This week was a grand event that a team I'm a part of has been planning for for over a year: the launch of our new intercultural church!
Some of you might know this, but I'm an associate/assistant pastor at a Pentecostal intercultural church in a 95% Caucasian town. Yes, it is an adventure! We officially launched yesterday evening, and it was amazing! Part of how we do church involves having church on Saturday nights and always having dinner together at the beginning. Each week we pray for a certain country, and we all try our hand at making dishes from that country to try at the dinner. It's always delicious, and it works well for an intercultural church. Just TRY to name a culture that doesn't enjoy food!
The other part that was special for our launch is that we all wore clothing from different cultures. While some wore clothing from their native culture, others of us borrowed from cultures that aren't our own. It's a really great opportunity to learn about other cultures and the meanings behind their fashion. I've learned how to tie bows on Korean hambok and Japanese kimono along the way! It allows people to share their culture with others in a tangible way.
I wanted to create a look that was obviously inspired by traditional Thai clothing to wear to the church event. This blue fabric is exquisite, but I don't have the skills or knowledge on how to recreate an actual Thai look, and I didn't have remotely enough fabric for all of that. Thus, I went for an interpretation of a traditional Thai ensemble, mixed with a bit of 40s to bring the Emileigh factor! I want it to reflect Thai aesthetics while still being wearable for me in my day-to-day life. I don't want it to be treated as a costume I only pull out for "Thai events." I want it to be something I can appreciate in normal life, too.
While researching, I noticed three of the common elements of Thai traditional women's clothing: a long wrap skirt, gold accessories, and a blouse and/or sash-like fabric wrapped around the bodice. I learned there are many kinds of traditional outfits, so they don't all look the same. Each outfit can be worn by a specific people group or for a specific occasion, so there are lots of variations. However, most of them I saw in my research had these three elements. I included these in my version.
I did, however, shorten the skirt. While I totally love the long-skirted look of traditional ensembles, I was afraid I didn't have enough fabric to allow me to get a wrapped look and still walk. I shortened it to a pencil skirt which will get more wear anyway. I used a 1950s pencil skirt pattern that had a faux wrap detail on one side because I thought it mimicked the look of the Thai skirts:
Next, I needed to do a bit of interpretation for the top. Like I said, I didn't have much fabric (just about 2 yards for all of this), so I used the scraps from the skirt to make the fabric to wrap around the bodice. I paired it with a vintage 1940s black shirt to help the blue and gold really pop and bring the vintage aspect.
Lastly, time for gold accessories! In my research, I learned that gold (or costume gold) is really the only way to go when it comes to traditional Thai looks. I gladly obliged and grabbed a couple gold accessories, my favorite! I had my gold snakeskin pumps to put on when the event started, but I ended up running around keeping logistics on track and decided to stick with these black flats.
Now for some more photos of a few fabulous attendees!
Do you think this outfit pays homage to Thai culture and aesthetics, or has it crossed the line of appropriation? (Yep, I'm throwin' it out there. Feel free to answer honestly, especially if you happen to be Thai!)
More sources to learn about traditional women's Thai clothing:
Something Very Thai - blog post about different traditional Thai ensembles
Thai clothing store
Traditional Thai clothing
Thailand Clothing Meaning