The design is inspired by a traditional southern Vietnamese garment, especially in the Mekong Delta.
The term áo bà ba might be translated as "the shirt of madam" (aunt-like/grandmother figure) Ba (an woman who is a third-born, or second-born in the South, of her parents).
For females, the optional princess seams (two vertical seams in the front, optional diagonal ones from under the arms, up to the lower breast) is likely a more modern refinement following similar Western trends after World War II—after the Flapper Girl period. Through the Vietnam War, particularly through the eye of American media and cameras, Vietnamese people were portrayed to favour wearing "black pajamas" all day. The black part is atypical of the áo bà ba's history, as field workers will often wear darker colour to hide the grime, as part of the nature of their work.
Sets of áo bà ba are often given as gifts for Tết (New Year's). Parents glow with pride to know their young ones, from the time their children can walk and talk, can go out in public in a smart ensemble. Wearing the ensemble holds the cultural sense that one has respect for others and for oneself, is friendly and personable. It is not a consumer garment but for living with others under the same climate. Unlike Western imports, the áo bà ba signifies "I know who I am, a person who cares." Wearing the ensemble signifies one is not lazy, a slouch, or discourteous; it shows one has manners and approachable. (According to Wikipedia).