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H.M. Queen Sirikit and Thai Silk

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 Bhumibol and Sirikit of Thailand on their wedding 28 April 1950 (photo credit: wikimedia.org)

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)

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)

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 for a trip to Japan in 1981.It is made of silk ikat, also called mat mii, from northeastern Thailand and trimmed with dyed ostrich feathers. (photo credit: Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles)

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 Chakraphat dress at the state banquet hosted by Their Majesties in honor of President Sukrano of Indonesiam Chakri Throne Hall Grand Palace Bangkokm 17 April 1961

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

Queen Sirikit in Thai Siwalai dress around 1950*

 

Queen Sirikit wore Thai Boromphiman dress at a state banquet hosted by Ferdinand Marcos, President of the Philippines, Baguio, the Philippines, 11the July 1963

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

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.

Yours, Sirinya

(*photo credit: Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, FB page)




The Siamese Fashionista

I’ve read in the Insider’s Guide to Bangkok that wearing traditional Thai dresses is on the rise again. They also mention the Siamese Fashionista group that wants to inspire Thai people to wear traditional dresses in everyday life. Hence, it may be regarded as an attempt to go back to the roots as far as clothing is concerned. In Thai, this group is called ‘Taeng Thai Sabai Ngam Siam Phusa Niyom’ and its members set examples of dressing in a traditional style.

The Siamese Fashionista

Siamese Fashionista group*

Siamese Fashionista group*

Personally I am very much interested in the amazingly beautiful Thai dresses and of course, I love them. If you are a devoted reader of my blog, you will probably know my articles about ‘Traditional Thai dresses’ part I and part II. If you have missed this, maybe you would like to check this out since it provides info about the different kinds of national Thai dresses today. Additionally, this kind of clothing may be regarded as an expression of the Thai concept of ‘siwalai‘ (i.e. civilized standards) 🙂

Traditionally inspired dress (photo credit: Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, FB page)

Traditionally inspired dress (photo credit: Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, FB page)

However, over the centuries there were different kinds of traditional Thai dresses. Hence, there was also the ‘fashion’ to go bare-chested. This was usual for men but for housewives as well. Nonetheless, today we can distinguish between eight different styles of Thai national dresses for women and there are also respective dresses for men. They are said to have originated in the mid 20th century and were developed by H.M. Queen Sirikit.

Patriya Na Nakorn in traditional Thai dress (photo credit: Amat Nimitpark, FB page)

Pattriya Na Nakorn wearing Chut Thai Chakkri  (photo credit: Amat Nimitpark, FB page)

Today, there is a campaign by the Ministry of Culture which tries to encourage young Thais to dress traditionally. Some malls and stores also support this ‘trend’ by offering discounts, coupons and even free stuff to people wearing traditional Thai clothing. However, the Siamese Fashionista does not want this to be merely a fleeting trend but rather promote that Thai clothing should become a common part of everyday wear.

Naam & Chanca (photo credit: bk.asia-city.com)

Naam & Chanca (photo credit: bk.asia-city.com)

Two members of the Siamese Fashionista group are Cheewachon “Naam” Piyason and Chada “Chancha” Wannapong. They formed this group because they felt that there is a discrepancy between Thai people’s general patriotism and the fact that they seldom wear traditional clothing.

Wearing jongkraben, wrapped trousers*

Wearing jongkraben in daily life, traditional wrapped trousers*

They also started this group to invite people to wear these kind of national dresses in public and not be afraid of it. Nowadays it seems that traditional clothing is only reserved for special occasions. Thus, Thai people are not used to wearing these kind of dresses anymore. The group also wants to show young Thais that traditional dresses are not particularly expensive or hard to find. Hence, Chancha said that she bought the fabrics for a low price and made the dresses herself. She also finds that accessories like jewellery are not necessary.

National clothing for children (photo credit: Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, FB page)

National clothing for children (photo credit: Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, FB page)

The group’s aim is to preserve and maintain the way Siamese people dressed in prior centuries. As I understand it, the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles offers activities promoting Thai traditional clothing for adults and for children. In addition, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (Amazing Thailand) also encourages people to wear these kind of dresses and the N’Sukjai doll is the inspiration.

