Bhutan Traditional Dress or Bhutan’s national dress is considered very important in the preservation of the country’s distinct culture and national identity. People take great pride in their national dress. They regularly wear it to the office and on occasions such as visits to monasteries and dzongs, and children wear it to school. The dress for men is called a gho (pronounced “go”), which is similar to the Tibetan chuba, but more “pulled together” in appearance.
The gho is a gown-like dress, hoisted knee-length, and tied around the waist with a hand-woven belt called a kera (not to be confused with the women’s garment, the kira). Under the gho, men wear a white jacket called a tegu, with long, folded-back cuffs.
The women wear a kira, a rectangular piece of cloth measuring about 100 inches by 60 inches (2.5 by 1.5 m), which is wound around the body and held together by a koma (a beautifully designed metal clasp) over the shoulders and tied neatly at the waist. The floor-length kira is usually accompanied by a blouse, called a wonju, and an outer jacket, a teogo. They are mostly handwoven with intricate designs. The modified version of the Kira, a wrap-around skirt, has become popular now as it is deemed easier to wear.
These large cloths often come in handy for blankets while traveling. The textiles all used to be designed and handwoven by talented weavers around the country. While the art of weaving is still alive and appreciated, cheaper, factory-made imports from India have flooded the market in recent years. These are useful for everyday wear, but the expensive, locally handwoven fabrics are the first choice when it comes to choosing dresses for special occasions such as festivals and weddings.
The intricate weaves are passed down as family heirlooms, preserved and much loved through generations. A wedding dress is carefully chosen based on the design and color most favorable to the individual, taking astrological predictions into account. Some of the highland communities, like the Brokpas and the Layaps, wear their own distinctive costumes made from sheep and yak’s wool.
Ceremonial Scarves: Kabney, Patang, and Rachu
Bhutan is a hierarchical society defined by rank and position within the civil service or one’s standing in society. One of the indications of this is the use of ceremonial scarves. The scarf for men is called a kabney, and the scarf for women is called a rachu; both are worn draped over the left shoulder.
Both kabney and rachu are used for official occasions such as going to a dzong, entering buildings with the national flag, and on special occasions such as weddings or official ceremonies. Depending on the color of the scarf, you can identify its wearer’s status, particularly in the case of a man.
The king wears a yellow kabney, a minister an orange, while a commoner would wear a white tasseled scarf. The red scarf is conferred by the king on a deserving individual for his or her achievements (along with the title of Dasho, which is equivalent to a knighthood in the UK). All high-ranking officials also wear a decorative sword called a patang.
A woman’s rachu is folded lengthwise and worn over the left shoulder. Only the members of the Royal Family drape the full-length rachu (broader in size and intricately designed) over both shoulders with the ends placed neatly in front. The common rachu is a simple design with multiple stripes on a maroon background called ada rachu.