Traditional dresses are the heritage of a country. It shows their rich culture and history, which has been preserved across centuries. Asian countries are culturally prosperous, and it is evident from the huge variation in their traditional dresses.
14 Traditional Dresses And Their Significance
The traditional dress of India is not limited to a particular style of clothing. Since India houses many different cultures, there is a variation in the traditional dresses across regions. So, it would be wrong to categorize them into one single dress.
Saree is the traditional dress of women, which they wear during weddings and various puja ceremonies. It also a heritage piece that often gets passed on through generations. Among the males, kurta-pajama or sherwani is the traditional dress.
Like north Indian women, south Indian women wear saree as their traditional dress. But the male clothing differs. The males wear a white dhoti or a colorful lungi.
The northeast has many different cultures and tribes with a different traditional dresses that may look the same but differ from each other.
2. Japan – Kimono
The kimono is one of the most famous traditional dresses across the world, thanks to anime and other animations like Doraemon, Shinchan, etc., which most of us grew up watching.
The kimono is a part of the Japanese heritage and was originally worn by the common people or as an undergarment by the aristocrats. The dress’s structure is made in a simple wrapping way to allow for easy movements since most of the Japanese activities take place sitting on the floor.
3. South Korea – Hanbok
Hanbok originated during the Goguryeo kingdom in (37BCE-668CE), and its design has remained unchanged to this day. The hanbok was designed to keep in line the delicate lines and angles to balance the yin and yang energy.
Various colors represent the five elements of the earth: red represents fire, yellow represents earth, blue represents wood, white represents metal, and black represents water.
Hanboks are now mostly worn during occasions like Lunar New Year, weddings(the bride and groom’s mother wear hanbok), ancestral rites, and a child’s first birthday.
4. Thailand– Chut Thai Phra Ratcha Niyom
Abbreviated to Chut Thai, this literally translates to “Thai outfit.” The Thai dress is relatively new, having been modified in the 1950s. Thailand has different traditional dresses based on region, occasion, and social status, but the common features can be narrowed down to a few.
For the upper garment, the women wear long-sleeved blouses, and for the lower garment, a wraparound skirt called ‘pha-sin’ is worn. The skirt is usually made from silk and has beautiful patterns on it.
A long-sleeved shirt called “seur Phra Ratchathani” and a pair of trousers is the traditional dress for men.
5. Malaysia – Baju Kurung & Baju Melayu
Malaysia’s original traditional dress used to be the ‘Kemban’ which was a long piece of cloth worn around the body but which left the shoulders uncovered. Later with Malaysia became an Islamic country, the dress changed to cover more body parts.
The female dress is called ‘Baju Kurung,’ which is a two-part garment. The upper garment covers from the neck to the knee and is full-sleeved. The lower skirt goes to the ankles and is pleated on one side. Tudung’s headcover covers the hair, neck, and chest area worn by post-puberty females.
The male dress is called ‘Baju Melayu,’ is also a two-part garment often accompanied by a shawl-like piece called the ‘sampin.’ The upper garment is long-sleeved and is worn with trousers. For the headgear, a cap called ‘songkok’ is worn.
6. Vietnam – Ao Dai
The traditional Vietnamese dress is called ‘Ao Dai,’ which literally translates to ‘long dress.’ The traditional attire has survived through centuries braving the Chinese invasion and the French invasion.
There is not much difference between the male and female attire except that the female upper garment flows till the ankles and the male dress flows below the knees.
The Ao Dai symbolizes purity and grace and is worn during traditional occasions like the New Year and weddings.
7. Indonesia – Batik & Kebaya
The traditional Indonesian attire for the males is called ‘Batik,’ and for the females is called ‘Kebaya.’ ‘Batik’ is also the name of the pattern and has been declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO on October 2, 2009.
Batik resembles the shirt and has patterns made by dying the cloth. A headgear called the ‘peci’ is worn to complete the look, which is similar to a cap.