Traditional Thai men's dress (photo credit amazing Thailand, FB page)

Different kinds of traditional Thai men’s clothing (photo credit: Amazing Thailand, FB page)

Traditional Thai dresses seem to come into vogue. Thus, for instance, celebrities like Pattriya Na Nakorn and actress Davika Hoorne present these dresses in glossy magazines.

Davika Hoorne in WE Magazine (photo credit: Davika Hoorne Fanclub, FB page)

Mai Davika in WE Magazine (photo credit: Davika Hoorne Fanclub, FB page)

Summing up, I think Siamese Fashionista a very useful group since their aim is to give young Thais an understanding of their ancestry and the way they dressed. Thus, it remains to be seem if this is only a trend or if traditional Thai clothing will actually become a dress that anyone can wear on any occasion 🙂

Your, Sirinya

*photo credit: SiameseFashionista, FB page




Thai Beetle Wing Art and Decoration

Thai beetle wing art and decoration was very popular in Thailand. It was primarily used as decoration on royal clothing such as shawls and sabai cloths but also on jewelry. However, the ancient tradition of using Thai beetle wings has mostly died out in Thailand. Nevertheless, at the Dusit Palace there are some rare pieces of Thai beetle wing art and craft and jewelry displayed.

Thai beetle wing art

A modern take on beetle wing art - asymmetric earrings (photo credit: 3rd Rock Jewelry)

A modern take on beetle wing art – asymmetric earrings (photo credit: 3rd Rock Jewelry, FB page)

Me wearing beautiful beetlewing earings by 3rd Rock jewelry

Me wearing beautiful beetlewing earings by 3rd Rock Jewelry

In fact, at the Grand Palace, HM Queen Sirikit discovered old royal cloths that were embroidered with bug wing. Thus, HM Queen Sirikit set up the bug wing decoration-collage section at the Chitralada Center in order to preserve and honour this traditional art.

thai dolls carved from ivory wood with beetle wing decoration

Thai dolls carved from ivory wood with beetle wing decoration (photo credit: Charassri Nualsri on Pinterest)

HM Queen Sirikit’s intention was to create new works of art with the ancient tradition of using beetle wing. For example, beetle wings were tried in decorating sculpture and wood carvings. Another example is that multicolored fine strips of beetle wings were woven into yan lipao pieces such as basketry.

Thai beetle wing art

Thai beetle wing art (photo credit: Chitralada Center)

However, let me tell you something more about the bug used for this special art technique:

Beetle wings are the wings of the insect belonging to the genus Sternocera which is called malaeng thap in Thai. The beetle wings are very beautiful because they have an iridescent green and bluish surface. Hence, the beetle wings shine like emeralds and thus, this kind of beetle is also called ‘jewel beetle’.

beetle wing, jewel beetle

The beetle-wing, jewel beetle shines like an emerald (photo credit: Xufanc, Wikimedia.org)*

Since these bugs have a short life span, they are available in abundance and can be collected when they are dead. Then, the bugs’ wings are clipped off and used as sequins for embroidery and jewelry.

Natural material for making jewelry (photo credit: 3rd Rock Jewelry, FB page)

Natural material for making jewelry (photo credit: 3rd Rock Jewelry, FB page)

The life circle of the beetle wing starts on the rainy season which is called khao phansa (rains retreat) in Thai. The beetles die off after having laid their eggs in the period ending the rainy season. Therefore, the bugs’ alternative name is “malaeng khao phansa” in Thai which means ‘rains retreat insect’. The dead beetles are collected, thus their ecosystem remains intact and is not disturbed. In addition, HM Queen Sirikit had research conducted on the life cycle of the jewel beetle in order to ensure its conservation in nature.

Green and orange iridescent shades (photo credit: 3rd Rock Jewelry)

Green and orange iridescent shades (photo credit: 3rd Rock Jewelry, FB page)

I love my new jewel beetle earrings

I love my new jewel beetle earrings

Most of the wing pieces are an iridescent emerald color. However, you might notice that some wing pieces look slightly orange. This orange shade is in fact quite rare and only found in one out a few hundred beetles. What is special about Thai beetle wing art is that it is extremely durable. Thus, the natural shine of the beetle wings remain for decades and even centuries.

