Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Khmer Traditional Dresses Understanding (Part I)


Traditional dress in Cambodia is similar to traditional dress in neighboring Laos and Thailand. Sampot is the lower garment worn by either sex. The sampot for urban lower class and peasant women is a tube-skirt (sarong) approximately one and a half meters in length with both ends sewn together and is worn wrapped around the waist and secured with a cloth belt. Women of the middle and upper classes preferred to wear the sampot chang kben on a daily basis until the beginning of the twentieth century. This rectangular piece of cloth is approximately three meters long and one meter wide and is worn by first wrapping the cloth around the waist and stretching the ends away from the body. The outstretched ends are then twisted together and pulled between the legs and toward the back. The ends are tucked into the waist at the back, and the sampot chang kben is lastly fastened with a cloth or metal belt. Women of all social strata wear the sampot chang kben on special occasions such as religious ceremonies and weddings. Men also wear the sampot chang kben, but the traditional textile patterns worn by males differ from those worn by females. Traditionally, neither women nor men wore an upper garment. However, when the French colonial presence grew in Cambodia in the late nineteenth century, both men and women began to wear upper garments.

Even after the French presence in Cambodia from the 1860s onwards, Cambodians continued to wear traditional clothing. The Cambodian royalty and government officials combined the shot silk sampot chang kben (in the appropriate color for the day of the week) with a formal jacket. In the beginning of the twentieth century, Cambodians adopted forms of western style clothing such as a blouse or shirt. Men more readily adopted trousers as the lower garment for daily use, and both sexes continue to wear the sampot chang kben for formal occasions. Lower class and particularly rural women still wear a tube-skirt, but the material may be printed batik-patterned cloth bought at the market rather than hand-woven silk or cotton.
Silk Textiles

The most important silk textiles of Cambodia are the ikat silks (hol), twill-patterned, weft ikat textiles. The pattern is made by tying vegetable or synthetic fibers on sections of the weft threads before the threads are dyed. This process is repeated for different colored dye baths until the patterns are formed and the cloth is woven. The two types of hol textiles have five traditional colors: red, yellow, green, blue, and black. The sampot hol is the lower garment mentioned earlier, made from hol cloth (hol cloth can also be used for sampot chang kben). The pidan hol is a ceremonial hanging reserved for religious or sacred purposes.
The pidan hol is an example of excellent craftsmanship. It may be presented to a Buddhist temple or hung it in homes to create sacred space around the family's personal shrine. In a temple this textile is hung behind, above, or around the base of, a Buddha image. The narrative motifs of a pidan hol often depict tales of the previous lives of the Buddha.

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