Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Khmer Traditional Dresses Understanding (Part II)

Cotton Textiles

The various ethnic groups of Cambodia also produce cotton material for religious clothing and other purposes, such as for bedding and for various household textiles. The royal courts also imported Indian chintz with patterns especially for the Southeast Asian market.

The kroma is the all-purpose utility cotton cloth used by either men or women throughout the country as a head or neck scarf, belt, or towel. It is also used as a bag to carry things. This rectangular textile has a checkered pattern, usually blue and white or red and white, with striped ends. Political groups such as the Khmer Rouge have used the kroma to symbolize membership.

The Cham, an Austronesian group, are highly skilled silk weavers who produce cotton tube-skirts or sarongs for both men and women. Three or four hundred years ago, the Cham reportedly used to produce batiks (wax resist-dyed fabrics) in cotton similar to that of their kin in insular Southeast Asia. Cham women weave a checked or plaid cotton sarong for men. Natural or white cotton is important in Cham religious activities; it is worn by Cham priests and used as a sacred object during religious ceremonies.

Other Mon-Khmer and Austronesian minorities living in the northeastern region of Cambodia weave cotton cloth on back strap looms for clothing and domestic use. The groups of both of these linguistic families weave similar textiles by attaching the warp beam of the back strap loom to a tree or part of a house in order the achieve the lengths of woven material needed for their loincloths.

The male loincloth is approximately 20 to 25 centimeters wide and 3 to 7 meters long. It is indigo blue or black with large red warp stripes and smaller yellow and white warp stripes. Supplementary patterns also decorate the stripes. The ends of the loincloth are patterned with red bands with supplementary patterns of animal or plant motifs. Red tassels and lead, glass, or plastic beading sometimes decorate the edges and ends of the loincloth. Men of the various Mon-Khmer linguistic groups sometimes wear a blanket over a shoulder during rituals, but otherwise do not wear an upper garment. Occasionally, men wear a simple tunic made from plant fibers such as bark cloth or banana leaves. These plant-fiber tunics are reported to have been more common when the technology to weave cotton was not familiar to these groups. It is now rare to find clothing made from these fibers. Men of the Jarai and Ede Austronesian minorities wear a collarless shirt of indigo or black cotton adorned with red yarn or metal beads on special occasions.

Women of the different ethnic minorities wear tube skirts. The long tube-skirt is worn tucked in around the breasts and is made from two pieces of material sewn together to form a tube. The shorter version is made from one piece of cloth sewn into a tube and is worn tucked in at the waist. The color scheme of the women's tube-skirts is similar to that of the men's loincloth. Women either do not wear an upper garment or wear a simple tunic made from a single piece of cloth with a hole cut in the middle of the textile for the head and the sides sewn together leaving open spaces for the arms. Ede women add sleeves to the tunic and decorate them with red yarn and metal beading.

As with other Khmer and Cham ethnicities, the minority groups of northeast Cambodia presently reserve traditional dress for special occasions. Textile production in Cambodia has experienced disruption because of political conflict, particularly during the Khmer Rouge regime of the late 1970s. Textile production increased in the calmer conditions at the beginning of the twenty-first century, encouraged by renewed local and foreign interest in hand-woven textiles, particularly in mastering the dyeing and weaving of the pidan hol produced prior to the twentieth century.

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