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Chin Traditional Dress Impressed Britain’s Prince Charles

His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales expressed his admiration for the Chin traditional dress during a meeting at his residence in London with Burmese students including a Chin medical student, Sasa, early July, 2008.

Prince Charles, first in line to the British crown, described the Chin traditional dress as ‘colourful and beautiful’ when Sasa was first introduced on the occasion.
“Among the group, I was the first person introduced to the Prince and his first response to me was ‘your dress is so beautiful’ and his comments on my dress opened the door for me to explain about the Chin traditional dress that I was wearing,” said Sasa, a final year medical student at Armenian university.
“He liked the Chin dress and kept saying at least 5 times how beautiful the Chin dress is. And I was even thinking to send him one as a present through his secretary,” added a doctor-to-be, 27, from Southern Chin State.
The Chin people nowadays wear their traditional dresses mostly on important occasions and celebrations including Chin National Day, Christmas, New Year and wedding ceremonies.
It has been claimed that Chin traditional dress became better known among the Burmese people after Burma’s famous female Chin rock singer Sung Tin Par performed wearing Chin dresses. The dress was even once known as ‘Sung Tin Par Fashion’, increasing sales and demands on the streets across the country.
Traditionally men would wear distinctively patterned silk blankets, aka shawls, over one or both shoulders in some tribes, wrapping around the whole body and another piece of material in a loincloth style. Women’s dress would include smaller shawls wrapped around their waist as skirts tied with belts and a small piece of cloth (tunic-top) hung over their chest with the help of necklaces over it to keep it in place. However, this tradition is dying out amongst the younger generations.
Burma’s democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi mentioned in her book Letters From Burma: “Winter begins for me when at night I start piling on the Chin blankets that we have always used in the family. These blankets of thick cotton come in stripes or checks, usually in different shades of greens, reds and reddish browns.”
She continued: “Now, the first blanket I place on my bed at the advent of the cold weather is an old one given to my father by Chin friends: it is white with faded red stripes and in the corner is the date embroidered by my mother, ’25-3-47′.”
The cultural, economic and political changes of the last century have particular impact on the way the Chin textiles are woven and worn. Traditionally, Chin textiles are hand-woven by women with a bamboo-made back-strap loom. Commercial weaving which is more machine-woven rather than hand-spun is more common and a variety of modified Chin dresses can be found in the market. Today, Chin state is one of the seven states in Burma, where people wear widely in western, as opposed to Burmese, styles.
A variety of patterns and colours in Chin dresses can be seen among the Chin tribes. The main colours for Tiddim tribe are reddish brown, white and black whereas red is for Hakha. Likewise, the same occurs among Chin tribes in the southern part of Chin State.
The modern trends in Chin textiles contain coats, neckties, sarong-like longyis and hta-mains, and accessories including handbags, wallets and wall-scrolls. These textile products have been popularly used as souvenirs and also highly viewed as artworks.
Chin communities and a growing number of foreign enthusiasts are making efforts in a bid to protect and preserve the traditional weaving methods and material patterns from the influence of modern fashion styles.

Van Biak Thang
04 August, 2008

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