Although there is no official national dress, the traditional Thai dress has been adopted as the unofficial national costume and can be seen on both formal and informal occasions. For women, it is a full length “pha sin” -a rectangular piece of cloth worn like a skirt or sarong- generally made of Thai silk. The pasin can be of any color and generally has contrasted bands aroud the hem. Thai women wear it with a long-sleeved silk blouse. On formal occasions a sash may be worn across the breast from the left shoulder to the right part of the waist. For men, the traditional dress is trouser with a “seur phra ratchathan”, a short-sleeved shirt (long- sleeved for formal occasions) with a high neck. On formal occasions, a cummerbund is tied around the waist.
The Thai National Dress has been influenced by the styles of neighboring peoples such as the Khmer, Lao, Burmese, Malays and Indonesians. Later, these styles were adapted to create true regional Thai identities.
Traditional Costume in Central Thailand
Traditional costume in central Thailand is based on the styles of the Ayutthaya era, over 200 years ago. Although the ankle-length tube-skirt is the most popular style for women, the older generation still wear ‘jong krabane’; a kind of skirt that is gathered, rolled and threaded between the legs.
In the home, women wear a sleeved blouse or ‘suea kor kra chout’ – a kind of casual blouse made from knitted yarn and cotton. The most popular clothing for men are the loose long or three-quarter length cotton pants called ‘ka kuey’. These comfortable, airy trousers are tied in a knot at the waist.
Traditional Costume in Northern Thailand
Northern traditional costume is heavily influenced by various tribal groups in the Northern region, particularly the Thai-Lue, Thai Kern, and Thai Yai, in the north part of Thailand and the neighboring countries. The styles have change little over the ages.
Traditionally, women wear an indigo-dyed side-fastening blouse, edged with cloth of various hues, and ankle-length tube-skirts. For formal occasions, the tube-skirt is intricately and colorfully woven down the middle, hems decorated with strips of indigo-dyed cloth. Jewelry and ornamentation is usually of silver and colored enamel. Men wear shirts similar in design and material to the women’s blouses with long indigo-dyed pants and head-cloths. For ceremonies, their costumes are colorful and ornamented with crafted silver and colored enamel.
Traditional Costume in Southern Thailand
Both men and women from the southern part of Thailand wear batik-patterned sarongs, often with brightly colored designs. Costume in the South is heavily influenced by the Muslim styles of neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia.
Women commonly wear lacy blouses that are worn loosely outside their sarongs and open at the front in the Malaysian ‘Yaya’ style. Women also wear a shawl, in conformity with Muslim beliefs, usually covers head and shoulders. The men prefer to go shirtless or sometimes wear white shirts, long black pants, and a hat that can inevitably be seen in the ‘rong ngeng’ dance.
Thai National Dress and the Royal Family
During the reign of the present monarch, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional costume and fabrics. HM Queen Sirikit prefers to wear Thai traditional costume for ceremonial occasions. Modern dresses such as ‘Thai Ruan Ton’, ‘Thai Chakri’, ‘Thai Boromphimarn’, ‘Thai Dusit’, ‘Thai Chitlada’, and ‘Thai Siwalai’, were adapted from ancient costumes. The men’s national dress is called ‘sua phra ratch tan’, a short or long-sleeved shirt with a piece of cloth knotted in a bow at the waist.
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