Altar-inspired costume raises eyebrows in Vietnam

By Trang Shaelyn   May 29, 2019 | 11:25 pm PT
Altar-inspired costume raises eyebrows in Vietnam
The altar costume sketch by designer Pham Quang Minh, which has been entered for a contest to choose Vietnam's national costume at the Miss Universe 2019 pageant. Photo courtesy of Miss Universe Vietnam Facebook page
An altar-inspired costume sketch for a design contest stirs debate on whether it undermines the sanctity of a national tradition.

The contest is being held to choose Vietnam's national costume that will be worn by Vietnamese representative Hoang Thuy at the Miss Universe 2019 pageant.

The sketch by designer Pham Quang Minh is one of many submissions based on this year’s contest theme – Vietnam essence.

It is marked by a picture frame around the head and a bowl of incense around the hip. The dress’s rear carries images of a table full of food offerings including a boiled chicken and a plate with a variety of fruits, which relate to the Vietnamese tradition of ancestor worship.

On Miss Universe Vietnam's Facebook page, the sketch is leading the voting poll with more than 52,000 likes and 25,000 comments.

In a photo caption, Minh explained that the costume is meant to highlight the significance of ancestor worship among Vietnamese people.

Many people lavished praise for the sketch saying it is an original idea that accurately captured Eastern culture.

But many said the contest organizers should carefully consider using the costume, saying that putting the picture frame around the head and placing the incense burner around the hip would undermine the sanctity of the practice.

Facebook user Tu Thi Pham wrote in the comment section that the costume was "unqiue but does not look good," while another, Pham Le Diem My, felt "The design is too much."

Another Facebook user, Mens Ricto Bya, commented: "Setting up an altar is strange when one is not dead yet."

Sketches in this year competition. Photo courtesy of Facebook

(From L) Other ideas for the national costumes include xich lo (cyclo), ca phe sua da (condensed milk coffee), Quang-style noodles, a specialty of the ancient town Hoi An.

Hoang Thuy has not expressed any objection or support for the altar-inspired outfit.

The last date for submissions is June 15, after which the judges, public and Thuy will select the winning costume.

At the Miss Universe contest held in Thailand last year, Vietnam’s first ever ethnic minority contestant H'Hen Nie' wowed the audiences with the banh mi national costume and finished in the Top 5, the highest ever rank achieved by a Vietnamese contestant. She will be part of the judging panel in selecting the costume for this year’s competition.

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