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Longyi, cherished traditional dress of Myanmar

Written by: Zar Chi Htwe, Yangon office (Myanmar)

Every nation has its original traditional dress. Let’s say, it is Kimono of Japan, Saree of India. The one of Myanmar, our cherished dress is called “Longyi”.  Since long time ago to today, all Myanmar wear longyi proudly and it is our national identity. We have eight ethnic groups “Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Bama, Mon, Rakine, Shan”, which further diverse into 136 tribes, and all have their own traditional costume respectively.
Kachin longyi is famous for diamond shape stitch work, zigzag is common in Bama longyi, Chin longyi is known for distinct colors (Photo2-1, 2-2). Preference might be different, but I have many regional longyi including Kayin longyi which my friend purchased for me when she went to Kayin state (Photo3).
Indeed we always find out unique longyi whenever we travel to different states and regions. And then, we give it to our friends as a present.

At school, at office, at home, leisure time, and at celebration- we wear longyi all the time.  We classify some longyi colors and pattern as suitable for particular occasion.  For example, students and teachers wear plain green longyi and nurse wear plain red longyi as uniform. Modernized design and pattern are for leisure time and celebration.
We have many particular words for longyi as well, for example, Achake is a particular zigzag pattern and Zar is flower pattern which are to wear at wedding ceremony and graduation ceremony  (Photo4).
Price ranges from about 2 USD to over 1,000 USD depends on smoothness or/and patterns. There are many shops and markets selling longyi and people can easily purchase (Photo5). Longyi is so essential in Myanmar life.

There is no difficulty in wearing longyi, there are not many steps. Firstly, your body has to be in a ring made by the cloth and you will pull the cloth to one side. Then, folding the edge and tucking into the opposite side of your waist. This is only for female and a bit different for male (Figure1). Not only how to wear longyi, but also pattern is different for between men and women. We also differentiate how to call longyi for each, female one is “Htamein” and male one is “Pasoe”. Additionally, only female longyi has a piece of small black cloth called “Ah Htet Sin” at the top.

In big cities like Yangon and Mandalay, you will see some girls and boys wearing skirts and jeans. But even these fashion-conscious youth, I am sure that they have at least three sets of longyi. We uniformly wear longyi at religious ceremonies and when we go to pagodas.  I enjoy western clothes as well, but choose longyi most days. I feel more comfortable and being smart whenever I wear it.

If you wear longyi with Myanma blouse and stole (this is “one set”), I am sure you will look like a princess of Myanmar. Once you visit Myanmar, I would friendly recommend you  to wear longyi for a while and you will enjoy it.

Figure1.How to wear longyi

Figure1.How to wear longyi

Ms. Zar Chi Htwe

Ms. Zar Chi Htwe

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2-1.(Flom left)Chin, Kachin, Bama, Shan

2-2.Kayin, Kayar, Rakhine, Mon

2-2.Kayin, Kayar, Rakhine, Mon

3.My favorite Kayin longyi

3.My favorite Kayin longyi

4.Achake, Zar, and stole for cerebration

4.Achake, Zar, and stole for cerebration

5.Longyi in a shop

5.Longyi in a shop

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