The Tay are Vietnam’s largest ethnic group and have a close relationship with the Kinh. They reside in the northern provinces; however, I met this particular Tay woman in the Central Highlands while I was leaving a Mnong Village. She happens to be Kim Hai’s grandmother, one of my favourite subjects who is also part of my Giving Back Project. I’m a strong believer in Karma and the fact that her grandmother offered me her costume to display in the museum is no small gesture.
Unlike many mountain dwelling groups that live on steep slopes, the Tay settled in fertile valleys at the base of the mountain. In contrast with the very elaborate attire of many northern groups, the Tay costume is extremely subdued, composed of a straight skirt or trousers and a long tunique slit at the sides. It is very similar to the ao dai, the Kinh’s traditional costume. Only the bright belt – traditionally made out of silk – shimmers in contrast to the cotton indigo-dyed dress. Certain subgroups wear a shorter skirt and the Tay Pa Di adorn the austere costume with little touches of colour, silver elements and a cloth hat shaped like a house.