Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Married women's dress: KAREN

Married women's dress : All married women wear sarongs and over-blouses. A young woman contemplating marriage makes her own wedding clothes, as well as a shirt for her prospective husband. The woman's outfit is made in a wide variety of designs, depending whether Sgaw or Pwo, mountain-dwellers or valley-dwellers, living in the north or south, and how recently they have arrived from Burma. It is therefore difficult to classify Karen women's clothing. Sgaw women living in the mountains wear blouses woven of indigo-dyed homespun cotton. They embroider the lower portion of the blouse with bright red thread, and embellish it with white Job's-tear seeds. The borders may vary from rather simply embroidered patterns over the lower third of the blouse to very elaborate solid embroidery covering two-thirds of the garment. On some of the blouses the seeds are used sparingly, and simply accent the design of the embroidery, while on others they form a major element in the pattern. Often a strip of red cloth three or four fingers wide is appliqued near the bottom edge.

Other Sgaw women blouses with a woven pattern. The top part of the blouse is plain black or indigo, and the design forms a lower border. It can be a rather narrow border or extend two-thirds of the way up. Again it is predominantly red, with other colors used for accent. The lower section has large all-over diamond-shaped patterns and above that is a section blocked out into vertical rectangles. Most of the patterns within the rectangles are variations of diamonds, zigzags, vertical lines, and dots. Pwo women generally wear blouses with bold patterns. A Style worn by Pwo living in the Hod Valley uses black thread for the basic cloth, but it is totally overlaid with a pattern of alternating red and gold-colored stripes and squares, often accented with Job's-tear seeds. Another style of Pwo Karen blouse has an all-over design in the upper part of the blouse-across the shoulders and down about half way, just the opposite of the Sgaw style. Blouses are sleeveless but the cloth falls over the shoulders with a cap-sleeve effect. While working, women often wear long detached sleeves of dark blue or black cloth to protect their arms. Married women wear sarongs made of two strips of material sewn together horizontally, then stitched together to form a tubular skirt. Being narrow, the sarongs do not have enough overlap to be folded and tucked in like Thai-style sarongs, therefore they are either bunched around the waist or wrapped with a pleat in front, and held up with a cord or metal belt. Sarongs are worn anywhere from knee- to ankle-length, being hitched up shorter when doing certain ty0pes of work, and worn longer for more formal occasions. Homespun skirts using ikat (tie-dye) patterns are worn by mountain-dwelling Sgaw and Pwo women. Each woman has her own way of tying the thread to produce her special pattern, and she carefully guards her secret. It is said that the tie-dye process is associated with spirit worship, and each woman does hers in the forest, away from curious eyes. The brick-red dye is made from the Kho plant. After the threads are tied and dyed, the warp is set up using strips of ikat alternating with bands of kho-dyed thread, accented with strips of indigo thread.

Plains-dwelling Karen generally wave their skirts of market thread, with narrower strips of tie-dyed pattern and wider strips of solid colors in order to save time and work. Some of the plains0dwelling Pwo women wear very bright-colored skirts. The basic color is usually red. They commonly have narrow strips of tie-dyed design of the rust of brick-red color, separated with strips of an intricately woven pattern, alternating stripes of gold, green, and black or blue Sgaw women in the Mae Sariang plains weave skirts of still a different type. The borders are red, while the central panel is of an intricate all-over pattern of various colors.

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