Chut Thai, literally Thai outfit, is worn by all, men, women and children. A wrap called Chong Kraben has been worn by men and women for years. In the case of men, it has been worn between waist halfway down the thigh. Formal dress for men meant bare chests and feet which those on Thailand travel itineraries are likely to see on old murals and photographs from the 19th Century. Conversely, the wrap for women went down below the knee with a blouse covering the torso and a Sabai, a shawl-like garment often made of silk.
There is not a traditional national costume as such because of the regional diversity of Thailand. Special costumes come out on special occasions, festivals and other important gatherings, family or communal. There are a couple of other elements to Thai clothing other than the Chong Kraben and the Sabai that are worth describing:
• Pha Nung is a long, rectangular piece of cloth resembling a skirt which can be folded or draped several different ways.
• Sin is a tube skirt that is wrapped around the waist comprising the Hua Sin, Tua Sin, and Tin Sin.
Queen Sirikit went on a tour of Europe and the USA in 1960 and did some research on traditional clothing in a search for something that could be regarded as suitable for formal occasions. The result was seven different designs which she proceeded to promote:
• Ruean Ton is essentially casual, a long silk sin with a patterned band worn with a blouse that has no collar.
• Chitlada is another sin with a decorated hem worn with a long-sleeved silk blouse and buttoned at the front, silver or gold.
• Amarin is very much for the evening. It is formal, the blouse round necked with sleeves to the elbow, brocade and accessories to enhance the overall appearance.
• Borom Phiman is another formal option. It is very decorative, one piece with the round-necked blouse sewn with the skirt to make a one-piece.
• Chakkri has a thick woven fabric, usually with gold or silver thread to make it look more expensive than it really is. It is regarded as one of the more elegant costumes available and is certainly suitable for formal occasions.
• Chakkraphat is similar but a little more conservative thereby being suitable for different types of occasions. The shawl is pleated and embroidered.
• Siwalai is somewhat similar to Borom Phiman but it incorporates the Sabai over the shoulder. It is suitable for formal and royal gatherings.
There is less choice for men. The Suea Phraratchathan translates into ‘’royal bestowed shirt.’’ It is worn on all special occasions. There is a jacket similar to one that the Indian Prime Minster, Nehru used to wear. There is a Mandarin style collar about 4 centimetres high and has three varieties; short-sleeved, long-sleeved and long-sleeved with a sash. There are two pockets at the front. The jacket is worn with trousers.
One thing that is common in all Thai clothing is colour; it makes a great purchase.