One of the best rewards when visiting Sapa, a former French’s hill station in northern Vietnam, is the opportunity to interact with the local hill tribes. Living in small and humble villages locating along the mountain trails, the H’mong and Red Dao people are among the most popular ethnic minorities in the area. For Incense Travel advisor Buffalo Joe, their costume techniques is still the most amazing thing, that make the local ethnic attracting gems of the mountains north.


Red Dao women wear some of the most colorful and diverse costumes of all ethnic groups. They wear a long blouse over trousers, their clothes are colorfully embroidered with designs and silver jewelry. They also wear a distinctive red triangular shaped turban decorated with silver coins, and many red tassels. Red Dao men typically wear a short shirt with long trousers, and a head-scarf. Both men and women have a square piece of fabric on the back of their shirts, representing that they are children of God.



Black H’mong women are most famous for making cloth from hemp, and dying it a deep indigo blue. They wear long blouses decorated with batik flowers over short trousers, and wrap long scarves around their legs. They also wrap their long hair around their head, and wear a blue turban. Traditional costume for H’mong men include long jackets with shirts and a long waist coat embroidered at the collar, and a small black hat. It is very important for a H’mong girl to know the embroidery and farming works, which is even more important than her beauty.



Here are techniques that H’mong and Red Dao using to make patterns for their fabulous traditional costumes.




Traditionally clothes are hand-stitched, with white, pink or blue stitches along hems. Every year, H’mong women may stitch a set of clothes for each family member. During weeks before Tet (new year), they are especially busy sewing and finishing their clothes, as everyone want to wear their best outfits for the new year.




Embroidery is a popular technique among hill tribes in the mountains of Sapa, ethnic minority women embroider at the market, rice fields or while hanging out with neighbors. While H’mong people in Sapa prefers cross stitch, the Dao people use more of the running stitch or chain stitch. Tradition of embroidery is passed on from generation to generation, girls learn to embroider at the age of 12 or 13.


The H’mong woman is not a woman if she can’t embroider. In the past, most women embroidered for herself and members in the family. Now embroidery mostly used to decorate bags and cushion covers.




Batik is a covered-dye technique, in which a part of the fabric is covered by wax during the dyeing process to create a pattern. This technique is used by H’mong people in northern Vietnam, especially those living in the mountains of Sapa. Patterns are drawn on the fabric with melted wax by using curved copper, triangular pads or tiny bamboo tubes. When the wax is dry, the fabric is dyed in indigo several times before being dipped in boiling water to melt the wax. Finally, the pattern covered by the wax will appear as a light color on the indigo background.





Applique is a popular technique used by both H’mong and Dao people, small pieces of colored fabric are sewn on to a background to create patterns. Various colored fabrics are cut into geometrical forms and sewn on to the fabric while the threads are hidden behind the applique. The H’mong use a very elaborate technique called reverse applique, the top fabric layer is cut into patterns revealing the color of the background.





Ikat is a covered-dye technique like batik, but instead of covering the fabric, they cover the threads covered before dying. Some threads are tied up with plant barks or nylon fibers to protect them from the dyeing process. The dyeing process is repeated several times to obtains a multicolored thread that is used for the weft during weaving.


To experience the mountains and meet the ethnic hill tribes in Sapa, contact Incense Travel to start customizing your private luxury tour. It is easy to include Sapa into your itinerary to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.



Buffalo Joe