For centuries, peasant women typically wore a halter top (yếm) underneath a blouse or overcoat, alongside a skirt (váy). It was up to the 1920s in Vietnam’s north area in isolated hamlets wear skirts were worn. Before Nguyễn dynasty, the cross-collared robe (áo giao lĩnh) was worn popularly, like the other countries in the Sinophere including China (see Ancient Chinese clothing), Japan (Japanese clothing) and Korea (Korean clothing).
Bách Việt (Baiyue) period
The Han Chinese referred to the various non-Han “barbarian” peoples of north Vietnam and southern China as “Yue”[disambiguation needed] (Việt) or Baiyue, saying they possessed common habits like adapting to water, having their hair cropped short and tattooed. The Han also said their language was “animal shrieking” and that they lacked morals, modesty, civilization and culture.
During the Vietnamese Trung sisters’ rebellion (Khởi nghĩa Hai Bà Trưng – Đánh đuổi Tô Định) against the Han dynasty’s First Chinese domination of Vietnam, the Han Chinese administrator of Jiaozhi (Vietnam), Sū Dìng (蘇定 Tô Định) only managed to escape to China and avoid being discovered by the Vietnamese rebels by shaving his long hair to blend in with Vietnamese along the way since shaving hair was a common custom of Vietnamese men of that era but not of Chinese men as Nguyễn Khắc Thuần recorded.
Lý dynasty to Trần dynasty (1009–1400)
Vietnamese wore a round neck costume, which made from 4 part of cloths called áo tứ điên. Both men and women could wear that. Besides, there are other types such as: áo giao lĩnh (cross-collared robe). The garments “áo” (áo is for the upper part of body) is over knee length, round neck garments have buttoned, when cross-collared robe tied to the right. The ambassador Zhao Rukuo (Triệu Nhữ Thích) commented that the dress style of Vietnamese people at that time (1125) was not much different from the Chinese in Song dynasty.
Fourth Chinese domination of Vietnam
When Han Chinese ruled the Vietnamese in the Fourth Chinese domination of Vietnam due to the Ming dynasty’s conquest during the Ming–Hồ War they imposed the Han Chinese style of men wearing long hair on short haired Vietnamese men. Vietnamese were ordered to stop cutting and instead grow their hair long and switch to Han Chinese clothing in only a month by a Ming official. Ming administrators said their mission was to civilized the unorthodox Vietnamese barbarians. The Ming dynasty only wanted the Vietnamese to wear long hair and to stop teeth blackening so they could have white teeth and long hair like Chinese.
Later Lê dynasty (1428–1789)
After ending the Fourth Chinese domination of Vietnam, people of Đại Việt started to rebuild the country. Because the Ming invaders had destroyed almost documents from the previous dynasties of Vietnam, the government had to reconstruct, reused old clothes from previous dynasties, mostly Trần dynasty. In 1435 emperor Lê Thái Tổ had appointed the high-rank mandarin Nguyễn Trãi to find the new costume adoption, but Nguyễn Trãi had failed on a debating with another mandarin name Lương Đặng, who strongly suggests adopting Ming clothing. Since November 1437, the new dress regulation for emperor and whole bureaucracy system was adopted, which resembled from the Ming dynasty, included for every commune, district to province quan in the country. High-rank mandarins from 3rd to 1st wore red robes, medium-rank mandarin from 5th to 4th wore green robes, and all lowers wore blue robes, and all Mandarins wore mũ Ô Sa (a Vietnamese longer variant Wushamao 烏紗帽). During the first period, Lê emperors wore the mũ Xung Thiên (Yishanguan 翼善冠), which was sent from Ming Dynasty, for examples, in October 1442, Lê Nhân Tông received mũ Xung Thiên from Emperor Yingzong of Ming. During this period, cross-collared robe called áo giao lĩnh was popular among civilians. The Lê dynasty encouraged the civilians back to the traditional customs: have teeth blackening as well as have hair cut and head shaven. A royal edict was issued by Vietnam in 1474 forbidding Vietnamese from adopting foreign languages, hairstyles and clothes like that of the Lao, Champa or the “Northerners” which referred to the Ming. The edict was recorded in the 1479 Complete Chronicle of Dai Viet of Ngô Sĩ Liên.