The Ha Nhi ethnic people in Bat Xat District in northern mountainous Lao Cai province live close to nature. That may be the reason why their costume is mainly green, in keeping with the colour of the mountains and forests of the northwest.
The Ha Nhi people have always been known to be diligent. Apart from growing wet rice on terraced fields for self-sufficiency they also grow cotton and weave fabric to make the typical costume of their ethnic group.
The costume of Ha Nhi women consists of a hat, a blouse, a waistband and a brassiere. The most striking feature of their costume is the hat. It is plaited from horse hair which creates a section of artificial hair across the woman’s forehead. It is very eye-catching.
A child’s hat is usually indigo in colour. It has the shape of a low cylinder with segments on its top and is decorated with silver coins. These coins show a wish for an affluent life and are also useful in avoiding harmful winds. The hat of a boy has tassels, made of fabric - and like most Ha Nhi clothing - is wonderfully colourful. A girl’s hat is more beautiful, with the adornment of many different coloured strings of beads.
Children’s hats show the aesthetics and the unique combination of colours of the Ha Nhi people. With the thought that the children’s hats preserve their souls, the Ha Nhi people decorate their hats with different materials to make them look sweeter and prettier.
Ha Nhi women wear a blouse of a green colour – the colour of nature, with a brassiere inside. The decorative patterns of the brassiere are revealed at the front.
The blouse is displayed with fringes that look like waves and clouds, and flowers made of silver. The cloth buttons also have the shape of flowers. Sleeves are embroidered with typical decorative patterns of the Ha Nhi ethnic group.
It takes Ha Nhi women over one month to complete a set of costumes for a woman or child, in which the embroidery of the decorative patterns on the sleeves takes an entire week.
A man’s costume is usually black with a green hem on the collar. A Ha Nhi man wears a turban instead of a hat which is useful for shielding the wearer from the sun and absorbing sweat. The buttons on the front are made of silver for warding off evil, but they also serve a decorative purpose too.
The Ha Nhi people wear only one type of costume. It is used both on workdays and for important events such as New Year Holidays, festivals, funerals and wedding ceremonies. For them, their costume symbolizes the culture and the individual beauty of their group.