The Essence of Tibetan Culture Seen through The Attire and Accessories They Adorn
Tibet which is also famously known as the “Roof of the world”, though small in size, bears silent witness to their rich culture in the form of their attire and accessories. Unlike today’s world of fashion, Tibetan attire and accessories, carry great significance to the culture and speaks volumes about their history, personal beliefs and the personality of the individuals wearing them. Generally speaking, Tibetan clothing is characterised by long - sleeves, loose waist and a large lapel.
Facts about Tibetan clothing
Tibetan clothing shows a stark difference in style from one district to another. Broadly speaking, the Tibetan dress consists of a modest yet chic shirt and a robe of sorts. The draping style varies between the men and the women and also region to region. While the men are seen wearing a high collared shirt and robe which is fastened with a cloth belt under the right arm, the women’s robe bears a narrower cut with or without the sleeves. While the men stick to a white shirt, the women wear brightly colored clothes with turned down collars.
Varied clothes in different regions
The variety of clothes is mostly based on Tibetan climatic conditions and the professions of the various regions. Areas such as Lhasa or even Shannan are warmer and more humid. Thus, men are seen donning double layered robes. The women are seen wearing close fitted, long sleeved shirts and bright and pleasantly colored aprons extenuating the waist. The aprons vary depending upon the stripes being broader or narrower which add to the color and exuberance of the attire.
The weather in northern Tibet is known to be cold and harsh. Here you will see the herdsmen and others in the locality dressed as per the surroundings, wearing furred robes, to protect them from the biting cold. The land of Tibet is so diverse that while one region bears the brunt of the bitter cold, the other seems humid and warm. The robes worn by the adults are loose and bulky and can even accommodate a child inside to harbor warmth during the winters. Though the robe doesn’t have any pockets, it is made in such a way that, it allows for necessary weapons and equipment to be stored, when in need.
In today’s times, it is seen as a fashion statement to wear only the left sleeve, thereby exposing the right shoulder. The herdsmen with their colorful attires make for a perfect postcard image, in the midst of the scenic landscape. The clothes of the herdsmen are hemmed in with materials such as black velveteen, corduroy, or even woollen cloth at the front, lower edges, and even the cuffs. The women often wear aprons ornamented with bright fabric stripes, painting a picturesque backdrop.
Accessories of Tibetan clothing
When it comes to accessories, the Tibetan folk pay keen interest in the way they project their rich culture in the form of art, clothing and accessories. The men are known to wear cloth/ felt hats; these sometimes come with tassels or even purplish decorations woven out of silk. On the other hand, women are seldom seen wearing hats during summers but are seen wearing hats made of white felt or white woollen rain coats with a hat during the monsoons.
The winters due to the biting cold they face, individuals are seen wearing fox or sheepskin hats or scarves. Herders in northern Tibet pay phenomenal attention to their clothes, and they are made from high-grade woollen fabrics and with sheepskin. They also make their boots, which are known to be brightly colored and unique in artistry.
The people of northern Tibet also like to beautify their clothing with various ornaments. Men are seen decorating their horses and even carry knives and rifles reconstructed from traditional firearms. They are seen sporting pigtails ornamented with Lhayu jade, which is believed to represent the soul of the individual. This can also be complimented with tassels made from precious metals and fabrics.
Depending on the socio-economic conditions of the individuals, one can decide to alter and modify their outfits. One can see the wealthier people adorning expensive metals like gold and silver earrings, rings and bracelets as well. Richer people are seen also carrying a whip with a solid white cane handle. They are also sometimes accompanied by a gilded silver box holding auspicious articles.
Women's outfits in comparison are more intricate as compared to those of the men. Married women wear slivers of white conch shells which are adorned with precious coral, silver and other forms of decoration in their hair. This is done to show the love and respect they have for their husbands.
Tibetan women’ clothing for Tibetan festivals
The clothes worn by the Tibetans vary drastically as per the occasion. While on one hand festivity would call for clothes which are woven from silk or cotton. The other hand you have the everyday use attires, which are made from wool. Tibetan women are seen wearing different headdresses and jewelry as per the occasions, such as while mourning the loss of a loved one. Tibetan girls in their mourning period, for instance, are seen wearing green hair strings for the first year, pale red strings for the second year, and reused red hair strings for the third year.
The women's earrings are typically made of metals such as silver and bejeweled with many gems. Their necklaces are finished with a high-value cat's eye, red coral and sometimes even pearls or jade. Bracelets and rings are prepared using amber and silver. Belts are made of expensive metals and jewels such as silver which are then gilded or inlaid with gems. Women are also often seen carrying a needle bag hanging to their left side with a little knife to the right. Many women are also seen taking milk keg hooks, small stacks of salt to feed the cattle and sheep, and most importantly Erdo herding lashes.
The southern part of Tibet is mostly inhabited by farmers and it warm and damp for the most of the year. Here, you will see the locals adorning clothes with hand-woven wool and tweed. The familiar thing you will notice is that the attires of both men and women are fastened by a button on the right, making it a telltale to spot a southern Tibetan. The clothing of men is hemmed with an exciting and sometimes luxurious material such as silk at the collar, cuffs and even the front and lower edges of the robe. In the luxury of the summers, one can see women adorning sleeveless shirts with the generally oversized and lengthy robes which are fastened at the waist with a belt.
During the festive pomp is when the attires and the culture of the Tibetans some out, and is one of the best things for one to soak in. Festival is the best opportunity to observe and enjoy Tibetan clothes. Nagqu Town in northern Tibet holds a horse race annually where theTibetans gather at this fair dressed in their best. Riders are usually seen wearing robes of azure, dark blue or pale green, with red knickerbockers or trousers and boots. The Tibetans are also known to like sporting thigh boots. This footwear is made with the sole made from yak leather and the bootleg is embroidered with intricate designs and colors.
The illustrious women headdress are known as the “bazhu” and “baguo” and is a must own for tourists from around the world. The women are known to decorate their hair with golden, silver or jade accessories and their bodies with “gawu”. This is a kind of Buddhist - box. The best time to understand their unique sense of style and fashion is during occasions such as weddings and festivals, making them a spectacle to watch and cherish.
Tibetan silver products are sometimes carved with the six-syllable mantra of "Om Mani Padme Hum". This is a Tibetan – Buddhism mantra which is thought to have the gift to eradicate disease, fear of death, extend life and upsurge wealth. Some ornaments have the Vajra engraved on them. This is a ritual instrument for calming demons. It is also believed to dismiss all sins and bring people blessings in the form of power, bravery, and acumen.Amulets are generally made of silver or bronze with small boxes inlaid with precious stones and pearls. These amulets contain clay or metal descriptions of Buddha, and other Buddhist paintings or even photos of an existing Buddha.
All in all, the clothing and accessories worn by the Tibetan locals adds to the flavor of the place and speaks volumes about their love for expressing their culture and history through their art and clothing.