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What are traditional Thai clothes called?

What are traditional Thai clothes called?

Thai traditional clothing refers to the traditional garments and textiles that are part of Thailand’s cultural heritage. Thai clothing draws inspiration from various sources including Indian, Chinese, Mon, and Khmer influences. The styles, fabrics, colors and patterns used in traditional Thai clothing are rich in history and reflect the country’s traditions and beliefs. Some of the most well-known types of traditional Thai clothing include:

Chut Thai

Chut Thai (Thai: ชุดไทย) refers to a two or three piece suit that is commonly worn by Thai men and women on formal occasions. Chut Thai usually consists of a silk shirt or blouse, and a pha nung or chong kraben (Thai: ผ้าถุง, โจงกระเบน) which is a ankle-length skirt worn by women, or trousers worn by men. Chut Thai outfits are brightly colored and made from rich fabrics like silk, brocade and satin. They often feature exquisite details like sequins, gemstones and gold embroidery. While styles and cuts may vary, Chut Thai retains traditional Thai elements like a high collared Nehru jacket for men and the pha nung wrap around skirt for women.

Chut Thai emerged as the national costume of Thailand in the late 19th century during the reign of King Rama V. At a time when the upper and middle classes opted for Western style clothes, the king promoted Chut Thai as a way to preserve traditional clothing and resist Western influences. The early Chut Thai outfits for women paired the pha nung wrap around skirt with a silk blouse inspired by Victorian fashion. For men, it comprised of tailored trousers teamed with a closed collar jacket. While retaining these defining elements, Chut Thai has evolved over the decades incorporating more modern and minimalist influences.

Nowadays, Chut Thai is worn during festivals, celebrations, ceremonies and formal events. Both men and women pair it with traditional Thai accessories like khan dok and khan maang malai corsages. Chut Thai fabric and colors vary by occasion – auspicious hues like yellow, pink and green are popular for weddings while sober blacks, whites and navies are worn for funerals. A complete traditional Chut Thai set remains an elegant choice to participate in traditional Thai cultural events and makes for a meaningful souvenir of a visit to Thailand.


The sabai (Thai: ไส้หมอนสไบ) is a versatile Thai garment worn by both men and women in Thailand. It is a rectangular piece of cloth that can be worn in a variety of ways. The sabai dates back centuries and different accounts trace its origins to either southern Thailand or Persia. The Thai word “sabai” which means soft, comfortable and relaxed aptly describes this garment.

A sabai is a single rectangular length of cloth around 1.5 m wide and 2.5 m long. Traditionally woven from silk or cotton, modern sabais also incorporate polyester blends. Popular patterns and motifs feature checks, plaids, zigzag lines and paisleys in vibrant colors. The versatile sabai can be worn like a shawl, skirt, dress or even pants. Here are some common ways to style it:

  • As a shoulder covering – Drape the sabai around the shoulders like a stole or shawl.
  • As a wrap skirt – Wrap the sabai around the lower body and tuck in the ends at the waist to form a long wrap skirt.
  • As a tied skirt – Tie the sabai around the waist allowing the ends to fall evenly as a calf or ankle length skirt.
  • As pants – The sabai can be cleverly twisted and tied to resemble Thai fisherman pants.
  • As a tube dress – Wrap the sabai once or twice around the body and secure the ends over one shoulder to fashion a tube dress.

Both women and men in Thailand incorporate the versatile sabai in their daily wardrobe. It is a light and airy garment suited for the country’s tropical climate. Styling a sabai over pants or skirts lends a fashionable touch. The sabai requires minimal care – it can be easily hand washed and hung to dry. Tourists visiting Thailand often purchase sabais as a memorable souvenir of traditional Thai clothing and culture.

Praewa Lai Rue See

Praewa Lai Rue See (Thai: แพรวาลายรักษี) is a traditional Thai blouse characterized by its full, puffed sleeves. Meaning “blouse with sealed pattern” in Thai, Praewa Lai Rue See gets its name from the intricately embroidered designs sealed between two layers of sheer cloth. These blouses are made from fine, gauzy fabrics like cotton, silk or chiffon.

Praewa Lai Rue See features delicate floral vines, animals and geometrical patterns embroidered along the front panel, sleeves and collar. The motifs are filled in using a satin stitch and the edges outlined with knot stitches. Bright colored threads lend the embroidery handiwork a vibrant, lively quality. The characteristic puff sleeves are created by generously gathering the fabric at the shoulder seam. The blouses open down the front with a button placket or concealed zipper.

Praewa Lai Rue See originated in the late 19th century and were popularized as formal attire during the Bangkok period. Wealthy ladies wore them as fashionable indoor garments often layered under their sabai or chong kraben when going outdoors. Today, Praewa Lai Rue See are reserved for special events like weddings, ceremonies and Thai traditional dance performances. They can be paired with a plain or patterned pha nung as an elegant Chut Thai. The intricate needlework and airy silhouette make Praewa Lai Rue See a feminine, charming representation of Thai craftsmanship and style.

