Khmer-Pajama Connection

Cambodian Culture, Living in Phnom Penh / Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

When I first came here in Cambodia, one of the things I found amazing and strange is the penchant of Khmer ladies on wearing pajamas. You can see them everywhere all in different shades and prints. It is considered “normal” to wear them anywhere and everywhere. I love pajamas, but only here do I see them worn with much fervor outside of the house. And to top that, I’ve seen some who have no qualms about pairing pajamas with stilettos and full make-up!

Pajamas means “nightclothes, sleepwear or nightwear” and are usually worn just inside the house. If you’re an avid fashionista you might consider wearing pajamas to malls, markets, well just about everywhere as a fashion faux pas. Don’t think Khmer ladies are unaware of what pajamas are, they are. In fact, the word pajamas in Khmer literally translates to “sleep wear”.

I asked my niece why most ladies here are fond of wearing them, she said, it’s “comfortable and conservative”. Makes sense to me now. A lot of these ladies work and using skirts or tight jeans are simply a no-no for them. Pajama’s are loose and have elastic waistbands then they can move around and do as they please. Women here are also generally more conservative. They prefer long sleeved shirts and long skirts or pants and doesn’t really like showing too much skin. And besides, the weather here is hot and humid and since most pajamas are made of cotton so for Khmer ladies, they are perfect.

It takes time to get used to it and at first I thought it is simply hilarious, but then once I understood their reasons, I learned to appreciate it. Comfort is the main reason. Foreigners might find it amusing, but what’s to stop these Khmer ladies from being themselves and at ease with their pajamas?

I’ll let you on a secret too.. This intense liking for pajamas must be contagious.. I just bought myself several pairs of pajamas last week and to tell you the truth, it’s really so comfortable. Though I don’t wear them out of the house and I doubt if I’ll ever do, I can’t seriously fault the Khmer ladies for doing so. When you seriously think about it, fashion can stuff itself, when you are so much more comfortable with your pajamas.

2 Replies to “Khmer-Pajama Connection”

  1. I love wearing pajamas too. It’s comfortable.

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