The youths, who run the Facebook page Nguyen Phong Doan Linh, came together three months ago thanks to a common love for Vietnamese history and recreating antique royal costumes.
The group’s name embodies the hope to preserve the cultural value of antique costumes and their place in the history of Vietnam.
“Founded on the passion to explore our country’s culture and history, Nguyen Phong Doan Linh is a place where knowledge is shared by everybody,” the page’s description reads.
Its members, who come from various backgrounds and are pursuing career paths unrelated to history, have just completed their first costume – a royal dress worn by Princess My Luong, first daughter of 19th-century Emperor Duc Duc, who reigned for only a few days in 1883 before being dethroned during a coup.
Princess My Luong, wearing the Nhat Binh dress, is fanned by two servants in this photo taken by a National Geographic photojournalist in 1931. Photo: National Geographic
The dress, named Nhat Binh, was designed on computer software and created using an industrial sewing machine to reduce costs, which would otherwise have added up to approximately VND1 billion (US$44,463) if done by hand.
The group substituted real gold with brass, and ordered traditionally made satin from South Korea to sustain an authentic, but still affordable look.
“Through the recreation of the Nhat Binh dress, we look to offer modern-day Vietnamese a closer look at the sophistication and intricacy of royal costumes worn during imperial Vietnam,” the group said.
“We hope that people, especially young people, will look at these costumes and develop an interest in their country’s history,” said Minh Tuan, the group member responsible for publicity. “We hope that the recreation of antique costumes will become a new and captivating means of spreading historical knowledge, as each costume is an embodiment of the culture of its time.”
The Nhat Binh dress of Princess My Luong is being made. Photo: Nguyen Phong Doan Linh
Work on the dress began with collecting historical evidence through books and museums to ensure its accuracy, as every pattern on the dress carries a symbolic meaning that signifies a period of time in history.
“We had to ask a friend who was overseas to go to libraries and museums to purchase books on Vietnamese history and take photos of how royal members dressed at the time,” Tuan said. “At times during the history of imperial Vietnam, books were burnt as a result of war, so finding historical records can be challenging.”
After the initial success and overwhelming support for their first dress, Nguyen Phong Doan Linh is hoping to bring to life more costumes worn by other members of the Nguyen dynasty – the last ruling family of Vietnam.
“At the end of 2017, history lovers in Ho Chi Minh City will be treated with a fashion show showcasing Nguyen Phong Doan Linh’s recreated costumes,” the group promised.
Photos of the Nhat Binh dress worn by Princess My Luong taken by Nguyen Phong Doan Linh: