The traditional costume in Thailand is called “chut thai” (the translation is “Thai dress”). It is charming – bright and delicate, fitting and modest at the same time. But, like many other people in the world, locals seldom use their folk outfit in everyday life. Nevertheless, you can see lots of Thais dressed in the national clothing during the ethnic festivals, celebrations, weddings, and other special occasions. But the most extraordinary chut thai are women’s Thai formal dresses. They totally deserve to be called royal outfits.
One of the main crafts in Thailand is weaving. Every ethnic group in this country has its own traditions connected with textile producing – unique patterns on the fabric that help to distinguish the ethnicity, specific colors used for a certain purpose of the clothes, traditional weaving techniques, etc. The majority of the folk garments used in Thailand is made from silk and cotton fabric because they are the best choice for the local climate. But, despite the poor assortment of traditionally used fabrics, locals never confuse the folk dress of, for example, Malay, Khmer, and Thai people. Because they differ in colors, patterns, and designs.
Male traditional clothing
The national garment of males in Thailand in called “phraratchathan”. It is a shirt designed in the Thai style and worn with both western-style trousers and Thai-style pants. Phraratchathan was invented for the king of the country in 1979; later, it became popular among ordinary people as well. This shirt resembles the so-called “Nehru jacket” (hip-length button-up shirt with a stand-up collar called “mandarin collar”). The collar is 3.5-4 cm (1.4-1.6 inch) in height. Phraratchathan shirt has two front pockets. It can be short-sleeved, long-sleeved, or long-sleeved with a sash (depending on how formal the occasion is).
Traditional Thai male shirt phraratchathan. Photo from Visitorstothailand.com
Thai men also use the “pakama” – a large rectangular piece of fabric. It is wrapped around the waist of the man and serves as the clothing and as different handy things (a hammock, a towel, a headdress, etc.). Similar pieces of the outfit are used in many countries with tropical and subtropical climate. Today, they are popular mainly in the rural areas.
Another type of a male wrap-around skirt is called “chong kraben”. It is a large piece of cloth as well, but chong kraben has more in common with trousers than a skirt. It is draped in a specific way. The cloth is three meters long and one meter wide. It is wrapped around the waist, the ends are twisted together and pulled between the legs, then the ends are tucked in the back of the waist. So, chong kraben is like baggy trousers but with more extended history.
Traditional Thai wrap-around skirt chong kraben
Men in Thailand often wear modern light-weight baggy trousers in day-to-day life. Historically, they appeared much later than the pakama or chong kraben but became widespread among the locals and tourists, especially in everyday life. The patterns on the fabric are mainly checkered, and multicolored. These baggy trousers are made from the natural fabrics and are much more convenient than jeans or slacks. But the western-style pants are also used in Thailand, and they are rather popular.
Female traditional clothing
There are several traditional women’s garments used in Thailand. They are pieces of the folk dress, they form and determine it. And their names are “pha nung” (a long rectangular cloth that forms a wrap-around skirt), “sin” (a tube skirt wrapped around the waist), “sabai” (a long piece of silk that covers the upper body. It is draped diagonally around the chest; one end of sabai is dropped behind the shoulder. It is worn by men as well), and “chong kraben” (a rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the lower body that resembles baggy trousers. We mentioned it earlier in this article).
Thai women in the folk clothes. Photo from Eurasiannation.proboards.com
Historically, Thailand didn’t have the universal national costume (various ethnic groups who live in this country, of course, have their own folk clothes, but the authorities never established a single national outfit common for the whole community). Locals just used their wrap-around cloths to cover their body and to feel comfortable in such a hot and humid climate. But in 1960 the king and queen of Thailand traveled around the world. And the queen realized that their country needed a formal national dress for her to wear for the meetings and receptions. She made a research of Thai royal outfits and developed 7 different costumes that officially became the Thai formal attires. They are still widely used by the local noblewomen and wealthy citizens on special occasions, cultural events, celebrations, and ceremonies. These formal outfits are called “Chut Thai Chakkri”, “Chut Thai Boromphiman”, “Chut Thai Siwalai”, “Chut Thai Chakkraphat”, “Chut Thai Amarin”, “Chut Thai Chitlada”, and “Chut Thai Ruean Ton”.
Queen Sirikit, the queen consort of Thailand, in the traditional dress of Thailand. Photo from Pinterest.com
Chakkri outfit is one of the most widespread in Thailand and recognizable outside the country. It consists of a sin (in this case, the brocade skirt is made using a weaving technique called “yok”; sometimes craftsmen add gold and silver threads to the weaving), a top made from silk tube, and a sabai to complete the set. Gold jewelry is used as accessories.
Chakkraphat is similar to the Chakkri. Though, it is more conservative. The set includes not only a sin, a top, and a sabai but also one more sabai shawl on top. The upper shawl is thicker and fully embroidered. Gold jewelry is also used.
Boromphiman is an evening attire that consists of a sin (ankle-length skirt) and a blouse (tucked into the sin). No sabai is used. Sometimes the skirt and the blouse are sewn together and form a dress. The blouse itself is long-sleeved, made from fine fabric, buttoned at the front or the back, and has a round neck. Gold accessories or royal decorations complement the costume.
Siwalai is very similar to the Boromphiman chut thai, but sabai is added to the outfit. It is worn by women to royal ceremonies and formal functions.
Amarin is a more casual evening attire. It consists of a brocade sin and blouse. The blouse is round-necked, with the length of sleeves just below the elbow. Also, the blouse is not tucked into the sin, so the belt is not used with this outfit. Gold accessories are used in large quantities with Amarin chut thai.
Chitlada is a daytime ceremonial gown. It consists of a sin and a silk jacket-like blouse. The blouse is long-sleeved and has five gold or silver buttons at the front. This outfit is used for such events as funerals, welcoming the official royal guests at the airport, etc. Usually, no jewelry is used with Chitlada chut thai.
Ruean Ton is the most casual costume. It consists of a sin (made from silk; the color is plain or with horizontal or vertical stripes), and a collarless blouse. The blouse has elbow-length sleeves and a row of buttons at the front. It is, usually, tucked into the sin and belted. It is used for non-official functions and religious ceremonies.