2 May 2003 - Montana Cafe, Ho Chi Minh
Ao dai blues

On the surface it looks easy. Go and buy some ao dai. In the same way I'm asked to buy fridge magnets or the like, it should be just as easy. Just go in, pick one, pay money, collect goods. It should be easy.

But it isn't. And I'll tell you why it's so. It's the curse of being a man. No matter what sort of highly intelligent mind you think you've been blessed with (count: 19 years of education in three schools, two universities, resulting in two degrees, both post-graduate, one for real) there is nothing that can match the power that the female mind brings forth when she is shopping.

How else can you explain why shops go out of their way to make buying women's clothes as complicated as possible? Obviously, it's far too easy to keep things simple, like with men's clothes. No more than 16 basic colours, in no more than two or three basic styles. Let's face it: a pair of trousers is still a pair of trousers, regardless if you're using a fly or a button zip.

But you've got to make it complicated with women. I guess they get bored otherwise or something. And they all want something that nobody else has to boot.

When I went in to order an ao dai, consider this:

First, there's the simple matter of what do you want to buy. There is the traditional Vietnamese ao dai, and there's the elaboration which chinese-style buttons. If you choose one with the high slit, you can get trousers to go with it, otherwise you can have one that's like a cheongsam, kind of.

You can get them with short sleeves or long sleeves. The ones with short sleeves have all sorts of variations in the cleavage department, with lace-type patterns. The ones with the long sleeves are a little more conservative, but they too have patterns.

Next, the material. There's silk, and chinese silk, and 80% silk, and I suppose there's also other materials than silk. There's silk that's heavy, and silk that's light. There's silk with all sorts of embroidery and patterns. There's silk with funny glittery stuff on it. There's sheer stuff that is see-through. There's probably even plain silk, although there wasn't too much of that.

Then there's colour. Don't ask for blue, because you get something like ten shades of it. You need to be precise about it. You probably have to read off the individual red, green and blue wavelengths.

And then there's the size. Small, medium, large, busty, not-so busty, slim, square.

Yes, I did buy several in the end. I succumbed and went back to what I know best: simple patterns, simple colours and the word "silk" on the label was enough for me.


posted on Thursday, May 08, 2003 - permalink
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