Thursday, August 27, 2009

Clothing of Lahu Shi

The Christian Lahu Shi women dress like Shan or Northern Thai, while men wear ready-made clothing, usually in Western style. Since 1975 there has been an influx of Lahu Shi refugees from Laos who wear their traditional clothing, made of commercial black cloth. The women's short jackets are flared at the waist. Young unmarried women adorn their jackets with many strips of red cloth set off with white and other colours. Lacy patterns are embroidered between the appliqued strips, and roes of tiny silver buttons [now aluminium] and cowrie shells are added. Bands of coloured cloth, predominantly red, are sewn to the upper sleeves and cuffs. A row of repoussed silver rectangular buckles closes the jacket in front.
The top section of a young women's skirt is of Shan or Laotian hand-woven red cloth with vari-coloured stripes. The middle section is of black cloth with strips of appliqued designs in red and other colours. The lower portion is solid black, with a red hemline border. The married women's jacket is similar to that of the single girl, but with fewer red strips and no embroidery. It does not lack for ornateness, however, as there is an abundance of tiny aluminium buttons and dangling silver balls. The skirt has striped red cloth at the top like the young woman's skirt, but bands of coloured cloth or flowered prints are the only decoration on the lower part.
Unmarried women wear black turbans, the ends of which are ornamented with strips of brightly-coloured cloth, buttons, beads and coins. Married women's turbans are less decorative. Women wear large cylindrical silver earrings and plain silver neck rings. Their throats are wrapped with strands of alternating red and white beads; sometimes waist-length strands of beads are added. Often belts of silver or other metal secure their narrow sarongs.
On festive occasions unmarried Lahu Shi men and boys wear black jackets and pants decorated with strips of other colours and embroidery. The jacket is ornamented with numerous rows of buttons in front and on the sleeves. The costume is completed with a long-fringed black turban. Married men wear black with little or no embellishment. A headman, however, often wears a jacket of a shiny material and a pink silk turban.
Lahu Shi weave sturdy shoulder bags on back-strap looms; those from Laos make a simple striped bag; those from Burma weave a wide variety of designs. All Lahu make delightful caps for their children. Some are made of triangular-shaped cloth which join at the top, and are crowned with a pompon. Caps for little girls are more elaborate than those for boys.

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