- Kacey Musgraves has been accused of cultural appropriation after performing in an áo dài, a traditional Vietnamese dress, on October 11.
- The garment is a form-fitting dress typically worn with loose pants underneath. Musgraves didn’t wear pants with the ensemble and added a decorative Indian headpiece that does not have ties to the áo dài.
- Musgraves posted several images of herself wearing the dress on her Instagram story, leading many on social media as well as some prominent Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American figures to critique the outfit choice.
- “Please don’t further degrade this key part of Vietnamese culture and put on some pants like everyone else that wears áo dài,” wrote poet Mai Nguyen Do on Twitter.
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Grammy-award winning country singer Kacey Musgraves is under fire after performing in a traditional Vietnamese dress.
During a concert in Dallas, Texas, on October 11, Musgraves wore an áo dài, a form-fitting Vietnamese dress with high slits on the side. While áo dàis are typically worn with loose pants underneath, Musgraves wore her dress without pants and added a headpiece to her ensemble that is not traditionally worn with the garment.
After Musgraves posted images of herself wearing the dress to her Instagram story, some social-media users accused her of cultural appropriation
Critics argued Musgraves’ lack of pants was disrespectful.
One Twitter user seemed to feel that Musgraves disregarded Vietnamese traditions surrounding áo dàis, citing other stars who, in her opinion, have worn them more respectfully.
naomi campbell has worn an ao dai by a vietnamese designer while in vietnam. tyra banks wore one while in vietnam for antp. there’s ways to do it respectfully—unfortunately, kacey’s wasn’t one of them
— elise (@eIisenguyen) October 13, 2019
“Naomi Campbell has worn an ao dai by a Vietnamese designer while in Vietnam. Tyra Banks wore one while in Vietnam for antp. There’s ways to do it respectfully-unfortunately, kacey’s wasn’t one of them,” she wrote.
Prominent Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American figures also took to social media to criticize the outfit.
“When people do things like this, all it does is contribute to the dangerous notion of Southeast Asian femininity as inherently sexual out of subservience,” wrote poet Do Nguyen Mai on Twitter, pointing to stereotypes that hypersexualize Asian women.
Hey @KaceyMusgraves, I assume you’re not protesting the imposition of pants on Vietnamese women by the Nguyễn dynasty as a mode of Sinicization, so please don’t further degrade this key part of Vietnamese culture and put on some pants like everyone else that wears áo dài. https://t.co/DyGrYA4c7k
— Mai Nguyen Do (@DoNguyenMai) October 12, 2019
“Please don’t further degrade this key part of Vietnamese culture and put on some pants like everyone else that wears áo dài,” she added.
In a comment to Insider, Mai elaborated on her position.
“There are historical and political reasons to critique the áo dài, but since the áo dài is commonly used to represent Vietnamese femininity, disrespecting it in such a sexual way just further perpetuates the implicit but widespread idea that Southeast Asian people serve a single purpose: sexual service to white Westerners,” she said.
“I really wish she’d simply apologize. Some people might not see this as a big deal, but I think the community has just been trying to educate both her and the general public about this issue rather than ‘cancel’ her,'” Mai added. “This is a potentially teachable moment, but Ms. Musgraves isn’t letting it be one.”
And actress Ngo Thanh Van, who also goes by Veronica Ngo, made a statement on Facebook, writing that “it is wrong for the singer to wear a traditional costume of another country without understanding it.”
The áo dài, according to the tourism site Vietnam.com, is “a contoured top flowing over loose-fitting trousers that reach the sole of the feet” and is designed to hit the floor. “The dress style virtually drapes the whole body in soft flowing fabric,” according to the Vietnamese travel site, which notes that “having splits in the gown extending above the waist makes movement easy and comfortable.”
The website notes that Vietnamese culture generally favors conservative dress, and the áo dài fits into that by exemplifying “grace, modesty and beauty.”
Others took issue with Musgraves wearing an Indian headpiece with the dress
The headpiece appears to be a maang tikka, a traditional decorative headpiece that Indian woman may wear for the first time at their wedding – which is not related to Vietnamese culture. Some have taken issue with the addition of her headpiece for this reason.
kasey musgraves wearing an ao dai WITHOUT pants with a maang tikka is NOT a move… put that coochie away and learn how to not appropriate other peoples culture https://t.co/iiT6r0omnP
— julie 🥀 (@toricurlyy) October 13, 2019
“The nature of white ppl to pick and choose (half of ao dai and whatever is on her head??) pieces of Asian culture honestly repulses me,” wrote one Twitter user.
Kacey Musgraves is an incredible human, but the self-awareness in this is lacking to say the least.
The nature of white ppl to pick and choose (half of ao dai and whatever is on her head??) pieces of Asian culture honestly repulses me. https://t.co/rUqXJxFFrC
— Melanie Liu (@MelCLiu) October 12, 2019
Kim Kardashian West also received backlash for wearing a maang tikka in April. Although the headpiece is typically reserved for Indian wedding ceremonies, Kardashian West wore it to one of Kanye West’s Sunday Services, leading to criticism from fans.
Representatives for Musgraves did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.