Traditional Karen Clothing

Traditional Karen Clothing

Just to clarify, Karen people is not the collective noun for a ‘karen’. Some questionable people may already be thinking, well, what is their traditional clothing…. frumpy, middle-aged and boring? It isn’t the pejorative term ‘Karen’ meaning a white, middle class grumpy woman displaying behavior stemming from privilege that is the focus of this blog. Rather, the Karen people - pronounced ka-REN - who are an ethnic group of people from southern Burma, or, Myanmar. They have been persecuted in Burma and forced to flee to Thailand where there are many refugee camps. Life in the camps is tough and many people have lived in these camps for 20 - 30 years.  Through resettlement programs, over 10,000 have been given refuge in Australia, and there is a sizeable community around Geelong and Wyndham.

 The Karen people had peaceful relations with the British during their colonization of Burma, and indeed there was talk about creating an independent Karen state.  However, this was not done by the time Burma achieved independence and the Burmese Army gained control.  Since then the Karen people and many other ethnic groups have struggled.

Weaving is an important part of their culture and their traditional dress.  Their clothing also features a lot of embroidery in vibrant colours.  The Karen people originally came from Tibet and China, and you can really see the Tibetan connection in the clothing.  Not to mention similarities with parts of Thailand. Indeed, you can see pom poms on the lovely neckline of the maxi dress now for sale on Wynsum Look.

 Thank you to two local Karen ladies, Corina and Pompii for modeling their beautiful traditional clothing for me. I am grateful!

 Any dress or bag that has pom poms on it is a winner in my eyes!

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