Hmong Textiles (Vietnam)
Red Hmong, Sin Ho Market, Lai Chau Vietnam
The Hmong are the eighth largest ethnic minority in Vietnam with a total population of around 700,000. Belonging to the Sino-Tibetan and specifically the Hmong-Dao language group, they settled widely over northern Vietnam but most densely along the Lao and Chinese borders.
The Hmong are famous for their embroidery and also batik which is seen in the wide variety of costumes seen throughout Northern Vietnam. For centuries clothing colour and style has been used to distinguish and name Hmong subgroups, hence each Hmong group has certain characteristics eg Red, Black, Green or Flower Hmong but within each of these groups there is a huge variety in clothing style from one village to another. As it becomes increasingly easier to buy and trade with different groups in some areas there is beginning to be a blurring of distinct costumes from one group to another especially in more populated towns and villages.
Some key similarities of their clothing is that skirts are traditionally made of hand woven hemp fabric which has a lesser number of pleats for day to day wear in the fields to that of highly pleated construction for festivals and special occasions. The day to day skirts comprise of around 4 to 6 metres of fabric and are constructed in two pieces. The top piece is pleated by hand onto a waistband with a wider decorated piece connected to form the full skirt.
Red Hmong (Hmong Do)
The most notable feature of the Red Hmong women of the Sin Ho district in North West Vietnam in the Lai Chau province is not their clothing but their very distinctive enormous hairdos (see the photo top right). The women collect dead hair that falls out and weave it into the living hair – I have also heard of them collecting their mother’s and grand-mothers hair and weaving it into their own. The women then depending on what the tradition in their village is decorate their hair eg. red yarns or distinctive head bands (see to the photo to the right). Their traditional dress features a pleated skirt of indigo dyed batik with an intricate embroidered border, which is worn under a black apron with a red or floral waist band and a black jacket with embroidered lapel panels at the front and stipes of floral fabric on the sleeves.
Flower Hmong (Hmong Hoa or sometimes called Chinese Hmong)
The Flower Hmong who live in and around the Lao Cai Province in Northern Vietnam are one of the most colourful of all of the Vietnamese Hmong groups. They wear a colourful embroidered skirt along with a jacket which has a highly embroidered and braided collar piece and sleeves which is usually fastened to the right with decorative frog buttons. In the past all of their garments have been hand embroidered and made of hand woven and indigo dyed hemp, however in recent times there is an increasing presence of synthetic fabrics and glitzy embroidered braids in the local markets, so lets hope that the magnificent hand embroidered and hand woven costumes are not wiped out. Traditional head scarves have been replaced entirely with a brightly checked (almost tartan like) pink and blue acrylic scarves.
Black Hmong (Hmong Den)
The Black Hmong women of also found in the Lao Cai area wear layers of black indigo dyed clothing comprising of a skirt, shirt and waistcoat which are gathered at the waist with a side hemp belt. They wear either a black pillbox hat on their heads or wrap their hair into a roll which is held in place by combs. The women also wear a distinctive wrap of black hemp fabric on their legs.