Luong Van Thiet, a researcher from the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, said it’s easy to see the differences in their traditional costumes for festivals.
“The clothes of the flower Ha Nhi in Dien Bien and Lai Chau province are as colorful as flowers in the forest. They live close to nature and they reflect nature in their costumes. The dominant color is red, which is combined with white, yellow, and green patterns. The flower Ha Nhi women often wear hats with beautiful tassels,” he said.
It may take 5 or 6 months for a Ha Nhi woman to finish embroidering a set of clothes. She will decorate her clothes with motifs and pieces of metals.
While the clothes of the flower Ha Nhi are colorful and covered with complex embroidery, the clothes of the black Ha Nhi in Lao Cai are plain and elegant.
On a background of black, they embroider blue or white patterns. Clothes for children, including hats, are multi colored. A black Ha Nhi woman often wears a bun of artificial hair for decoration and to protect her from sun and rain.
A married woman will braid her hair and tie it around her head before covering her head with a scarf.
Folklorist Tran Huu Son said, “If a black Ha Nhi woman wears an indigo headscarf, it means she is married. The Ha Nhi believe that the soul resides in the head. A married woman has to protect her soul by wearing a headscarf.”
Ha Nhi men wear plain clothes which include a shirt, pants, a belt, and a headscarf. The shirt has buttons in the front and closely fits the torso. He wears loose pants tied around his waist with a cloth belt.
The clothes and patterns reflect the Ha Nhi culture and lifestyle which value harmony with nature. For the Ha Nhi, continuing to make and wear their traditional clothes is one way of preserving their culture for future generations.