Thailand’s national costume, chut Thai, is a relatively new tradition, however, its impact on the people of Thailand in no way reflects its newness to their culture. Before chut Thai, the chong kraben (a simple wrapped garment) was traditionally worn by men and women in Thailand, however, this was changed in the 1960s when Thailand’s queen decided that her country needed a modern and regal dress to become the staple garment of her country.
THE HISTORY of CHUT THAI
Chut Thai is a garment that has been a part of Thailand’s history since the 1700s, undergoing many transformations before it received its official status in the 1900s. In the Rattanakosin period from 1782-1932, transformations included adaptations under the influence of the West. However, chut Thai as we now know it witnessed its most important developments in the 20th Century. The wife of King Bhumilbol Adulvadei of Thailand, Queen Sirikit, saw the need for an official national costume, especially for foreign visits, and thus chut Thai was developed. ‘Chut Thai’ is the shortened version of ‘chut Thai phra ratcha niyom,’ which can be roughly translated to mean, ‘Thai dress that has been royally endorsed.’ There is therefore an important emphasis on the regal nature of the dress as well as a desire to reflect Thai culture.
STYLES of CHUT THAI
Once Queen Sirikit had developed the national dress, she promoted eight official versions that each had their own meaning and style. Each of these dresses were conjured up with a specific special occasion in mind, from weddings to welcoming royal visitors.
Chut Thai Boromphiman
This gown is designed to be worn in the evening in a formal setting for a royal function or ceremony. The design incorporates a blouse that features long sleeves and buttons that are sewn into the skirt. Known as a Pha-Noog, the skirt has a pleated front and is typically made of ornate woven fabric incorporated with gold, silver, and brightly colored threading.
Chut Thai Chakkri
Another elegant dress, the chut Thai Chakkri, is also worn for formal occasions. The gown is woven using the Yok technique which is a method that allows the material to feel thick without having to use more material. The upper part of the dress (known as the sabi) is wrapped around the torso like a shawl and only covers one shoulder. The sabi top was originally banned in the 1900s but now must include an additional garment beneath the wrap. The skirt portion of the dress is a tube-like garment that features two pleats at the front. Gold and silver stitching are the finishing touches on this elegant gown.
Chut Thai Chakkraphat
Similar to the Chakkri, the Chakkraphat is a gown that includes a shawl worn around one shoulder, however, this gown is much more ornate. The word ‘Chakkraphat’ is translated to mean ‘emperor’, so it is no surprise that it is only worn at royal ceremonies. It is covered in beautiful embroidery and ornamental pieces, making it one of the most elegant styles of chut Thai.
Chut Thai Siwalai
This chut Thai style is designed as an evening gown, with long sleeves underneath a shawl (known as a ‘sbai’ in Thai). It is worn to formal occasions as well as royal ceremonies. It can be found in silk fabrics with a majority of the dress adorned in brightly threaded embroidery.
Chut Thai Chitlada
Similar to other chut Thai designs, the Chitlada is made up of a long embordered skirt and a blouse-style top. However, this gown is a less formal design and can be worn to greet royal travelers or during daytime ceremonies.
Chut Thai Ruean Ton
Of all the gowns, the Ruean Ton is considered to be the most casual and is worn at functions rather than official royal ceremonies. The skirt and blouse of the gown are simple and not stitched together. It presents a casual appearance due to its lack of collar at the neck and minimal designs on the skirt.
Chut Thai Dusit
Made from a style of material known as Yok silk, the Dusit is the example of chut Thai that is most influenced by styles from the West. Its wider neckline and lack of sleeves set it apart from other styles of chut Thai. It can be worn to international events and occasions as well as informal functions.
Chut Thai Amarin
An Amarin chut Thai is a structured gown with long sleeves and a round neck that adds a softness to the style know as a ‘sinh.’ It is not always worn with a belt as it is not intended to accentuate the body of the wearer and is only seen at formal evening events.