Art is in the smallest details

The weekend is always a great time to enjoy art. For the Museum Week theme “Art is Everywhere,” we decided to introduce the image of a smiling woman from the Lolo Hoa ethnic group in Vietnam. She is wearing a traditional costume made with the applique technique, representing the beauty and ingenuity of her people.

A Lolo Hoa woman in her traditional costume

In applique, small pieces of coloured fabric are sewn on to a background to create patterns. Various coloured fabrics are cut into geometrical forms and sewn on to the fabric, while the threads are hidden behind the applique. This technique is used by some populations in the Northern mountains. Each group has its own specific patterns. The Lolo and the Pu Peo use triangular shapes to make patterns. The H’mong use a very elaborate technique called reverse applique. The top fabric layer is cut into patterns revealing the colour of the backing fabric.

Cloth of the Pu Peo with beautiful patterns created by using the applique technique

The apron of the H’mong people

The outfit below belongs to women of the Lolo Hoa ethnic group. The main technique used in making this dress is applique, combined with batik and embroidery to create colourful patterns. Square and triangular blocks on the costume symbolize the circulation of space, time, weather and crops. Tassels and beads on the hat represent the sky and the stars, fluttering as the wearer steps. When we look at the outfit, we might think there is nothing special about it. But as we examine it closely, we can see art in every small detail, from the craftsmanship of each piece of sewn fabric to the harmony of the overall colour scheme.

Costume of Lolo Hoa women from Hà Giang Province in 2000

Applique details on the sleeves and bodice

Just by looking at the costumes of different ethnic groups, we can see that art is not always something lofty and complex. It can appear everywhere, even in the smallest details. In addition to the Lolo Hoa, H’Mong and Pu Peo, other ethnic minority groups in Vietnam also have their own way of showing their beauty and identity through brocade products. Women who craft these products, play an important role in creating, preserving and promoting the diversity and uniqueness of Vietnamese culture.