Unique headwear of La Hu girls

Traditional costumes typically demonstrate particular cultural characteristics of each of the 54 ethnic minority groups in Vietnam. For women in the La Hu community in Muong Te district, Lai Chau province, their intricate and unique headdresses show their desire for living in harmony with nature.

The headdress of a La Hu woman is usually made from green and red cloth which is embroidered with colourful patterns. The colour of these embroidered patterns must not only match the background colour of the scarf but the La Hu aesthetic as well. The scarf is also decorated with white beads. From the headdress a La Hu woman wears, one can see her embroidery talent.

A La Hu woman puts on her headdress carefully. First, she parts her long hair in the middle and fastens it with a reddish brown plastic ring and then puts on the scarf. Next, she ties and covers the pony tail with a colourful string and rolls it around her head. After that, she puts a round cap with colourful fringe on top of her head. This is an important sign to show that she is young because elder women do not wear this cap.

A reddish brown plastic ring used for fixing hair is the first step of wearing a La Hu headdress.

Thescarf – the second layer of theheadwear is carefully folded before being worn.

It is made from colourful fabric.

After the second layer is put on,the hair is rolled with a string.

The third layer of the headdress has long fringe on the back.

A woman will need help from others in putting on the third layer of the headwear beautifully and properly.

The fringe forms the last layer of the headdress.

La Hu women keep their hair long to wear their elegant traditional headdresses.

Theheaddress seen from behind.

Two generations of La Hu women in their traditionallong robes. During festive occasions,
La Hu women additionally wear a delicately decorated short jacket.

Colourful fringe makes La Hu women’s costume special.

Fringe makes the headwear look beautiful.

La Hu girls in Bum To commune, Muong Te district in traditional costumes sing and dance in the village cultural house.

In the past, when La Hu people didn’t live in the same village, their headdresses helped them recognize others from the same tribe when going out. The headwear also helps distinguish them from animals to avoid being mistaken by hunters.

Nowadays the La Hu have resettled in villages, but they still keep the tradition of wearing their eye-catching headdresses and costumes in community festivals and religious events.

Unlike women from other ethnic groups in the northeastern region, La Hu women wear black tight long dresses with simple blue trim but their colourful and intricate headdresses make them so graceful and unique. Theseheaddresses not only show the group’s aesthetic taste but also create an emphasis on their charming traditional costume.

According to the 2009 general survey on population and housing, the La Hu live in 16 out of 63 provinces and cities nationwide with a population of over 9,600. Over 99% live in Lai Chau province. In the past, the La Hu mostly livedon farming, hunting, and forest products. Their main farming tools were knives and hoes. For the last few decades, the group has started growing wet rice and using buffalos in farming. La Hu men are good at making rattan products and blacksmithing.

By Viet Cuong