There are a number of Mong ethnic groups, White Mong, Black Mong, Flowery Mong, and Green Mong, living in Vietnam’s northwestern mountain provinces. Their costumes are colorful. The women make the clothes for all the family members. Although they are starting to modern social values, Mong people still wear their traditional colorful costumes, which are now made of more modern materials.
The Mong women wear colorful costumes. A women’s suit includes a skirt, shirt, belt, headscarf, and a pair of leggings. The upper part of the skirt hugs the hips while the lower part spreads out in wide pleats. The shirt is fastened on the left front by a single button. The sleeves, collar, and edges are embroidered. Mong women’s costumes stand out colorfully against the green forests and grey mountains.
Mua A Tru, a Flowery Mong man who lives in Son La says he has watched his mother and sisters make clothes since he was small and now watches his wife. Tru says every single item is unique. “It takes a long time to make a garment. There are many decoration patterns and my mother and sisters have told me about them since I was small. Clever girls attract many suitors. At festivals, it’s fun to watch Mong people in colorful embroidered clothes throwing a Pao ball. In the spring, flowers blossom and Mong girls wear colorful embroidered dresses to match the atmosphere.”
The Mong people decorate their clothes with colored pieces of cloth. They embroider geometric patterns such as diamonds, crosses, triangles, squares, curves, and spirals. The Mong people say these patterns represent the sun, the moon, the weather, time, and space. The main colors are red, green, and yellow. Tru again: “Making skirts is one of our customs. We use many colors of thread to embroider things we like. The design is in our heads. We use many embroidery patterns on one skirt. Mong people like red, green, and yellow which represent flowers and leaves.”
|A Green Mong girl is making her skirt|
The Mong women spend their leisure time making skirts. Their rough hands are clever and quick in needle-work. Without any fixed design, they create harmonious embroidery patterns from their imagination. Hang Thi Nghenh, a Flowery Mong living in Son La province, says they are free to embroider any shapes or patterns they enjoy. “We teach our older daughters needle-work, progressing from simple to more sophisticated techniques. Once we could only make 1 or 2 skirts a year. Now we use sewing machines and can complete a skirt in a month.”
The skirt she wears characterizes a Mong girl, Nghenh told us: “Our skirt expresses our patience or liveliness. A wife or mother shows her positive attitude in the skirts she makes. At a wedding or funeral, we are criticized if we wear too simple a dress. We’ll be praised as resourceful and dexterous women if we wear nice skirts.”
Tru talks about the custom of wearing leggings: “Mong people often go to the forest and we have to wear leggings to protect against insect bites or sharp brush scratching our legs. The leggings also protect our skin against cold and sunburn.”
Despite their evolving lifestyle, young and old Mong people still wear their traditional hand-made clothes for daily work as well as festivals.
Lan Anh – VOVworld