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Traditional Bhutanese Dress

Women in Bhutan have been weaving and wearing their traditional clothing for centuries. Bhutanese dress is completely hand woven, featuring vibrant colors and intricate motif, on indigenous back strap looms. The horizontal frame loom and card loom were introduced by Tibet and are utilized for weaving as well. Dress is regional with design work, colors and/or accessories (i.e. hat) specific to certain Bhutan districts. Bhutanese continue to wear traditional clothing today as expected in government positions and buildings, religious buildings, offices, schools and for special occasions. The official dress and etiquette code of the Kingdom of Bhutan, Driglam Namzha, was established in the 17th century dictating how to dress and behave in public and for formal occasions. In 1989 the recommended traditional dress code was made mandatory for cultural preservation, and is strictly enforced today.

The Bhutanese woman's dress consists of: a kira secured with a kera and koma, wonju, toego, rachu plus jewelry. The Bhutanese man's dress consists of a gho.

Kira - Bhutanese Woman's Dress
Rectangular cloth, worn as a ankle length dress by Bhutanese women. The kira is back strap woven, typically in three panels, of cotton, yak wool, or silk for special occasions. Today vibrant synthetic fibers are prevalent. The kira is secured with a sash (kera) at the waist and koma at the shoulder.

Kera Bhutanese Sash/Belt
A kera (alternate spelling: keyra) secures a woman's kira or man's gho at the waist. The sash is back strap woven of cotton, yak wool or silk for special occasions. Today vibrant synthetic fibers are prevalent. Kera were historically wider and then folded several times to hold personal belongings. Today such belongings for men and women might include money, personal belongings, betel nut (doma), knife/dagger, bowl, etc. Modern kera are relatively narrow.

Koma - Bhutanese Woman's Buckle
The silver buckle secures the kira in place at the shoulder. 

Wonju Bhutanese Woman's Blouse
The wonju is worn underneath the kira.

Rachu - Bhutanese Woman's Sash/Scarf
Narrow, long sash or scarf draped over Bhutanese woman's left shoulder, though when showing respect the rachu is occasionally wrapped around the neck to also drape over the right shoulder. The woman's rachu does not signify the woman's status or rank.

Toego Bhutanese Woman's Jacket
The toego (alternate spelling: tego) provides an additional layer to Bhutanese women's traditional dress.

Gho - Bhutanese Man's Robe
One-piece robe secured with a kera, complete with a pouch (or folded to create a pocket), long socks and handmade decorative boots.

Kabney - Bhutanese Man's Sash/Scarf
Narrow, long sash or scarf draped over Bhutanese man's left shoulder, though when showing respect the rachu is occasionally wrapped around the neck to also drape over the right shoulder. The color signifies the wearers status or rank: 

  • The King - Yellow
  • Je Khenpo (Head Abbot) - Yellow
  • Minister - Orange, Judge - Green
  • District Administrator  - Red with a small white stripe
  • Commoner - White

Click to view available Bhutanese textiles.