Story: Dr. Tran Tan Vinh
Photo: Chu Viet Bac

Traditional outfits of the Hmong add color and charm to the highlands in springtime.

Ha Giang, the northernmost province of Vietnam, overwhelms with the beauty of its mountainous landscape. Magnificent rocky plateaus and a silky tapestry of peach, plum and apricot blossoms and buckwheat flowers are a backdrop for the Hmong people in their flamboyant and radiant traditional clothes.

Ha Giang is the residential hub of a variety of Hmong communities, spread across a variety of subcultures including the White Hmong, Red and Green Hmong, and Black Hmong. Among the key differentiators of these groups is their clothing. Hmong clothing is delicate and refined, among the finest of the ethnic minority groups in Vietnam. Woven and decorated primarily by skillful craftswomen, the clothing of each ethnic community varies in color and cuts.

The White Hmong people reside on the rocky plateaus of Dong Van. The tunics of White Hmong women are elaborately woven, feature flamboyant hues and are studded with glittering beads. The tunics are comprised of two layers, an inner lining and outer panels embroidered with geometric decorative patterns such as squares, rectangles, circles and spirals. The collar is V-shaped and lined with a rectangular patch with patterns on the back, while sleeves are embroidered with horizontal stripes of varied colors and elaborate patterns. White skirts are densely frilled and covered with refined decorative graphics. A belt is typically wrapped around their waist while headscarves are generally a simple white cloth band of minimal patterns. Hats are decorated with elaborate rims and studded with rhombic beads and tassels like a fabric tiara. The White Hmong outfit is completed by accessories such as necklaces and earrings.

The Green Hmong community is based in the scenic Quan Ba district of Ha Giang. The unique features of their traditional ethnic costumes are the decoration of color patchwork and embroidered patterns, notably cross-shaped ones. Green Hmong women wear wrapped skirts and the belt is an integral accessory that adds appeal to the outfit. The belt is 6 to 7 centimeters wide and 2 meters long, with a band of decorative patterns.

Decorative patterns of a Hmong dress

The Red Hmong people reside in Xin Man District. Their outfits are opulent and graphically rich with beautiful motifs. Clothes include a deeply cut tunic, skirt, belt and leggings. On the back of the tunic’s collar is rectangular embroidery of elaborate graphics, while sleeves are decorated with colorful and flamboyant patterns. These features contribute to the costumes’ mesmerizing beauty and make the outfits of Green Hmong stand among the overall Hmong ethnicity of Vietnam.

Black Hmong people, finally, can be found in Bac Me District, Ha Giang. Their clothes are made from flax, and at the nimble hands of Black Hmong women, decorative patterns and colors overflow delightfully on tunics and indigo-dyed skirts with batik prints.

Hmong communities are chiefly found in highlands areas, where chilly climates contribute to their multi-layered outfits. Traditional costumes are typically worn on special occasions or at highland marketplaces and the harmonious mixes of accessories and clothing adds a splash of vibrancy and color to their beautiful and rugged landscape.