Vietnamese Yếm refers to an ancient Vietnamese bodice used primarily as an undergarment that was once worn by Vietnamese women across all classes. There exists a modern variant called "áo yếm", but the historical garment was simply called "yếm". It was most usually worn underneath a blouse or overcoat, for modesty's sake.
It is a simple garment with many variations from its basic form, which is a simple, usually diamond or square-cut piece of cloth draped over a woman's chest with strings to tie at the neck and back.
Yếm is similar to a garment called dù dōu (Chinese: 肚兜) that existed in ancient China. The origin of the yếm is still unknown to many historians and scholars. The yếm has been worn by northern Vietnamese women traditionally. Unlike other Vietnamese clothing that helped to segregate the classes, yếm were worn as an undergarment by Vietnamese women of all walks of life, from peasant women toiling in the fields to imperial consorts.
It is an integral part of the Áo tứ thân costume, which it is often worn underneath.
While it was worn across classes, the material and colors used to make yếm varied widely based upon the person's rank and the occasion. Commoner women usually wore yếm in simple blacks and whites for day to day use, whereas during special occasions they could opt for more festive, brighter colors such as red and pink. Indeed, much of Vietnamese poetry has been dedicated to the beauty of women in their "yếm đào", or vermilion bodices.
While the bottom of the yếm are v-shaped, there were different styles for the top of the garment which covered the neck, the most common two variations being the rounded neck or the v-shaped neck style.
In modern Vietnam
Fashion designers, in their constant quest to revitalize interest in traditional costumes as well as reinvent the latter have created many new collections of yếm. The modernized form of the garment is slightly different and is called "áo yếm" rather than simply "yếm", the latter referring to the historical garment. Áo yếm has proven to be quite popular with young women, perhaps due to its similarity to the Western halter top.
- Chinese History
- Vietnamese Traditional Costumes and Fashion
- The 'yếm', a Vietnamese garment replaced during westernization