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An Overview of Thai Costumes

The Sukhothai period saw the emergence of the 'jong krabane', a skirt with the cloth gathered together and threaded between the legs, over three-quarter-length pants. 'Jong krabane' were similar to Khmer-style garments called 'yak rung' or 'tok Khmer'. Over the upper body, men wore short-sleeved shirts. The women wore long-sleeved blouses and a tube-skirt with front-pleated lengths of cloth. Sometimes the women wore the 'sabai' over their shoulders and generally wore their hair high. Members of the aristocracy wore jewelry or even a crown.

In the early Ayutthaya period, during peacetime, men wore long-sleeved shirts and 'jong krabane' with a cloth wrap at their waist. Women wore a tube-skirt with front-pleated lengths of cloth. At the top of the body, they wore a long-sleeved blouse or draped a 'sabai' over one shoulder. At home, women wore a 'par tap', a long piece of cloth wrapped around the breasts. Men began wearing their hair short in the 'mahard thai' style. Women kept their hair high on the head, held in place with an ornament, or loosely. During wartime, the men wore long-sleeved shirts or waistcoats and 'jong krabane'. Women wore 'tabang marn', a piece of cloth wrapped around the back and breasts and tied at the neck, and 'jong krabane'. Short hair was popular among both men and women.

At the beginning of the Rattanakosin period, costume followed the styles of Ayutthaya. From the reign of King Rama V, western costume styles became more popular, with the influence of the European powers. Men wore shirts called 'ratch patan', colorful 'jong krabane' called 'pha mueng', and hats whenever outdoors. Women wore long blouses in the European style and carried a piece of cloth on one shoulder.

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 classical 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 suit is called 'sua phra ratch tan', a short or long-sleeved shirt with a piece of cloth knotted in a bow at the waist.

The basic costume can be seen everywhere, especially in rural areas. Men wear the 'pa kao ma', a wrap-around, which doubles as a swimming suit, blanket, bath towel, dress or hammock. Women wear the ubiquitous tube-skirt at home, or sometimes for swimming and bathing.


Find further information on regional costume.

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