The traditional Thai costume has varied slightly with each historical period and from city to city. Everyday wear is changing from the traditional attire to the types of outfits only worn on the special festivals and occasions.
Fundamentals that make up the Thai costume
Pha Nung – the Pha Nung is much like a skirt that wraps around the lower body. This rectangular and long piece of cloth is folded and draped in a variety of different ways.
Sin – the Sin is a type of tube skirt consisting of three elements: Tin Sin, Tua Sin and Hua Sin, and wraps around the waist.
Sabai – a unisex item that is much like a shawl-like garment, the Sabai is a long and wide piece of silk that is draped across the body and over the shoulder.
Chong Kraben – the Chong Kraben is a type of wraparound cloth which is used on the lower half of the body. It can look much like pants with the cloth about 3 m in length and 1 m in width.
Thai traditional costumes for men
The nation costume for the Thai men is called a suea phraratchathan; a practical choice for the formal occasions and weddings.
The suea phraratchathan is styled much-like the Nehru jacket and comes with a Mandarin collar that is in the region of 3.5-4 cm in height. There are a few styles of this shirt with a choice of long-sleeves with a sash, long-sleeves, or short-sleeves. This sleeve style helps to create the least to most formal costume. The shirt is intended to go with a matching pair of trousers, and the shirt also includes two pockets on the outside. Even though this jacket is mostly worn with the western style of trousers, it can also go with the “Thai-style” pants, which are a more traditional look and created from a single piece of fabric like the pakama.
Also, the suea phraratchathan is made in a high-quality material like silk and comes in a choice of elegant colours.
The Suea Phraratchathan first appeared in 1979 and was created as a royal outfit for the King, and later popularized by General Prem Tinsulanonda, who was the Minister of Defence.
The pakama is a short piece of fabric that is much-like a sarong and worn by men around the waist. It is likely to be a common sight for those travellers on the Thailand tour packages that are exploring the more rural regions of the county. Most of the pakama include a variety of unique and distinct woven patterns. It is left tied around the waist until needed for a more useable function. This item has a variety of practical uses, and may serve as a bag, a sling, a towel, a hammock, or even protection from the heat.
Thai traditional costumes for women
There is no particular national dress in Thailand for women, but there is a traditional costume that is regularly used for formal occasions, and adopted as the national costume. With a lack of formal wear associated with Thailand, the Queen consort of Thailand (Queen Sirikit) had a variety of outfits designed which were then promoted by her aides and the queen herself. This led to the creation of seven official designs, which included the Siwalai, Chakkraphat, Chakkri, Borom Phiman, Amarin, Chit Lada and Ruean Ton Thai dresses. Since these dresses were originally created, they have been introduced into regular use by the general public.
The Amarin is manufactured with a brocaded fabric to make a perfect item of evening attire. This costume is designed with sleeves that stretch to just past the elbow and a round neck area. The style and beauty of the Amarin are created by accentuating it with accessories and textile. This outfit is perfect for the evening dinner occasion.
The Chitlada is styled to create a daytime ceremonial dress that is ideal for the not too informal occasions. It has a Sin type tube skirt with a brocaded band at the bottom. This dress is worn with a silk blouse with long sleeves and can feature five ornamental gold or silver buttons.
The Ruean Ton is a casual item of clothing and comes in plenty of plain to coloured designs. It is often worn with a collarless blouse to make it look more complete. This outfit is a practical choice for either non-official or casual affairs. A popular event that this costume can be seen on the Thailand tours is Kathin Ton which is a religious festival with activities like presenting a royal offering to the local monk population.
The Chakkraphat is similar in style to the Chakkri but has a more formal and conservative look and appropriate to wear to official occasions. The upper half of the outfit has a shawl with pleats and embroidery. It is a practical choice to wear to the ceremonial event.
The Chakkri is a preferred outfit for the elegant or formal wear and is created using a technique referred to as “Yok”. This style of weaving helps to increase the thickness of the fabric without the need to include extra threads. The thread used can include a touch of silver or gold to give the more expensive look.
The Siwalai is relatively comparable to the Borom Phiman and seen as a formal costume for evening events, and includes an over-shoulder sbai.
For the tourists on the Thailand family tour that wants to learn more about the national dress, there is the option of visiting the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles in the capital city, Bangkok.
The Borom Phiman is a further choice for the evening attire and is styled much-like a long sleeved blouse and buttoned at the rear or front. The feel and look of the outfit looks highly luxurious because the fabric is brocaded. The blouse and skirt part are made into a one-piece dress, and the blouse has a round neck. The Borom Phiman is a favoured choice for semi-formal or formal occasions.