In honor of the auspicious occasion of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s Birthday on 12 August, I’d like to deal with the meaning of her continuous promotion of Thai silk and her royal wardrobe.
H.M. Queen Sirikit has been very much interested in Thai silk and textiles ever since her engagement to His Majesty the King in 1949. Thus, in 1955, she accompanied His Majesty to his people in all regions of Thailand. Hence, on these occasions, the Queen had the opportunity to see the people in rural areas dressed in colourful and intricately patterned silk fabrics which they had woven themselves. Thus, Her Majesty wanted to promote and support the weaving skills of the people bringing them more benefits and improving their living situation.
Photograph of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit of Thailand on their wedding 28 April 1950 (photo credit: public domain, wikimedia.org)
H.M. Queen Sirikit & Thai Silk
Her Majesty has set an example of how traditional Thai fabrics can be worn fashionably. Thus, she has had different fabrics styled into international and traditional Thai style costumes which she has worn on different formal occasions such as when receiving royal guests, attending royal ceremonies or when travelling abroad.
Queen Sirikit wearing a Thai Chakkri dress in 1962 (photo credit: Bureau of the Royal Household of Thailand, wikimedia.org)
If you remember my articles about traditional Thai dresses part I and part II, you know that we can distinguish between eight different styles of Thai national dresses. They are said to have originated in the mid 20th century. In fact, when Her Majesty accompanied the King in state visits to Western countries in 1960, she realized the need for a modern Thai national costume. Her aim was to convey Thailand’s rich cultural identity by presenting amazing traditional Thai dresses made from Thai silk and other classic Thai fabrics.
December 1960, the Queen wears a gown by Balmain, the dress’ style is similar to Thai Dusit (photo credit: couturenotebook.com)
Thus, Her Majesty had research conducted concerning historical records of royal dresses. Her advisors were Thai fashion designer Urai Lueumrung and French grand couturier Pierre Balmain who also created amazing gowns for her state visits in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Queen Sirikit wanted a contemporary take on a ‘traditional’ and ‘classic’ royal wardrobe.
Gown designed by Pierre Balmain for Queen Sirikit’s journey to Japan in 1981.It is made of silk ikat, also called mat mii, from northeastern Thailand and trimmed with dyed ostrich feathers*
Queen Sirikit wore this Thai Chakkraphat dress at the state banquet hosted by Their Majesties in honor of President Sukrano of Indonesia at Chakri Throne Hall Grand Palace Bangkok, 17 April 1961*
Eventually, eight official designs were developed and also promoted by H.M. Queen Sirikit herself. These styles are called Thai Chakkri, Thai Boromphiman, Thai Siwalai, Thai Chakkraphat, Thai Chitlada, Thai Ruean Ton, Thai Amarin and Thai Dusit.
Queen Sirikit in Thai Siwalai dress around 1950*
Her Majesty wore this Thai Boromphiman dress at a state banquet hosted by Ferdinand Marcos, President of the Philippines, in Baguio, the Philippines, 11the July 1963*
The Queens’s elegance was widely acclaimed as the royal’s tour in 1960 was very successful highlighting Thai fashion and Thailand in general. Considering the different styles of traditional Thai dresses, the Thai Dusit can be regarded as the most Western style of all eight traditional dresses. It is similar to a Western wide necked and sleeveless evening gown.
Queen Sirikit in Thai Dusit dress was photographed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, around 1950, credit: In Royal Fashion *
Apart from fashion statements, Her Majesty has organized many exhibitions in Thailand and abroad to promote Thai textiles and garments made from Thai fabrics created by Thai designers. In addition, the SUPPORT Foundation was launched in 1976. For this reason, Thai textiles and silk have become better known among Westerners outside Thailand. Today, it also seems that traditional Thai dresses are coming into fashion again. Thus, think of the Siamese Fashionista 🙂
Finally, in honour of H.M. Queen Sirikit’s continuous contribution to the conservation and promotion of Thai silk, there is a special exhibition called ‘The Way of Silk, the Way of Thai: A Tribute to Her Majesty the Queen’ at the Siam Paragon Department Store from 17-30 August 2015, daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
(*photo credit: Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, FB page)