During a concert in Dallas on October 10, Kacey Musgraves sparked some controversy for her outfit. Musgraves wore the áo dài, a traditional Vietnamese garment typically consisting of a long tunic with slits on both worn with trousers underneath. However, she neglected to wear the pants, appearing onstage in only the tunic. Social media users were quick to accuse Musgraves of sexualising the áo dài, as well as pointing out her headpiece, which was not Vietnamese. Musgraves shared and later deleted a photo of the outfit on her Instagram story, but has yet to respond to the backlash.
Asian culture has often been sexualized in the United States and other Western countries, especially with traditional clothing. This sexualization is certainly not a new issue: many artists have been accused of sexualizing or appropriating Asian clothing. Nicki Minaj, for example, was accused of appropriating East Asian culture with her performances of "Chun-Li", particularly when she appeared on "Saturday Night Live" with a stylized version of the qipao and chopsticks in her hair. Kacey Musgraves is now facing similar backlash to her wearing the áo dài. Many Vietnamese Americans have called the outfit disrespectful towards the culture, urging Musgraves to wear the pants with the tunic.
These comments are not oversensitive or "reaching" in any way. With the way both Asian clothing and even Asian women have been sexualized so often, Musgraves's modification of the traditional áo dài is very disrespectful, as many have stated on social media. This is especially true considering Musgraves is not Vietnamese and that she is making modifications to a culture that is not her own. The issue is not that she wore the áo dài, but rather the way she chose to wear it. Some have pointed out that other celebrities, such as Rihanna and Tyra Banks, have worn the áo dài with the trousers as it is meant to be worn. Had she worn the tunic with pants, Musgraves likely would not have received the same backlash. The headpiece only further fuels the controversy. Some have seen the use of the headpiece with the áo dài as presenting an amalgamation of different Asian cultures rather than putting in the effort to properly wear the clothing of one culture.
Incidents such as this one are far too common and will likely continue to happen. Kacey Musgraves may not have worn the áo dài the way she did with the intention of sexualizing Vietnamese culture, but her being ignorant of the issue is still a problem. It is important to bring attention to these incidents and spread awareness. Otherwise, this sexualization and appropriation of cultures will continue to happen.