Appearances can be revealing

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One of two Vietnamese delegations showed up at the 66th Cannes Film Festival that took place from May 15 to 26. This group was commented to be the best dressed team of the last four years. 

As befits a calendar event in world cinema, the Cannes International Film Festival attracts a lot of celebrities.

And as befits a celebrity-obsessed culture, trivia assumes huge, non-trivial proportions. One such item is what celebrities, especially women, wear to the event.

Women flaunting their latest sartorial adventure on the film festival's red carpet are a mini-event or are mini events in their own right, and for the last three years, Vietnam has had its own motley crowd of actors, actresses, models and film producers making their appearance, courtesy high sales of certain brands of liquor in the local market.

This year, two Vietnamese delegations showed up at the 66th Cannes festival that took place from May 15 to 26. 

The first one, comprising model Truc Diem, singer Maya, actress Van Trang, former national tourism ambassador Ly Nha Ky, actors Khuong Ngoc and Dustin Nguyen, was said to be the best dressed team of the last four years.

Although it was only belatedly that the public learnt this delegation was in Cannes thanks to commercial support from a popular brand of scotch that is the festival's partner, there was considerable buzz about how the women will doll themselves up.

Ly Nha Ky's Chanel exclusive US$100,000 white lace gown and US$600,000 Italian jewelry set with retro make-up helped her stand out from the rest of delegation, whose costumes were designed by Chung Thanh Phong.

The second group seems to have had a better reason to attend, having a short film called "16:30" screened at the festival. Actress Hong Anh, who has attended the festival for the last three years and led this group, said it was the first time she was taking a Vietnamese film to present at the festival, thanks to another  famous brandy and cognac brand.

But film or no film, Anh did not leave any stone unturned in trying to make a sartorial impression at the French film festival. She had four designers helping her in the choice of outfits for different activities. A few photos featuring her gracing the red carpet in sparkling ao dai and a floral patterned dress pleased local fashionistas and grabbed more attention than how the film was received at the festival.

The fashionistas also commented that they were satisfied with how the "˜Chivas' celebs looked, although they had nothing to do at the festival but, as many local articles pointed out, serve as brand ambassadors for the alcohol maker that cannot officially advertise in Vietnam.

However, Maya of the Chivas group told newswire that her group did not attend Cannes "for fun."

The French press and the film festival's organizers received all delegations with respect, no matter where they come from, she said.

"Apart from appearing on the red carpet, we were invited to see the films and attend luxurious banquets. Actor Dustin Nguyen also brought his "˜Lua Phat' (Once upon a time in Vietnam) to promote at the Cannes film fair, and it did get noticed" she said.

The model turned singer turned actress also said that local movie-lovers should be proud when Vietnamese artists get a chance to appear at Cannes or any international film festival for any reason.

"I think it will only take five years for us to have a film that will be well received at Cannes. And I hope I will be part of that success."
While that lies in the future, for the present, the consensus seems to be that this year's Chivas delegation did better in terms of presenting themselves, with previous years' outfits drawing derisive comments like "cheap, unremarkable and weird".

Model Trang Nhung's tawdry sheer pink dress, Ngan Khanh's low-necked gown and Minh Huong's nightgown-like dress at Cannes 2010 and 2011 still send shudders down the spine of local fashionistas.

Top models Thanh Hang, Anh Thu and actress My Duyen have also "failed" with their ao dai choices.

However, Vietnamese celebs' international failures are nothing compared to what they have done at home.

At the second International Film Festival held in Hanoi last year, singer turned actress Quach An An made people blanch with her overly transparent dress. Actress Kieu Thanh followed in An's footsteps the day after with a shimmering cut-out dress that crudely overexposed her body.

But Thanh and An's appalling outfits had to take the backseat to teenage model Hong Que's black lace dress, designed with the sole purpose of flashing ample amounts of flesh with no aesthetic pretensions whatsoever.

Things got worse when it was disclosed that she had not been officially invited to the festival. It is likely to take a while for her to live this misadventure down.

Male celebrities have less cope for such mishaps as their female counterparts, but they have done their bit with "shabby" outfits at both national and international events, attending black-tie events in overly casual clothes, for example. Some of them were actually caught smoking on the red carpet, which they might have thought was a "cool" thing to do, but only showed them up as boors.

Some reporters on the entertainment beat concede that how well or badly people dress might not be as important as the making of quality films and development of Vietnam's film industry, but they argue that what people wear still matters.

They say it is one of the easiest ways to enhance or degrade a celebrity's image, and by extension, the industry they belong to. And in this aspect, local celebs have not made the cut, they add.

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