Chong Kben

The chong kraben (Thai: โจงกระเบน) is a traditional Thai wrap around skirt that forms part of women’s Chut Thai attire. It is a rectangular piece of cloth between 3 to 6 yards long that is wrapped around the lower body and tucked in place at the waist. Chong kraben date back to the Ayutthaya period and were originally worn for comfort by commoners working in fields and markets. The royal court later adopted the style as a symbol of Thailand’s heritage.

Chong kraben are made from a variety of fabrics like cotton, silk, satin and brocade. Prints and patterns showcase traditional Thai motifs like botanical designs, geometric shapes and spiritual symbols. Traditional chong kraben are ankle length but modern versions come in shorter lengths as well. A pha sin or narrow strip of cloth secures the chong kraben in place. Pleats and folds are artfully arranged to create a billowy silhouette. When paired with a delicate blouse, chong kraben lend a romantic, feminine charm to Thai women’s attire.

There are two common ways to style a chong kraben:

  • Long rap: The skirt is wrapped once around the body with the hem reaching the ankles. The waistline lies above the navel. This graceful style is preferred for formal events.
  • Short rap: The chong kraben is wrapped higher at the natural waistline creating a shorter calf or knee length silhouette. The casual short rap is seen in daily wear.

Today, chong kraben retain their status as an integral part of Thai national dress. They are a must-have for ceremonies, formal functions and celebratory occasions. The elegant draping flatters the wearer and highlights Thailand’s rich weaving heritage. Chong kraben make for an exquisite souvenir reflecting the creativity and artistry of Thai culture.

Pha Lung

The pha lung (Thai: ผ้าหลุยง) is a lower body wrap historically worn by Laos women in Isan or northeast Thailand. It is a single rectangular cloth 3 meters long that is wrapped around the waist down to the ankles. Pha lung are intricately patterned with stripes and motifs inspired by nature, religion and folklore. They are handwoven from silk or cotton on traditional looms making each piece unique.

Pha lung feature bright colors and vivid geometric and zoomorphic patterns. Common motifs include elephants, naga, birds, flowers, temples, rice and bamboo – all reflecting the Isan environment and beliefs. The pha lung is wrapped snugly around the body and knots or tucks hold it in place. When paired with a matching blouse, it creates a comfortable, figure flattering outfit. While widths vary, a traditional pha lung should fully wrap the wearer’s body requiring around 3 meters of finely woven fabric.

Historically, pha lung were everyday work garments for Laos-Thai women in northeast Thailand and Laos. The handwoven textiles identified a woman’s village and status – fine silks were reserved for royalty. Today, pha lung are reserved for special ceremonies and festivals. Elaborately woven modern versions showcase expert weaving skills passed down generations. The striking patterns and motifs make pha lung valuable collectible textiles. Pha lung represent Thailand’s vibrant weaving traditions and the Isan region’s unique Lao heritage.


Mudmee refers to a hand woven Thai silk known for its iconic zigzag, kaleidoscopic patterns. Originating in northeast Thailand’s Isan region, mudmee weaving dates back centuries and was influenced by ancient Khmer culture. Mudmee translates to “tie dye” referring to the resist-dyed threads used to create the signature geometric patterns.

The unique mudmee designs feature parallel rows of geometric shapes – triangles, diamonds, dots and stripes – in contrasting colors. Traditionally, earth tone shades like indigo, maroon, green and black were used but modern weaves incorporate brighter colors as well. Mudmee requires an intricate, multi-step ikat style process. The silk yarn is tie-dyed before weaving to resist color penetration and then set on looms to create the zigzag patterns. No two mudmee weaves are exactly alike – the shifting of threads during weaving leads to pleasant imperfections.

Mudmee patterns reflect religious and spiritual symbols conveying wisdom and positive blessings. Common designs include:

  • Yok Dok – zigzags representing waves and serpents
  • Laai Soi – diamonds symbolizing frog’s eggs and fertility
  • Taan Jaang – checkerboard pattern denoting prosperity

Mudmee fabric is transformed into various garments like shirts, dresses, skirts and pants. The graphic lines and bright colors have also made mudmee popular for home decor, accessories and souvenirs. Mudmee weaving is a cherished Isan tradition passed down from mothers to daughters. Today, mudmee’s iconic motifs capture the creative spirit of Thai culture and bring good fortune to the wearer.


From elegant royal costumes like Chut Thai and chong kraben to rural weaving traditions like mudmee and pha lung, Thailand’s traditional clothing is diverse and culturally significant. Natural fabrics, comfortable silhouettes, vibrant colors and meaningful patterns define authentic Thai garments. With growing interest in cultural heritage, Thai clothing labels are reinventing traditional wear in contemporary, fashionable styles. Yet the essence of Thai clothing – its evocative craftsmanship, graceful designs and spiritual symbols – continues to captivate wearers worldwide.