Necklace with jewel beetle (photo credit: 3rd Rock Jewelry, FB page)

Necklace with jewel beetle (photo credit: 3rd Rock Jewelry, FB page)

HM Queen Sirikit has also used Thai beetle wing decoration on her clothing and shoes 🙂 Today, her granddaughter who is a prominent Thai fashion designer, Princess Sirivannavari, also draws on traditional Thai craftsmanship.

Here are some very beautiful and awesome examples:

gold thread and beetle-wing embroidery on Thai silk queen sirikit museum of textiles

Gold thread and beetle wing embroidery on Thai silk*

 

queen sirikit shoes

The left pair of shoes has a beetle wing decoration on the front Queen Sirikit Shoes*

 

(*Photo credit: Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles)

Do you like Thai beetle wing art and decoration and would you wear it as jewelry or as sequins on clothes? I think beetle wings are a very good alternative to plastic sequins and beads because they come from nature. What is more, beetle wings allow people to admire and cherish the natural beauty of the jewel beetle 🙂

Yours, Sirinya




Traditional Thai Dresses Part II

Following the first part of my article about traditional Thai dresses, I’d like to continue with the remaining four styles. In the previous post on traditionalistic Thai dresses I have presented the Thai Chakkri, Thai Boromphiman, Thai Siwalai and Thai Chakkraphat to you. Thus, I’d like to continue with the fifth one called Chut Thai Chitlada.

Traditional Thai Dresses

5. Chut Thai Chitlada

Chitlada is a daytime ceremonial dress. Hence, it is worn on formal occasions such as welcoming royal guests at the airport. The Chut Chitlada can be worn with a long sleeved buttoned silk blouse. The skirt (Pha-Noong) is a casual wrap skirt that has a brocaded band at the hem. It is not necessary to wear royal decorations with this style. However, the colour of the dress should be appropriate for the respective occasion.

thai chitraladaThai Chitlada dress*

6. Chut Thai Ruean Ton

The Chut Thai Ruean Ton is the most casual style of all eight traditional designs presented here. It is most often worn at non-official functions, for example for the religious ceremony of the conferring of royal offerings to the monks (Khtin ton). The Thai Ruan Ton comprises a collarless buttoned blouse and a striped or plain coloured skirt (Pha-Noong) with a patterned band at the hem. This is sometimes folded to one side. The Chut Ruean Ton is a two piece dress which means that the blouse and the skirt are separate.

thai ruean ton dressthai ruean ton dressThai Ruean Ton dresses*

7. Chut Thai Amarin

The Chut Amarin or Amarintra is a beautiful formal evening gown. It is made of brocaded fabric and ornaments. The blouse is usually round-necked and the skirt (Pha-Noong) is ankle length. With this style, royal decorations are worn. The Thai Amarin is a dress for an evening dinner or the Royal Birthday Procession.

thai amarin dressthai amarin dressThai Amarin dresses*

8. Chut Thai Dusit

Dusit is the most Western style of all eight traditional dresses presented here. It is a wide necked and sleeveless brocaded dress. The skirt and top are sown together so that they form a one piece dress. The Chut Thai Dusit can be worn for evening ceremonies in place of a Western style dress. For this kind of dress, Yok silk fabric is used. The Dusit can be either worn with Thai or Western style jewellery.

thai dusit dressqueen sirikit wearing thai dusit dress Thai Dusit dress & HM Queen Sirikit in Chut Thai Dusit around 1950*

I really enjoyed researching about Thai traditional dresses and since I have not been to the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles in Bangkok, this place is on my top priority list next time I have the chance to go there 🙂

Finally, I’d like to close this article with a picture of little me in a traditional dress 😉

Little Sirinya in traditional Thai dressThis is probably the casual Thai Ruean Ton style

I hope you enjoyed reading this post! Do you also like these dresses as much as I do?

Traditional Thai dresses

Traditional Thai dresses featured in this post (photo credit: bangkokpost.com)

In case, you’ve missed my first part of Thai traditional dresses, check this out here! Did you know that there is also a traditional make up look that goes well with traditional Thai dresses? What is more, it is also interesting to note that today the Siamese Fashionista group tries to encourage young Thais to dress traditionally.