Kebaya is a long-sleeved blouse made from silk, cotton, or semi-transparent nylon.
8. Mongolia – Deel
The Deel is the traditional dress of Mongolia. It is a long thick coat that extends up to the ankles to protect from the cold, harsh weather. The structure of the coat is different from the usual ones. In a Deel, the buttons are placed on the side instead of the center to facilitate horse riding and other physical activities.
During summers a thin coat similar to the deel, called ‘terlig’ is worn.
9. Bhutan – Gho & Kira
The Gho is worn by the males of Bhutan and the Kira is worn by the females.
The Gho is more like a knee-length robe. The dress is functional as its wrap-around structure allows to store things in it.
The Kira is a rectangular piece of wraparound clothing that is fastened at the shoulder. To top it, a jacket-like piece is worn accompanied by jewelry.
10. Myanmar– Thummy & Longyi
The traditional dress of Myanmar was designed in the 1750s, with ‘Thummy’ being the female costume and ‘Longyi’ being the male costume.
The upper garment of the Thummy is consists of a long blouse that is up to the waist level and is attached to the skirt to avoid any unpleasant accident. The lower garment is a wraparound skirt similar to other Asian traditional clothes.
The Longyi is a long piece of cloth tied at the waist and runs down till the ankles or feet. It is adjustable according to the waist of the person and does not have any pockets.
The dress of Myanmar has been designed keeping in mind the hot and humid climate of the region. The dresses are airy and allow for adequate circulation and comfort. It is probably one of the few traditional dresses worn almost every day and on special occasions.
11. Russia– Rubakha & Sarafan
The Russian traditional dress is quite similar for both men and women owing to the severe cold climatic condition faced by the people. It is multi-layered, and the layers depend on the severity of the weather.
The Rubakha is the oversized shirt that is the first layer of clothing. Its richness in design depended on the economic status of the wearer. Above it is worn the Sarafan, which is the long dress that runs up to the feet.
But to protect themselves from the cold climate, the Shuba, which is a fur coat, is worn. The Shuba is one such item that the Russians still wear to protect themselves from the extreme climate.
However, the most significant part of the clothing is the Kokoshnik or the headgear worn by the females. According to their tradition, married females could not show their hair publicly and covered their hair with elaborate decorative styles.
Iran has many ethnicities living in the country; hence, there is a variety in each ethnicity’s traditional dresses. A few of the ethnicities are Persians, Lurs, Gilaks, Kurds, Balochi, Turks, and many more. So, there is vast diversity among the dresses. However, a few common features among them can be distinguished.
The men wear long kurtas, often reaching up to their feet with wide-legged trousers. To complete the set, a woolen cap is worn.
The females wear long kurtas with colorful layered flowy skirts. In many cultures, the head is covered with a scarf-like cloth allowing loose strands of hair to flow.
13. Kazakhstan – Shalbar & Shapan
A distinct feature of the Kazakh dress is that they use animal furs and skins to make certain parts of their dresses. Hailing from nomadic origins, animal products were a part of their day-to-day life.
The ‘Shalbar’ is the upper garment sewn from camel hair and was gender-neutral, i.e., both males and females can wear it.
The ‘Shapan’ is the accompanying long gown made from velvet and had intricate patterns of gold embroidery.
A headgear was also mandatory for both males and females, depending on the region and social status. A married woman wears a hat different from the one that a woman who has given birth wears.
14. Pakistan – Salwar kameez & Sherwani
The Pakistani traditional dress is almost similar for male and females. The female dress is called ‘Salwar Kameez’ in which the upper garment’s (kameez) length can vary between above the knee or below the knee. Loose flowy trousers (salwar) are worn with the kameez.
The male version of the dress is called Sherwani and is worn in everyday situations and on special occasions.
Watch this video to see the diversity and variation among other Asian countries
The next time you visit any of these countries make sure you try on their traditional clothes. It makes for an enriching experience and makes you feel truly like a local!