The H'mong are the eighth largest ethnic minority in Vietnam with a total population of just under 600,000. Belonging to the Sino-Tibetan and specifically the H'mong-Dao language group, they settled widely over northern Vietnam but most densely along the Lao and Chinese borders. Like the Dao the H'mong build their houses on the ground rather than stilts. The H'mong are famous for their embroidery and also batik which is in evidence on the wide variety of costumes of the various branches. Each H'mong branch has certain characteristics but equally there is a huge variety in clothes of say the White H'mong in one district to another.

White H'mong of Thuan Chau and Tuan Giao. Some H'mong women can still be seen wearing the traditional white skirt but most opt for the black trousers worn under a black apron and black jacket with distinctive blue circles around the lower sleeves. This is often worn with a plain black headscarf decorated with tassles as in the picture of these ladies from Tuan Giao.

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Further north, the White H'mong of Sin Ho are distinguished by their tall peaked black turbans from which may hang a scarf (not in picture). Some H'mong ladies (like these) also wear a white pleated skirt over which is suspended a black apron.

The White H'mong of Northern Tuyen Quang Bac Can and Southern Cao Bang Provinces is subtly different from that of the White H'mong elsewhere. The black apron which covers the black pleated skirt has no vertical coloured stripes but is tied in place by a wide floral or embroidered belt, whilst the black jacket has wide bands of coloured material around the sleeves and is characterised by a distinctive collar of thick embroidered material which extends over the shoulders to form a large rear panel. The outfit also features a black and white chequered headband which is worn together with a patterned scarf.


The White H'mong (above) of Tam Duong usually wear a black or blue jacket with concentric red embroidered panels and a thick red or floral belt. This lady is wearing a typical H'mong skirt and leg warmers but some wear black trousers. The most notable feature of the Red H'mong (above) women of southern Lai Chau is their distinctive 'big hair' achieved by carefully collecting all the dead hair that falls out and weaving it into the living hair. Their traditional costume features a pleated skirt of indigo batik with a particularly beautifully embroidered border, worn under a black apron with a red/floral waist band and a black jacket with large embroidered lapel panels at the front and concentric circles of blue and floral material at the lower sleeves.


Flower H'mong of Lao Cai Province (above and right) are undoubtedly the most colourful of all branches of H'mong to be seen in Vietnam. They wear a colourful embroidered calf length skirt together with a highly embroidered jacket with a clasp under the right shoulder. Although also seen around Tam Duong, you will be jostling with hundreds of these ladies if you venture to Bac Ha market on a Sunday. I believe this is another Flower H'mong lady (above) photographed in Phu Yen in Yen Bai province. Notice also she has false hair similar to that worn by Red H'mong ladies of Lai Chau.


The ladies above are from a branch of the Flower H'mong living in Yen Bai province. They were photographed in a shop in Than Uyen

The Photo above shows the typical embroidered/batik patterns of another local branch of the colourful Flower H'mong. These girls are from Moc Chau


The Black H'mong women of Sapa are instantly recognisable - by their sheer weight of numbers and their distinctive black indigo skirt and shirt. Usually a long black waistcoat is worn over the shirt and a black pillbox hat is worn on the head. The ensemble is completed by black leg warmers.