Traditional dress may be defined as the ensemble of garments, jewelry, and accessories rooted in the past that is worn by an identifiable group of people. It conjures up images of rural people dressed in colorful, layered, exotic clothing and become an identity for race or country.
In Asia particularly is full of culture and diversity of race waiting for you to explore. Each of country have their own beautiful traditional costume and interesting history behind them.
MALAYSIA – Baju Kurung & Baju Melayu
The main communities of Malaysia are Malay, Chinese and Indian, each of which has its own traditional clothes. Most Malaysians dress like westerners. It is mostly on special occasions only that the citizens wear the traditional dress of Malaysia. All the multi-ethnic traditional clothes of Malaysia are multicultural, bespoke of their culture and radiating vibrancy.
Malay is the most prominent ethnic group in Malaysia. Pakaian is the word for clothing in the official language. The traditional dress is different for males and females and is usually in bright and loud colors. Material used for these traditonal clothes includes cotton and songket.
Malay women wear the baju kurung, a knee-length blouse worn over a long skirt. The blouse is long-sleeved and collarless, while the skirt, called a kain, has pleats on one side. A headscarf is sometimes worn with this.
Another popular traditional costume is the kebaya, a more tight-fitting two-piece dress. This is often considered less formal. It is worn by the female flight attendants of Malaysia Airlines.
Traditional Malay attire for men is the baju melayu, a loose tunic which is worn over trousers and usually accompanied by a sarong called a sampin which is wrapped around the hips. It is also often accompanied by a songkok or cap.
JAPAN – Kimono & Yukata
Meaning ‘the thing to wear’, kimonos are the ultimate symbol of traditional Japanese culture. From the seventeenth century onward, they developed as the main item of dress for men and women, and a means of expression for the individual wearer. The Japanese people use these traditional dresses both as formal attires as well as for normal day-to-day use.
Known as the casual or summer kimono, yukata is made from cotton or synthetic fabric. Japanese will usually wear the yukata is during summer festivals and firework displays, since the light fabric is perfect for the humid weather. The yukata for men is shorter and generally more muted in color and design compared to women’s, which often boast bright colors and floral motifs.
VIETNAM – Ao Dai
Ao Dai is a Vietnamese national garment, worn by both sexes but now most commonly worn by women. Translated to “long shirt,” the ao dai is also worn on special occasions and is usually made of gorgeous Vietnamese silk. It is a long silk tunic with a conventional looking snug collar and a two-flap dress with different colors and patterns.
The male tunic falls to the knees and is generally worn with loose pants underneath. In the past, the color of the ao dai in Vietnam indicated a man’s position in society. Gold is the color that represented royalty in ancient Vietnam. High Ranking officials wore purple ao dai and the commoners wore various shades of blue.
The female ao dai has one striking difference — this silk tunic flows down to the ankles. The ao dai has two major varieties — a four-part variety, which consists of flaps in the front that women button up, and a five-part variety, which consist on an extra flap on the right to secure the ao dai.
SOUTH KOREA – Hanbok
The hanbok is made up of the jeogori (top) and chima (skirt) for the women and the jeogori (top) and baji (pants) for the men. When worn together, the slim top and wide bottom create a shape similar to a bell—a unique and rather special feature of the hanbok that sets it apart from other traditional costumes.
The colors of the hanbok play an integral role in defining the wearer’s character and social status. Those from royalty or nobility wear hanbok naturally dyed with bright colors, while commoners wore hanbok that came in light and earthy colors, which can also be attributed to the materials used to make their modest hanbok.
CHINA – Cheongsam & Changsan
The cheongsam, also known as a qipao, is a close-fitting dress that originated in the 1920s Shanghai. A cheongsam usually has two long slits at either side of the hem for convenient movement and display of the legs. Unlike a short skirt, the slits of cheongsam show a woman’s legs when she walks. Traditionally, a cheongsam is made of silk and embroidered with pearls and other decorations. Cheongsam are close-fitting, and draw the outline of the wearer’s body.
In traditional Chinese dress, a changshan means long shirt. It is also known as a changpao or dagua. The male counterpart of the cheongsam, the traditional changshan is a loose-fitting tunic top that buttons across the chest and down the side with traditional Chinese frog buttons. Worn with matching pants, it is also identified by the mandarin collar and side slits on either side of the top.
Changshan was formal dress for Chinese men before Western-style suits became common in China. The male changshan went well with the western overcoat, fedora, and scarf, and portrayed a unique East Asian modernity.
THAILAND – Chut Thai
The official Thai national dress is known as Chut Thai Phra Ratcha Niyom. There are seven different types of chut thai outfit for women and three for men, known as phraratchathan, which also designed for a wedding ceremony.
Women’s outfits are truly beautiful, and they come in many styles. There are seven different costumes for women, all developed by the Queen during the last century. The pieces that form the dress are ;-
- Pha nung : a long rectangular cloth used as a wrapped skirt
- Sin : a tube skirt
- Sabai : a long piece of silk that covers the upper body
- Chong kraben : a lower-body wrap around cloth
Although there are various traditional outfits worn by men, there is only one formal male national outfit. Known in Thai as suea phraratchathan, the shirt is fastened up the front with buttons, has a long collar, and can have sleeves of any length. Long-sleeved shirts are generally worn with a sash; this is the most formal type of suea phraratchathan. It is usually worn with Western-style suit trousers and a suit jacket may be added to the outfit for a greater degree of formality.
INDIA – Saree & Dhoti
The most common and popular Indian attire is sarees for the ladies and dhotis for the men. These breezy and lightweight attires are extremely popular due to their free-flowing nature. Such a nature is extremely helpful in the rather hot and tropical climate of the country.
A saree is a woman garment that consists of a loosen drape varying from 4.5 to 9 meters in length and 600 to 1,200 millimeters in breadth that is typically wrapped around the waist, with one end draped over the shoulder, baring a portion of the midriff. Saree also can be draped in dozens of different ways.
The traditional dress for Indian men essentially is dhoti paired with kurta and gandhi ttopi or oagri. Dhoti is a six feet loosen garment worn in a particular style which gives the pant effect rather than a skirt effect. It is paired with a stitched upper garment called kurta which is normally longer than a shirt with two slits on each side.
Which one of these beautiful costumes have you tried before? Don’t miss out the opportunity to try the traditional costume for every country in Asia as we have diverse history and culture for you to explore.