The Giay constitute one of the smallest ethnic groups in the country. They immigrated from China but settled in the northern regions of Vietnam around 200 years ago. I met the Giay several times over the last nine years in the touristic regions around Sa Pa where their assimilation to the Vietnamese people was already well underway. In 2018, I decided to search for an example of the Giay traditional costume. I rode for more than two hours on my bike into the mountains to finally find the tribe.
The Giay’s original costume was particularly subdued in its black uniformity, but this version is now practically impossible to find. There have been a great many changes over the last 40 years, and color—in particular blue—made its way onto the modernized costume. In the past, the Giay made their garments from cotton; however, this new costume, which is rarely worn, is made from synthetic fabrics and purchased. One Giay woman told me that her children asked her to burn all her old traditional clothing to make space in their house! Sin Thi Rum, 82, kindly put on an example of their original costume for this portrait.