Áo bà ba (or Vietnamese silk ensemble) is a traditional Vietnamese garment. The áo itself (“shirt” in English) is the top part which covers the torso. It is most associated with southern Vietnam, especially in rural areas. Often worn as a top and bottom set, the áo bà ba is typically a long-sleeved, button-down silk shirt with a scooped neck paired with silk pants. The shirt will be somewhat long and split at the sides of the waist, forming two flaps, customarily with two pockets.
The term áo bà ba might be translated as “the shirt of Mrs. (aunt-like figure) Ba (third aunt in family).” Áo is shirt, generically; bà is a social pronoun indicating an older woman near one’s parent’s age or a married woman or a widow; ba is the number three. Ba, in the South, is also colloquially the term for father, like Dad. Since the garment is associated mostly with the South, it can be considered a pun, meaning “the shirt of Mrs. Dad.”
The term is believed to be a corruption on the name of a different garment, also associated with rural areas and the farming community, that of the three-flap tunic of folk tradition.