Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ao Dai (Vietnamese Style Dress) for Little Momo

Happy Lunar New Year!

Sewing clothes that reflects our cultural backgrounds is something I have been wanting to do.   The idea has been pushed aside, because we do not have many occasions to wear such clothes, and mainly due to the difficulty I have anticipated.  But when Roots Sewing Series was announced at Elegance & Elephants, I thought I should try the sew-along...after all, I love sewing parties!

For this challenge I thought I should focus on my daughter's roots, not just mine.  My daughter reflects multiple cultural backgrounds, and one of them is Vietnamese.  Her Vietnamese grandmother brings back a Vietnamese dress, Ao Dai, for her every time she visits Vietnam.   I let Momo wear it when we go visit grandma for the new year's greetings.

Here are the dresses we have received in the past.

I am not going to talk like an Ao Dai expert here.  I am not from Vietnam and my knowledge is limited.  Most of the information is what I have heard from my hubby, and his knowledge is not perfect either  ;)   I own only one Ao Dai for myself.  ***

 Ao Dai is a long tunic dress paired with wide-legged pants.   It is usually made with silk, and usually custom-made to fit each one's body.  Children's Ao Dai are usually pre-made, and it seems they are not necessarily made with silk.

I heard less and less people are wearing them these days, even for the special occasion such as New year or weddings.  I understand it is not a practical everyday-wear, but it is sad to hear so.

I have seen many photos of Ao Dai on internet and at Vietnamese stores.  They are photos of woman's dresses and not children', but it seems modern-day Ao Dai is anything goes...they come in all different kinds of colors, sleeve shapes, and necklines, etc.  So I thought I should be able to do anything I wanted, as long as I keep the basic dress shape.

My very first attempt of Ao Dai dress....not so good :(

I modified Simplicity 3588 to make this.  Though the pattern says "easy" on the front, it was not least not to me. The instruction was confusing and I had to use my ripper many times.  I used piping around the collars and also on the front bodice, but those piping did not meet nicely in the center front.  I covered it up with a fabric flower, which my daughter liked, but the flower, puffy shoulders, too-long-sleeves, and the short side slits in this colorful print,  paired with the pants that are too short, made it look like a costume-gone-bad  :(

One thing I was afraid I would do is offending Vietnamese people out there by making a bad Ao-Dai-wanna-be.  My hubby assured Vietnamese people would no be offended by this dress, but they would be laughing at it.   I agree ;o   Though Momo loved it (just because it was purple), I cannot let her wear this again. 

So I went back to my sewing room and made a new one.

One of the reasons my first attempt was bad  is because I had hard time sewing this fabric.  It is a "silky" print from Jo-Ann.  I did not want to use a real silk, but I wanted something that drapes nicely.   I thought this was a very good alternative to a silk, but it is very slippery and frays a lot, just like silk.  I learned it is SO hard to cut and sew a slippery fabric.   While I was sewing the first Ao Dai attempt, I noticed the pieces did not match well...the fabric must have moved around while I was cutting and sewing.  This problem also created a weird curve on the back bottom hem line.  I did not want that for the second dress, so I changed to a simpler design and tried to sew better.

For this dress I traced one of Momo's round neck Ao Dai to create the pattern.   The sleeves were made a little longer, and the neckline was made a little wider.  I did not plan to make the neckline wide open, but as I was sewing I had to trim it to make it even.  Though I followed the tip to cut the slippery fabric on top of a tissue paper, it seems the fabric still moved a little.  But cutting and sewing the fabric on top of a tissue paper made a huge difference.  Without this tip I found online, I would have given up sewing with this fabric!

Side slits were made deeper this time, following hubby's suggestion.   I have never seen adults wearing undershirt to cover this part of skin, but I will of course let Momo wear a camisole or something when we go outside wearing this.

Invisible Zipper is used in the back.

The pants are just plain elastic-waist pants.  I used satin for the pants, and the leftover was used to make the bias tape.
Momo is holding up the Little Pony she proudly colored.  It is the year of the horse!

This challenge made me try new things- slippery fabric, invisible zipper, and creating my own piping.  I still need to read up a lot more tips on those things, but I am willing to try again.  I hope I can make those stand-up collars look good next time.  

I was able to finish the dress just before the Lunar New Year.  Momo will probably wear this to go see her grandma, who should be able to give me criticism and suggestions better than my hubby can ;)

Linking up to those fun parties.

Elegance & Elephants 


  1. I'm so glad you sewed for this series! I have absolutely loved every single Roots sewing project so far. I think it's neat that you sewed for the Vietnamese side- & I agree that Mo's Grandma will be able to give you some pointers. I think she'll be very flattered that you chose this garment for your Roots Sewalong too! I think it's nice that hubby gives you blunt honesty- "they won't be offended, they'll just laugh at you!" had me cracking up. Cute outfit, entertaining post! Let us know what Grandma says:)

  2. I find fabric like this is so hard to cut, too, as it moves all the time.I smiled at your husband's comment. Your husband's family will be pleased you have taken the time to sew this outfit.



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