Yours, Sirinya

(*All photos in this post are from the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles unless otherwise stated, a further source about traditional dresses in Thailand is here)

 




Traditional Thai Dresses Part I

Ever since I was little, I have been fascinated by the amazingly gorgeous traditional Thai dresses. The Thai national or traditional dress is called ‘Chut Thai phra ratcha niyom’ (ชุดไทยพระราชนิยม) in Thai which means ‘Thai dress of royal endorsement’. This kind of dress (chut Thai) is commonly worn on formal occasions as national costume.

traditional dresses at Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles

Traditional Thai dresses at the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, Bangkok, Thailand*

Today 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 HM Queen Sirikit accompanied the King in state visits to Western countries in 1960, she realized the need for a modern national costume. Thus, Queen Sirikit had research conducted concerning historical records of royal dresses. Consequently, eight official designs were developed and also promoted by HM Queen Sirikit herself.

I will focus on traditional (national) Thai dresses for women but of course there are also national attire for men. I have divided this article into two parts, simply because there is so much material and information. Hence, I think it is better to have smaller ‘bites’ 😉

Traditional Thai dresses

Traditional Thai dresses featured in this post (photo credit: bangkokpost.com)

Traditional Thai Dresses

1. Chut Thai Chakkri

Chut Thai Chakkri is a very formal and elegant dress. This kind of garment is usually produced by using the Yok weaving technique. A special feature of the Yok weaving method is that it creates additional thickness within the fabrics without adding extra threads. In the Chakkri Style, the ‘Pha-Sin’, that is the ‘Pha-Noong’ or skirt, is a full length wrap skirt. This skirt has two pleated folds in front which are called ‘Na- Nang’.

chakkri style Thai dresschakkri style Thai dressChakkri style dresses*

Traditional Thai dress, Chakkri (photo credit: Amat Nimitpark)

Traditional Thai dress, Chakkri (photo credit: Amat Nimitpark)

2. Chut Thai Boromphiman

Like Thai Chakkri, Thai Boromphiman is also a formal evening attire. It can be worn in formal ceremonies and royal functions. The Boromphiman comprises a long sleeved round necked buttoned blouse which is tucked beneath the ankle length ‘Pha-Noong’ skirt with its front pleats (‘Na-Nang’). The blouse and the skirt are sown together so that they form a one piece traditional dress. The Boromphiman is made of brocaded fabrics in order to create a very luxurious appearance.

thai boromphiman dressthai boromphiman dressBoromphiman dresses*

3. Chut Thai Siwalai

The Thai Siwalai is a formal evening gown similar to the Boromphiman and the Chakkri. The only difference between these Thai traditional dresses is that the Siwalai has a shawl draped over the long- sleeved blouse. This shawl is also called ‘sbai’ in Thai. Chut Thai Siwalai is worn in royal ceremonies and other formal occasions. By the way, the term siwalai was derived from the English word ‘civilized’.

thai siwalai dressqueen sirikit in thai siwalai dress

Thai Siwalai dress & HM Queen Sirikit in Thai Siwalai dress around 1950*

4. Chut Thai Chakkraphat

First of all, it is important to mention that ‘Chakkraphat’ means emperor in Thai language. Hence, Thai Chakkraphat is an official and conservative traditional dress with a shawl similar to Chakkri. Nevertheless, it appears even more put together than the Thai Chakkri dress because the shawl is thicker, richly embroidered and decorated with beautiful ornaments. It can be worn in royal or national ceremonies.

thai chakraphat, thai traditional dress of queen sirikit of thailandthai chakkraphat dress

Thai Chakkraphat dresses*

In the following part, I will feature the remaining four styles of traditional Thai dresses. Hence, stay tuned if you like these amazingly beautiful garments! Or click here to check it out immediately 🙂 It is also interesting to note that today the Siamese Fashionista group tries to encourage young Thais to dress traditionally.

Yours, Sirinya

(*All photos in this post are from the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles unless otherwise stated, a further source about traditional dresses in Thailand is here)