Vietnam has a centuries-old tradition of silk weaving and embroidery. Silk does not only play a huge role in Vietnamese society, but has also been integrated as a staple in Vietnamese culture. From a type of currency in trade to a work of art to showcase Vietnamese beauty, silk has always played a big part in Vietnam’s history and economic development and still plays a prominent role in the culture today.

Silk, called by Lụa in Vietnamese, was considered an extravagant luxury in the feudal times. Associated with wealth and success, it was only worn by Kings, Queens, and the mandarins. Vietnam’s various dynasties developed strict rules regimenting the color, ornamentation, style, and fabric of clothes worn by the aristocrats.

 

Vietnam’s Last Emperor Dragon Gown. The gown was an handmade art from 14 meters of silk fabric that were sewed up by small embroidered pieces together. The fabric was weaved from 8kg silk yarn, lined in thin threads, dyed with herbs for natural colors, and sewed with gold lamé yarn and beads. The gown is almost 100-years-old now.

 

During the war years, life was difficult in Vietnam. Every family had to figure out a way to stay alive. Silk embroidery was an answer among the ways. Women who were good at sewing and crafting would build an embroidery business. In those days, there was a huge trend for the newly-weds bringing in their finest silk to make the pillowcases or handkerchiefs with two embroidered doves and the initials of the couple intertwined. Sometimes, it could also be flowers and loving words such as hạnh phúc (happiness), chung thủy (faithfulness), or mãi mãi (eternal love).

On the other hand, the handkerchiefs were made for the soldiers. The embroidery would carry the messages like “I love you” or đợi chờ (waiting for you). Mothers, wives, and girlfriends commissioned these pieces as good-bye gifts for the soldiers going off to the battle. Deeply inside, a woman who gave a soldier a handkerchief was sending him off with all her heart. It was not just a simple gift, but was also a symbol of commitment, like an engagement ring. The handkerchiefs had the tears of the person left behind.  And it had the tears and blood of the one who went on one way-journey, of sacrifice, and of death. The handkerchiefs became much valued mementos in a time of great struggle.

Nowadays, as the economy of Vietnam is growing rapidly, silk embroidery has been made accessible and affordable to the ordinary citizen, and practically everyone. Through the years, silk developed into a fashion statement in which it evolved into a variety of designs and colors. Silk embroidery is not only appeared on the handkerchiefs and pillowcases, but also use in daily out-fits, homewear clothing, and dressing gowns in the special occasions for both men and women. One thing that has never changed is the great value of Silk in society.

Silk embroidery is an art. It requires patience and precision. And it must be made with love. When you acquire clothes from The Silk, you are not just wearing a piece of cloth. You will carry with you the heart and soul of the artisan who made the pillowcases and handkerchiefs for soldiers 40 years ago.