Saturday, 28 November 2015

Thailand & silk Ikat

It was only my first day in Bangkok but I sniffed out the fabric somehow.  I went into the Textile Museum, which is an exhibit off to the side of the Grand Palace.  The palace itself is hugely touristed and the ticket is for everything, but not everyone makes it into the museums.  In fact, it was hard to get to the textile museum - you had to go through the giftshop.  The result is that I saw all the silks before I read about them.


Thailand has a very interesting cultural history when it comes to ceremonial clothing.  Unlike other countries in the area, there is no traditional dress.  There was up to a certain point but it seems like when the country westernised in the 1900's, clothing didn't make the leap.  When the King and Queen were going to Europe in the 1960's, she commissioned Balmain, the Paris couturier, to design a wardrobe for her using elements that had been part of historical Thai dress, including accordioned skirts and draped half bodices.  The work was so successful that it sparked a number of events.

1. She kept wearing the outfits, and so now in the collective mind, they *are* Thai traditional dress.
2. Other people started wearing them too
3. In order to support textile production in the countryside, Queen Sirikit created a foundation, named SUPPORT, which does just that - it supports the processes of silk dyeing and weaving (along with other village crafts) according to traditional village methods.  Different areas have different techniques, but ikat is a traditional technique in Thailand and is still done in the villages, although by fewer young people.

I am hoping to go see some of these villages in a few weeks.  But in the meantime I couldn't resist the expensive Queen approved silks.  The prices were relatively high.  After seeing some of the stuff sold in Firenze I've redefined 'expensive fabric.'  But for the more lightweight Ikat it was 600-900 Baht (up to 25$/m) and for the heavierweights it was 1900 Baht ($60$/m.)

I got two pieces, and put one to use right away!


  1. lovely silks and and thanks for the interesting post.

  2. Great information! All of the people I know in Jackson go to Thailand just to eat, drink, and go to the beach. I'm glad you're enjoying some cultural aspects. The silks are beautiful but certainly expensive!