HÀ NỘI — An art project featuring typical women’s costumes during the Nguyễn Dynasty (1802-1945) was created during the social distancing period by Nguyễn Quốc Trí, a.k.a Kris Nguyễn, an illustrator in Bình Thạnh District in HCM City. Women’s Clothing from the Nguyễn Dynasty, which consists of over 10 illustrations in chibi style, aims to shed more light on Việt Nam’s costumes during the historical period. Many people think that the costumes of the Nguyễn Dynasty were not diverse. The most widely known clothing during this period is traditional five-flap tunic with tight-fitting sleeves, the predecessor of the current áo dài (Vietnamese traditional long dress),” Kris told Việt Nam News. In fact, they were truly varied. Different regions in the nation had different ways of dressing and variations on five-flap shirts. Therefore, I hope to offer another outlook and better understanding of the costumes in this era via this project,” he added. The 24-year-old illustrator explained that he has chosen chibi style to depict the clothing in a simplified manner that enables the viewers to easily access them without getting bored. Women’s Clothing from the Nguyễn Dynasty was completed within a month. The first five illustrations featuring the special forms were finished and introduced in the first two weeks and the rest done in the last week.
To ensure the accuracy of the costumes, Kris simplified the small parts of the patterns and focused on depicting their styles. At the same time, he consulted many reputable sources of information and specialists with thorough knowledge of history. The most difficult thing for Kris is changing the mindset of most viewers. “Some people still think that the ancient Vietnamese costumes look like those of Chinese or that they don’t look authentic Vietnamese. It is inevitable as Việt Nam has been through a period of severe cultural fracture. “So I needed to create a new series of images, simple and receptive, that could convince even the most demanding people,” he said.
Among women’s clothing from the Nguyễn Dynasty, Kris is most impressed with the five-flap tunic with tight-fitting sleeves, the simplest outfit and also the predecessor of modern áo dài. “The coordination and mix of the accessories and hair style of the women in this outfit was extremely diverse. Moreover, different regions have different variations. The variety in pattern design is also one of the things that makes this plain-looking outfit so unique,” he said. At the moment, Women’s Clothing from the Nguyễn Dynasty could not be commercially exploited so Kris plans to develop the illustrations into a set of postcards that could be sold online as soon as the pandemic is under control. A descendant of Lord Nguyễn Phúc Khoát, the 8th lord of the Nguyễn Dynasty, Tôn Thất Minh Khôi, highly appraises the cute drawing style featured in the art project, as it enables historical topics to become close and accessible to the mass audience. He also commented that the project has been consulted with clear and reliable sources of information, enabling the viewers to envision the clothing of Vietnamese women from all walks of life in different regions during the Nguyễn Dynasty and therefore to have a vivid visual reference source on studying the matter. “Kris’s project has reflected the diversity in the clothing of the Nguyễn Dynasty, and at the same time, created a premise for further similar studies. I much anticipate the project featuring men’s clothing also by Kris,” Khôi told Pháp Luật Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh (HCMC Law) e-newspaper.
Women’s Clothing from the Nguyễn Dynasty is not the first project of the graduate of Tôn Đức Thắng University with a passion for culture and tradition. Earlier, Kris had created many art projects featuring Vietnamese culture infused with modern colours. His style has been greatly influenced by Mai Trung Thứ and Lê Phổ, two late renowned Vietnamese painters who paved the foundation of contemporary Vietnamese arts.
Besides working as a graphic designer and illustrator in HCM City, Kris is also the co-founder of Hoa Niên, a business on Vietnamese ancient clothing, which has become his source of inspiration to study and develop his art projects. “I have had a strong passion for Asian cultures, particularly those of Japan, China and Việt Nam, since I was a student. The further I have studied, the more I have found out that many issues in Vietnamese culture have rarely been known to the public. My art projects therefore aim to provide an outlook on Việt Nam as a wealthy, colourful and vibrant nation,” he said. Kris also revealed that he would create more projects featuring Vietnamese royal and folk tales in the future, the highlights of which are the costumes and the lifestyles of ancient Vietnamese people, to tell the stories of the old days to the young people. —