Whether they are hurrying between the stalls of the morning market, going up the steps of one of the many temples of Luang Prabang hands full of offerings, sitting sideways on motorbikes as they are being dropped at work, or wearing it proudly as their school uniform… One constant remains regardless of their age, profession or ethnicity; the girls and women of Luang Prabang all wear the sinh – the traditional Lao skirt.
The sinh is worn in daily life but also for special occasions and ceremonies.
The Lao skirt indeed holds a privileged place in the wardrobe of Lao girls and women. It is worn regularly in daily life but also for special occasions and ceremonies. Elegant and easy-to-wear, the sinh has evolved from traditional village wear to modern wardrobe staple for women across Laos, irrespective of their ethnicity.
Traditionally, sinhs are not simply a clothing item but rather a symbol of culture and a marker of ethnicity. Laos has (at least) 49 ethnic groups. The sinhs worn by the women of these diverse ethnic groups have their own unique style with different motifs and colors that reflect cultural and social relationships.
Sinhs worn by the women of different ethnic groups have their own unique style.
A sinh can also indicate a person’s age, group, place within a group and marital status. For example, the Tai Lue sew patches of color into their sinhs to indicate that they are not married. Stripes on the Hua sinh, Lao for “the head of the skirt” (see below), means the wearer is married.
Older women usually wear more somber colors than the younger generations and certain motifs are more appropriate for younger women. Younger females for instance, usually wear butterfly and flower motifs.
Sinhs also reflect the ethnic group of women. For example, a Katu sinh shows the distinct weaving style of the Katu – made with organic cotton, the designs showcasing little glass beads woven into them on a backstrap loom. This sinh (see above) is Tai Lue – it highlights the beautiful diamond patterns that are traditional in Tai Lue weaving. Indigo-dyed, full of diamond and flower motifs, Tai Lue sinhs are one of Laos’ most popular outfits!
Some sinhs are usually worn for a specific event such as a wedding and/or a traditional festival. You would not see them worn in everyday life. This sinh (see below) worn by Sengchan, our Activities Manager, is usually worn to go to the temple.
Did you know that a sinh is composed of three components? The head, the body, and the foot.
The sinh is often the first piece a weaver makes. Handmade, rich in symbolism, Lao women wear their sinh proudly. You could even say it is their version of the “power skirt.” In Lao culture, people believe that an individual’s power can be transferred to clothing and anything worn below a woman’s waist is considered to possess special power!
Did you know that a sinh is composed of three components? The head, the body, and the foot. Hua sinh, Lao for “the head of the skirt”, is the waistband part. The Tai Daeng had two or three fabrics in their waistbands. The main waistband varied according to status and plain red or indigo ones were added onto that. In any order. A striped main waistband indicated unmarried status while plain red or indigo was for married women.
Phuen sinh, Lao for “the body of the skirt”, is the main part of the sinh. But it is not detailed. It actually consists of one or two colors.
Teen sinh, is “the foot of the skirt”. This part is woven with a lot of details and very complicated. The design structure of this part is asymmetrical; using birds, Nagas, or other animal motifs in one, two, or three bands added onto the skirts.
Here, Moonoy, our Retail Manager, is wearing a Tai Moei sinh. The Tai Moei use ikat silk for the main body of the sinh. The foot of the sinh is from Tai Daeng! In the past, communities traded different parts of the sinh to add variety. Master Weaver Ms. Ouan models here a Tai Daeng sinh where the foot is Tai Jae, an ethnic group living near the Vietnam border. The Tai Jae love to weave sunflowers!
Admit it, you want your very own sinh now! Visit our webshop and/or Facebook page for a wide variety of sinhs. And if ever you need a little more convincing, watch our Sinh City video, from our Shop Talk series! You also watch our Sinh City story on Instagram!