Dao Tien Ethnic Costumes

Dao Tien people in Bac Kan province scattered in the districts of Ba Be, Ngan Son,... form an ethnic group with a unique culture. Their costumes are sophisticated but appropriate for their production labor practices. Unlike the Red Dao people, whose costumes mostly have red features, the main colors of the costumes of Dao Tien people in Bac Kan are indigo and white, which is delicate but elegant and harmonious
Traditional costume of Dao Tien women
Dao Tien woman in traditional costume

Among the ethnic groups living around Ba Be lake, the Dao ethnic is the second largest ethnic group with about 18 large and small villages. They are distributed mainly on the North and East of the lake, among which are local villages such as Na Nghe, Coc Long or Na Co.

From the past until now, Dao Tien people’s costumes have become distinctive in part because of the art of decoration and indigo dyeing techniques. These are 2 basic elements to make a beautiful costume. In addition, the combination of two main colors (white and indigo) also contributes to creating a unique character that the other group ethnic don’t have
decoration on Dao Tien traditional outfit
An outfit embroidering stylized dog and eight-petal flower

How do Dao Tien people make fabrics for their costumes?
Cotton plants after being brought home are boiled, soaked in cold water and then removed into many small lumps of cotton. Looms are the main tools used for the costumes, which are essential in every Dao Tien family. With only two main fabric shuttles, Dao Tien women weave into square pieces of fabric about 30 to 40 cm one way. They use drawing tools, which are pens with copper sticks or bamboo sticks breaking into a triangle, to create patterns of the costume. The large one is for drawing flowers and the medium is for drawing squares, round birds, snails. The costumes of Dao tien women are very elaborate and time-consuming. The Dao Tien people believed that wearing an outfit embroidering stylized dogs and eight-petal flowers when going to the forest would help avoid tigers and have much luck
Combination of traditional and modern clothes in Dao Tien costumes
A Dao people combines their costumes with modern clothes like those of the Kinh people

After melting the beeswax, Dao Tien women dip the tips of the pen to draw patterns on the cloth. Then, they bring that cloth to dye with indigo. When the process of dyeing is completed, they take it to the hot water to dissolve the wax. Some areas on the cloth, which are painted by beeswax but without dyeing indigo, have a beautiful harmonized blue color. A complete costume of Dao people includes: tops, camisoles, leggings, belts, headscarves, long skirts and gold and silver jewelry… Only Dao Tien people wear skirts in the Dao ethnic community. Nowadays, like the Tay ethnic group, a small part of the Dao people begin to combine their costumes with modern clothes like the Kinh people, which makes the daily activities and production more convenient.


The body of a Dao Tien women’s shirt is usually formed from two basic pieces of fabric that are folded. The two front bodies leave, with splints from the collar down to split. The sleeves are sewn in the form of tube sleeves, the cuffs are embroidered as in the chest splint. The collar in the back is worn with some silver coins from 6 to 12 ‘dong’. Dao Tien women are fond of jewelry, mainly white silver or metal coins, they usually use white silver rings to decorate. Their costumes’ buttons are made of silver with a diameter from 6 to 7cm and attached remarkably on the indigo shirt. The whole set of jewelry weighs up to several kilograms
Dao Tien women are fond of jewelries
Dao Tien women are fond of jewelry, mainly white silver or metal coins, they usually use white silver rings to decorate

Dao Tien women’s headscarves are white and are about 1.2m to 1.5 long. Two ends of the scarf have 2 pieces of square patterns. When wearing a scarf, Dao Tien women usually tuft their hair back to the top of the head, slightly forward.
Like many other ethnic people, the Dao Tien’s girls were taught sewing, weaving, and embroidering by their mothers when they were young. According to the concept of Dao tien people, when a girl gets married, besides her dress made by herself for the past year, there are also dowries of silver jewelry given by her parents. These jewelries will be kept as family treasures and will be handed over to the next generation.  

On ordinary days, Dao Tien men wear brown shirts with two pockets. On important occasions, they wear indigo shirts,  heads wearing black scarves or berets.
Specially, the art of decoration is not complicated, menswears is more simple than women’s. They have only a black-dot shirt, with a red cloth hem the length of a belt, a 2m long waist. The two ends of the belt hang red, white, purple, black each knit into the shape of large, colorful worms.When dancing, they turn around and the shirts spread shimmering beautifully
While Dao Tien women have only one type of costume, the men have three different types. The casual outfit included a basic beret, flared pants and a four-shirt with 3 pockets and buttons. However, on the “Le Cap Sac” (Coming of Age Ceremony, which is a religious or solemn ceremony of Dao Tien people), Dao Tien men wear the same costume as women, but slightly shorter
Dao Tien man in traditional costume
While Dao Tien women have only one type of costume, the men have three different types.

From past to present, Dao Tien people’s costumes have not changed, except that nowadays, when conditions are better, people embroider traditional costumes more colorful and diverse. Dao Tien people as well as the other enthnic people have always carried a sense of nationalism. They respect the traditional costumes and always have a conscience to preserve them. They still keep the habit of making outfits by themselves and wear traditional costumes in all the occasions such as going to market, to the fields, traditional festivals or coming of ages ceremony, etc. Even Dao Tien children have been inspired by the spirit of tradition because of their splendid costumes sewn by their mothers  when they were young. On occasions of local fair at the market, Dao Tien women look very graceful to be wearing traditional costumes, which create a beautiful image in the highland village and express their love and pride towards traditional cultural values through generations.

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