The H'mong are the eighth largest ethnic minority in Vietnam with a total population of just under 600,000. Belonging to the Sino-Tibetan and specifically the H'mong-Dao language group, they settled widely over northern Vietnam but most densely along the Lao and Chinese borders.
White H'mong of Thuan Chau and Tuan Giao:
Some H'mong women can still be seen wearing the traditional white skirt
but most opt for the black trousers worn under a black apron and black
jacket with distinctive blue circles around the lower sleeves. This is
often worn with a plain black headscarf decorated with tassels.
Further north, the White H'mong of Sin Ho
are distinguished by their tall peaked black turbans from which may
hang a scarf. Some H'mong women also wear a white pleated skirt over
which is suspended a black apron.
The White H'mong of Northern Tuyen Quang Bac Can and Southern Cao Bang Provinces
is subtly different from that of the White H'mong elsewhere. The black
apron which covers the black pleated skirt has no vertical coloured
stripes but is tied in place by a wide floral or embroidered belt,
whilst the black jacket has wide bands of coloured material around the
sleeves and is characterised by a distinctive collar of thick
embroidered material which extends over the shoulders to form a large
rear panel. The outfit also features a black and white chequered
headband which is worn together with a patterned scarf.
White H'mong of Tam Duong usually wear a black or blue jacket with
concentric red embroidered panels and a thick red or floral belt.
The most notable feature of the Red H'mong women
of southern Lai Chau is their distinctive 'big hair' achieved by
carefully collecting all the dead hair that falls out and weaving it
into the living hair. Their traditional costume features a pleated
skirt of indigo batik with a particularly beautifully embroidered
border, worn under a black apron with a red/floral waist band and a
black jacket with large embroidered lapel panels at the front and
concentric circles of blue and floral material at the lower sleeves.
Flower H'mong of Lao Cai Province
are undoubtedly the most colourful of all branches of H'mong to be seen
in Vietnam. They wear a colourful embroidered calf length skirt
together with a highly embroidered jacket with a clasp under the right
shoulder. Although also seen around Tam Duong, you will be jostling
with hundreds of these ladies if you venture to Bac Ha market on a Sunday.
The Black H'mong women of Sapa
are instantly recognisable - by their sheer weight of numbers and their
distinctive black indigo skirt and shirt. Usually a long black
waistcoat is worn over the shirt and a black pillbox hat is worn on the
head. The ensemble is completed by black leg warmers.