With so many different ethnic groups it is natural that there are many traditional costumes within Myanmar. Increasingly tourists travelling on a Myanmar holiday seem to be buying and wearing some of the local colourful clothes and they certainly make great souvenirs and presents.
Comfort is important while the climate variations within the country mean that locals have different needs depending on where they live. The difference between the mountainous regions and the hot lowlands is marked.
Whenever there is a special occasion whether a family celebration of some kind or a national or regional festival the colourful traditional clothing, male and female, comes out. There are accessories and jewellery added to the elaborate clothes which make costumes quite a sight; tourists on a Myanmar family holiday will delight in seeing any special occasion when such clothes come out of the wardrobe.
Silk and cotton dresses date back to the 1st Century AD, the Pyu times, while today’s Paso for males and Longyi for females have a history several centuries old. During the time of the Bagan Kingdom shawls were standard dress. Murals that have been found in remote areas show the clothing of the period and with Buddhism the main religion for centuries Buddhist costume was the major ‘’fashion.’’
The Paso is smooth or striped, the Longyi flowered. The cloth is around 2 metres in length and 80 cms wide sewn cylindrically and worn between waist and feet. It is held together with a fold, not a knot. The difference between the two is on how they are worn.
The really interesting thing is the variations within the different ethnic groups:
• Typical Kachin males wear shirts, jackets, longyis or slacks with turbans or tasseled headdresses. They will often have an ornamental sword and a shoulder bag. Kachin women wear hand-woven clothes, flowery or checkered. Silver coins and studs are sewn to their blouses.
• Kayah men have white headdresses and shirts with jackets and trousers below the knees. Silver daggers or silver swords are carried on special occasions. Women wear their hair in knots and wrapped with red headdresses. Their black blouses are black, covering a single shoulder. Generally, they wear red cloaks over the blouse with white shawls tied around the waist. Their longyis will be red or black.
• Kayin men wear headdresses with tassels, trousers, shirts and tunics. Longyis have horizontal stripes with a parallel one in the middle. Women dress in long tunics, longyis and headbands.
• Chin men will wear shirts and trousers and wrap themselves with colourful blankets. Headdresses have vertical black stripes. Women wear ankle length longyis with horizontal stripes and often diamonds or flower designs. Blouses button in the centre, short- sleeved with checks along the edge. They also wear silver and bronze wires around their waists.
• Monmales wear red checked longyis, collarless shirts and jackets. Women wrap their hair around a comb and wear longyis and blouses that button in the centre.
• Bamar men dress in longyis, collarless shirts and jackets. They also wear turbans. Women wear longyis and blouses, open in the front and buttoned in the centre or on the side. Their hair is tied in top-knots and they wear lace shawls over their shoulders.
• Rakhine men and women clothes are similar to those of the Bamar to whom they are closely related.
• The Shan man wear shirts with traditional khaki jackets and baggy trousers. He also wears a headdress. Shan women are typically dressed in longyis and blouses.
A Myanmar travel package is likely to allow tourists to see some of these wonderful costumes; why not buy and take home?