More than one thousand people are expected to show up in downtown San Jose Saturday to celebrate the fifth Ao Dai Festival.
The ao dai (say "ow-zai") is a traditional Vietnamese outfit — a long tunic worn over pants, worn by women and men. Starting in the 18th century in the south of Vietnam, the ao dai has grown from a regional nod to tradition to something much bigger: a national symbol of Vietnamese beauty.
In recent years in San Jose, the ao dai has become something else yet again: a cultural point of pride most Vietnamese-Americans can get behind.
"It is neutral. It is something that everyone agrees is beautiful," says Trami Nguyen Cron, on the Ao Dai Festival’s steering committee. The author and founder of Chopsticks Alley, a nonprofit featuring Southeast Asian Artists in the Bay Area, adds, "Let's come together to celebrate being one, being Vietnamese!"
For so many who fled Vietnam as adults, modern art and music from the home country is an unpleasant reminder of the Communist regime.