A lasting impression for any visitor to Vietnam is the beauty of the women dressed in their ao dais. Girls dressed in white pick their way through muddy streets going home from school or sail by in a graceful chatter on their bikes. Secretaries in delicate pastels greet you at an office door and older ladies in deep shades of purple, green or blue cut a striking pose eating dinner at a restaurant. Its body-hugging top flows over wide trousers that brush the floor. Splits in the gown extend well above waist height and make it comfortable and easy to move in.

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Although virtually the whole body is swathed in soft flowing fabric, these splits give the odd glimpse of a bare midriff, making the outfit very sensual. How can the Vietnamese national costume, the ao dai, introduced nearly 250 years ago remain a common fixture at upscale events as well as in daily life? Because the ao dai has the remarkable ability to evolve in response to the time.

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Designer Duong Ngoc (Katty) for The Kat House (14 Nguyen Huu Cau, D1)