tied around the waist with two long ends falling down to the knees.
Muong men have their hair coiled up and wear a turban. For weddings and festive occasions, they wear silk clothes in yellow or purple, blue turbans and purple-blue belt with a knee-length standing-collar blouse outside.
Together, a well-dressed Muong woman and man make a striking couple.-