When you are traveling in Laos, you will be amazed by their sophisticating weaving skill. In each market, it is not hard to encounter shops which offer you a wide range of colorful, refined silk from a traditional pattern to the modern one. These have contributed to the creation of Laos traditional costume (the “sinh” and the “salong”), a very special and unique costumes reflecting Laotian custom. Let’s find out more about the origin and features of Laotian costume.

Laotian Traditional Costumes

Laotian Traditional Costumes

History of Laos Costume

Since ancient times, in each village, the people of Laos have self-made cloth blankets. When they do not have dyes, they take fruits from the mountains to create color. The women in Laos like to wear cloth flowers, dark-colored fabrics, and fresh as the color of the natural leaves of the forest. However, the type of dress and the type of trousers also selected for convenience, suitable for the season with specific circumstances. Therefore, there are many clothes suitable for each activity such as festive costume, labor costume, funeral costume, and wedding costume and so on.

The “sinh” has a long history in Laos. According to Ms. Kongdeuan Nettavong, a researcher who presented on the history of “sinh” at a seminar last year, she said that almost ethnic groups of Laos wear sinh and they each have their own styles of sinh. Laotian female is said to first put on the sinh about 3,000 years ago. Wearing a “sinh” has become a unique symbol that separates Laotian women from others.

Laos Traditional Costumes – The “Sinh” & The “Salong”

Laotian knows how to weave from a very early age since weaving is an essential skill for every woman to claim their artfulness. A good wife is considered to be the one who can weave well. Laotian traditional costumes for the woman is the “sinh” (English meaning clothes), but actually, it is a traditional tube skirt made of silk. If you have had a chance to visit Thailand or Cambodia, you will realize that the “Sinh” is a little bit similar to Thais or Cambodia traditional skirt. It is understandable because they are three neighbor countries.

Laotian Traditional Costumes

Laos bride and groom in traditional wedding clothing

“Sinh” consists of 3 main parts “hua sinh”, the waistband part; “phuen sinh” the body of the skirts which is usually empty and don’t have many decorations and tin sinh, the lower border which contains golden decoration. When Laotian woman wear “sinh”, on top they will have scarves with the same decoration crossing over their body.

“Salong” is the traditional costume for Laotian man. The big difference between “Salong” and “Sinh” is that it is a big pant or peasant pant.

Design of “Sing” & “Salong”

The sinh is a simple tube skirt which can identify the woman who wears it in a variety of ways. The sinh is made of silk (silk and cotton or cotton only) woven in exquisite motifs as well as delicate embroidery. They come in different textures and designs and are usually created in rural areas by ethnic groups… The sinh, woven with diverse motifs and colors, reflects the culture, social relationships and beliefs from the community to community and region to region.

A sinh consists of 3 different parts, the houa sinh (waistband), pheun sinh (body, main part) and the tdin sinh (hem).

The pheun sinh is the most important as well as the longest part at the center of the sinh. It needs different techniques to weave which take hours of labor to make a complete pheun sinh

There are both vertical and horizontal designs. Sinh with vertical patterns is mainly stitched to be made into a tube skirt with one seam. Sinhs with horizontal designs has to be stitched with two seams. There are some horizontal patterns which can be made into a sinh with only one seam. This is dependant on the design chosen or weaving techniques such as supplementary warp and a warp striped pattern.”

Sinhs have different names that relate to the weaving technique and design employed. The pheun sinh, the body, is the most important part of a sinh and very often the sinh gets its name from the specific techniques and designs used to create this part. For instance there is sinh mii (sinh woven with ikat technique), sinh muk (sinh woven with supplementary warp technique), sinh chok (sinh woven with discontinuous supplementary weft technique, sinh mai kom (sinhs woven with twisted multiple silk yarn technique), sinh khan (sinhs with vertical striped design) and sinh kaan (sinhs with horizontal striped design).”

The word “salong” denotes a length of fabric (made of cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers such as rayon) that is worn by men. The traditional garment is generally four to five meters in width as well as length (from the knees to the ankles). Salongs are usually worn around the waist, but can also be tied in various methods. With regards to design, traditional salongs usually have varied, square or checkered patterns and symbols and colors that are woven by means of traditional native weaving methods that go back many centuries. Over the years, more and more varied designs and images have been added to designs that include plants, animals and cultural symbols. Salongs now also incorporate contemporary designs and patterns that keep pace with the times and the latest fashion styles. The combination of colors and designs that can be found on salongs is virtually limitless today.

Laos Traditional Costumes in Holidays & Festivals

Laotian traditional costume often wears on important occasion or ceremony and in many rural areas, you will easily catch a glimpse of children wearing “tube skirts” to school. Otherwise, “sinh” and “salong” are various in colors and depends on their occasions such as a wedding or funeral of the festival.

Wedding: Wedding ceremony in Laos is an important occasion. The groom and the bride will wear the traditional costumes with bright color and gold details, which represents the propensity. The richer the family is, the more sophisticating the clothes are.

Festival: Festival is the time when people join together and share happiness all around. Therefore, the custom is very colorful and in the bright color.

Other Facts about Laos Costumes

Nowadays, people in the capital or central places do not usually traditional clothes but it is a typical thing in Laos’ rural area. The high quality ”Sinh” or “Salong” is made of silk and is used in ceremony and festival. Meanwhile, the “sinh” which is worn everyday life in the rural area, is made of cotton weaving and cooler, more comfortable to carry out daily tasks.

Laotian Traditional Costumes

Laos dance group from Lanexang Village in traditional clothing