Wearing down class barriers

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"I was surprised to see some young people in jeans at a glamorous FTV fashion show in Ho Chi Minh City," said Karen Lam, an expat from Hong Kong.

"In Hong Kong, people would take the opportunity to dress up and turn up in gorgeous evening dresses," she said.

Dressing up or a dress code is not the uppermost thing in many people's minds, even for special occasions.

However for many nouveau riche parents, spending money to acquire an etiquette education is a smart investment, for themselves and their children.

Those parents want special classes to teach children what they could not learn during times of want.

"When I was a kid I did not have any training on fashion, or taste, or how to behave like a lady at a party. I want my children to become diplomats and successful business people, so creating the right image in public is a very important thing. And having good taste will be very helpful for them," said Le Thu, a 50-year-old banker.

True to the market economy principle of demand creating supply, establishments have sprung up to help realize the aspirations of people like Thu.

An academy, Jetset Vietnam, provides lifestyle classes to both the local and expat communities. Each class can cost up to US$200, but those looking for profound "˜lifestyle changes' find it worth the price.

Among other classes offered by Jet Set Vietnam, Style & Elegance, taught by Dror Lam, a Parisian woman who has lived in Vietnam for more than 10 years, has been attracting more and more students.

Style & Elegance is not only about fashion but also the understanding of attraction inside each person.

"It is important to learn your body and your body changes. You should be proud of your body and just learn how to make it look the best. And it is important to feel comfortable in the clothes. You can feel if a woman is not comfortable in her clothes which makes others around her uncomfortable as well. You have to choose quality material because it looks better on your body. Dress code according to your age and location is also important," said Dror.

In her class, students have the chance to practice by matching clothes with accessories and shoes to make a perfect ensemble. They also learn how to turn a day outfit into an evening outfit, match material and colors and how to manage your closet so that you can find things easily. And then they learn the rules of matching colors.

"Regarding color matching, the first rule is it must be fun. Colors can be fun to play with but too many colors (more than four in one outfit) is unacceptable. The same with the print. Also remember that less is beautiful," said Dror Lam.

The ao dai and Chinese traditional dresses always look good on Asian women as they were originally designed for them, Lam feels.

Nguyen Huong, a travel journalist, said: "After the class I realized that I have to change. I am so simple and usually wear what I wear at the office to a party because I have children to take care of.

"But now I've learnt that I need to change to find time to be adequately fashionable."

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