Khmer Formal Dresses

Cambodian Culture / Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

One of the things that fascinates me about Cambodian culture is their traditional dresses. They have different kinds of dresses for different occasions. Most are really, really elaborate and with lots of bling blings. And one thing that stands out with Khmer dresses is that, they don’t shy away from colors!

In fact, Khmers follow a designated color for each day when they are attending special occasion. (note: this is not strictly implemented now and most Khmer ladies now dress in any color in any day. )

  • Sunday: Red
  • Monday: Orange
  • Tuesday: Violet
  • Wednesday: Greenish yellow
  • Thursday: Green
  • Friday: Dark blue
  • Saturday: Dark purple

Nowadays, younger Khmers don’t really follow the dress codes but it still helps knowing about this. As an expat living here in Phnom Penh, you’re bound to be friends with Khmers and you’re also most likely to be invited to attend a wedding or some formal occasion. It’s also acceptable to come in formal Western clothes for foreigners.

But as for myself, since my in-laws are part Khmer, I had a couple of traditional formal dresses sewn and truly they appreciate the effort I made to dress up the traditional way. Another reason is that I found their silk cloth to be very pretty and irresistible (for a crazed shopper like me..) but the good quality ones can be extremely pricey too.

Khmers have several traditional clothes. One is the sampot, and this has several varieties too, but this is what’s referred to as the Cambodian national dress. But the most used during weddings or what you can see in performances is the  one worn like trousers. Its a rectangular piece of silk about 3 meters long and worn wrapped around the waist, then the end is twisted and pulled between the legs and secured at the back of the waist. I’m seriously fascinated at how they put this on..

Khmer Sampot
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The sampot is usually worn nowadays by performers, on weddings etc. Khmers also have another kind of traditional dress with a bit of modern twist like the first photo. The top is usually very elaborate and lately they have become a little more revealing too.. It is paired with silk tube skirts, its more like one big piece of cloth sewn wrapped about 1 1/2 times around the waist and fastened on the right/left side.

Khmer Modern Traditional Dress
Image Credit:
Khmer Modern Traditional Dress
Image Credit:

I like it coz really it is so slimming and the design is very comfy. You can actually squat while wearing that even if it looks tight. Traditional dresses for the younger set has evolved a lot and recently I’ve seen lots of designs like this..

Modern Khmer Formal Dress

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If you want to see more ‘elaborate’ Khmer dresses, do visit KhmerFashion.

4 Replies to “Khmer Formal Dresses”

  1. hi lui, wow, thanks for sharing the designated color for the day for every occassion, next time na attend kami ng khmer occassion tandaan ko iyan! 🙂 well, still remember my khmer portrait after seeing all these pics that you’ve posted!

  2. haha Che I remember din yung nagplay dress up ka.. I wanna do that too just for fun ba..
    In fairness I like the hairdo of the last one.. I have those silk skirts though the top I had it tailored with my own design. Ayoko kase ng sobrang maborloloy..

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