Magazine covers featuring lively young women in their traditional ao dai dresses were everywhere in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, during the 1950s.
“That decade was the golden age of artists who designed spring edition covers for magazines in Saigon,” recalled Le Minh, one of the city's most popular painters at the time.
“In those years, if I could manage to have five or six cover designs selected, my family would have an extravagant Tet holiday,” said the 77-year-old painter.
Local newspapers and magazines began to contract painters to create covers for their special spring editions around one month before the Lunar New Year, Minh said.
Usually, the artists were let to freely create their own artworks, as long as the design was unique.
Minh said the most popular theme was a young woman carrying flowers or standing in front of a pagoda.
Some artists became very popular by painting curvy girls, breaking away from the traditional image of Vietnamese women seen earlier, he said.
Readers loved these covers. They would cut out the best covers for display around the house, before replacing them with new covers the following year.
At the beginning of the 1960s, the tradition began to fade away.
The growing obsession with the entertainment industry forced these paintings to the back covers of Saigon magazines, making way for photos of well-liked movie and pop stars.
Then they disappeared.