Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cloth and Ornamentation Of Akha

The knee-length skirt hangs very low on the woman's hips. It is straight across the front and heavily pleated in the back. The halter is a piece of cloth wrapped around the breasts and tied or buttoned at the side. A single string or strap attached to the back on one side goes over the opposite shoulder and loops over a button in front. The width and the embellishment of the halter vary with the style. The U Lo and Loimi styles have a bare midriff between halter and skirt.
The sash is tied around the waist under the jacket, with the ends hanging in front. Being heavily weighted with buttons, coins, and beads, it falls between the woman's legs when she squats or sits, protecting her modesty. Leggings are made by sewing indigo cloth into tubes and decorating them in the appropriate style.
Girls dress similarly to women, except they wear snug-fitting caps, which become more elaborately ornamented as the girls grow older. Pre-adolescent girls do not wear halters or sashes.

Adolescent girls gradually change from the type of clothing worn by a child to that of a woman. This is done during times of ceremonies in four stages: (1) Wearing a halter (2) Adding Job's-tear seed, red and white beads, and silver to her cap (3) Wearing a sash (4) Changing to and adult-style headdress. Tiny gourds at the waist and on the headdress indicate the young woman is not yet married.

The Akha man's jacket varies in style and ornamentation, using the same needlework techniques as the woman's. The Chinese-style pants are free of embellishment. On occasion some men wear black turbans, which are wound neatly and firmly so that they can be put on like a hat. Some older men wear red or pink silk turbans for special occasions. Boys wear similar clothing, except for a close-fitting cap. All Akha carry shoulder bags, decorated according to their particular style.

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