Back in Laos, the Hmong wore what we
would think of as “fancy” clothes. They
wear them to eat, sleep, and even work. Today [in America],
however, they only wear them at Hmong New Year’s. Traditional
Hmong clothing has many intricate patterns and designs. It
is very colorful. Back in Laos, women wrapped a three-yard
long cloth around their heads like a turban. But today custom
has changed, and [the hat] is already wrapped and glued. Usually
women also wear a skirt and a sort of apron that goes over
it. They also wear a shirt and a beaded vest.
Back in Laos, the Hmong wore traditional
clothing every single day. In America, the Hmong only wear
it for special occasions like funerals and the New Year. Traditional
clothes are very colorful and bright. The boys’ clothes
include: a hta with a coin in the tassel, bright
vests and pants with coins, too. The women’s clothes
are basically the same except they wear skirts, bright headdresses,
and NO coins.
Traditional Hmong clothing goes a lot
farther than a suit and tie, or a kilt. It is mostly about
needlework, and it is made very well. The boys’ clothing
is mostly pants with decoration; some even have coins sewn
on. The coins show how rich you are. The pants are normally
silky and look really comfortable. They range in color from
black to pink and orange. Normally, the shirt matches the
pants. Hats are small like a yarmulke with lots of decorative
Girls wear silky pants, or a decorative skirt with a sort
of apron over it. They also wear long shirts and decorative
At the United Hmong Community Center
our class saw lots of Hmong people wearing Hmong clothes.
There are many kinds of traditional clothes, because there
are many kinds of Hmong people. Each group has different clothes
and its own way of wearing them.
At the Hmong American Association there
was a shop that sold traditional clothing for all types of
Hmong—striped, flower, Chinese, White, Black, Green,
and Blue Hmong. There are different special clothes for men
and women. Nico tried on a girl’s hat, but he didn’t
know it was for girls!
Boy and girl clothing have different
designs, so if an American boy accidentally tried on a girl’s
clothes, the Hmong would laugh...
One of my favorite things to see (and
put on) was Hmong traditional clothing. When I wear them,
I feel more Hmong than American. You should try them!
It was a Hmong Fashion Show.... When
I put on a colorful beaded suit and a turban...I felt Hmong.
were given a presentation on Hmong clothes. A woman named
Mo Lee dressed her son, her daughter, and another Hmong girl
and dressed them up in beautiful Hmong clothing. She put a
circular embroidered hat on her son. He said he was hot in
it. Next she put a Green Hmong skirt on her daughter. The
top of the skirt was white, and on the bottom were designs
with people, like a story cloth. Then she put a hat on her
daughter. The hat was like a crown, except that in the back
there was an opening that closed with velcro. Pink pom poms
ran down it. This is only one of many different kinds of girls’
hats. After that, she dressed another girl in White Hmong
clothing, which included black pants with a beautiful bright
green sash. The pants had shiny spots on them. The girl wore
a round purple hat.
Mo Lee got out a bunch of traditional
clothes. She showed us the steps of putting them on, using
her two eldest daughters. They said afterwards that they wouldn’t
like to wear [those clothes] all the time, because they were
heavy and hot. They said American clothes are light and comfortable.
Traditional Hmong clothing is very pretty,
but all the Hmong I’ve seen wearing it say it is very
heavy. Most of the fancy Hmong clothes for dancing have large
coins on them, so whenever people move they make jingling
Moms have to make new traditional clothes
for [each] New Year, because [their children] get bigger and
[The Hmong say] that if girls don’t
have a lot of nice clothes when they go to the Hmong festivals,
it means that their mother is lazy...
Each piece of the exquisite pandau
has a name. My favorite is called a xe, pronounced
"shay.” It’s like a very thin apron, only
much prettier. Xe’s are mostly for women.
Each Hmong group has a different kind
of traditional clothing. Some of them wrap a headdress around
their heads, others put on hats. Hmong traditional clothing
usually has beads and coins on it. On the back of the jacket
there’s a rectangle if you are a girl. It’s very
easy to tell the difference between a boy’s bottom and
a girl’s bottom—the boys wear pants and the girls
wear skirts. Some girls wear pants, but they have two aprons,
one in back and one in front. If you have a skirt you only
wear one apron in front. One way to tell if a Hmong is a boy
or girl is to look at their waist. If the tie is in the front,
it’s a boy. If it’s in the back, it’s a
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