Residents in Trach Xa Village say that after stopping the anarchy of 12 warlords many years ago, King Dinh Tien Hoang went to Son Tay to summon wise, skillful military commanders. During this time, he met Ms. Nguyen Thi Sen, and made her one of Four Queens.

Tailor Do Minh Tam and his student focus on finishing ao dais for customers.

With her intelligence and dexterity, she developed tailoring in the king’s place. After the assassination of King Dinh, Ms. Sen went to Trach Xa Village to hide from the murderers. As she was good at growing strawberries and breeding silkworms, she was able to tutor other people in nearby villages.

She taught tailoring to people in Trach Xa Village. They later built a tailoring temple and honored her work every year on the day of her death. 

Mr. Do Minh Tam, 58, a tailor with 38 years of experience, said that up until 2005, Trach Xa was a village that “gave birth” to people who pursued a tailoring career.

They did not have a factory to mass produce as ai dai is not like a shirt and each person has different measurements. The products of residents in the village were all made by hand.

Currently, about 95 percent of people in Trach Xa Village work as a tailor. While many tailors do their work with the assistance of machines, others produce handmade ao dais.

Ao dais are delivered to stores every day. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, tailors could not work efficiently. However, ao dais from Trach Xa Village always appear during national forums.

Male tailors in Trach Xa Village

Tailor Nguyen Van Nhien – a senior in Trach Xa Village.

Tailor Nguyen Van Nhien (89 years old) said: “In the past, tailoring could only be imparted to men because, normally, the teacher and the student would have to wander around to make ao dais. Sometimes, they might have to leave the village for over a month.”

They went to places that held many festivals such as Bac Ninh and Bac Giang.

The people did not want to instruct women but now both men and women can learn tailoring as they are afraid that if they do not impart it to everyone, no one will pursue this path.

When children in this village are able to hold a needle, they do easy work such as fastening buttons. This is a way to learn tailoring.

Mr. Tam said: “Although people keep complaining about my sewing method, I do not really care. If I decide to rely too much on technology, how can I preserve the tradition and elite quality from former generations?”

When they turn ao dai inside out, there is no trace of the needle line. Moreover, there are only tiny stitches like louse eggs on the front of ao dai. These are unique features of ao dai made from Trach Xa Village. Thanks to this sewing method, tailors can use either thin or thick silk without making customers uncomfortable.

Even though they have difficulties with improving and creating new forms of ao dai, traditional ao dai and its cultural values still exist. For thousands of years, tailors in Trach Xa Village have always put their heart and soul into each ao dai, so people can remember the village when they mention ao dai.

Hanh Nguyen