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Khmer clothing

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Khmer clothing

The mural of Khmer mythology, Reamker depicts the clothing of Khmer people (both male and female) during the ancient times.

Khmer clothing, also known as the fashion of Cambodia, refers to the style of dress worn by the Khmer people from ancient to present times.


Woven silk from Cambodia.

There are three important silk textiles in Cambodia: the ikat silks (chong kiet in Khmer), or hol, the twill-patterned silks and the weft ikat textiles. Patterns are made by tying natural and synthetic fibers on the weft threads and then dyeing them. This process is repeated with different colors until the patterns firm and cloth is woven. Red, yellow, green, blue and black are the most commonly used colors.[1] The Sampot Hol is used as a lower garment and as the sampot chang kben. The Pidan Hol is used as a ceremonial hanging for religious purposes.

Sot silk weaving has been an important part of Cambodia's cultural past. It is documented that people from Takéo Province have woven silk since the Funan era; records, bas-relief and Zhou Daguan's report have shown that looms were used to weave sampots since ancient times.[1] Since ancient times, women have learned highly complex methods and intricate patterns, one of which is the hol method. It involves dyeing patterns on silk before weaving. What remains unique to Cambodian weavers is the uneven twill technique. Although the reason remains unclear why they adopted such an unusual method, the ancient bas-reliefs provide a detailed look at fabrics' patterns and pleats. Silk-woven pieces are used as heirlooms, in weddings and funerals, and as decoration in temples.

National Dress


Apsara dressed in Angkorian-style sampot cloth.

The sampot is the national garment of Cambodia. The traditional dress is similar to those worn in the neighboring countries of Laos and Thailand, but variations do exist between the countries. The sampot dates back to the Funan era, when a Cambodian king allegedly ordered the people of his kingdom to wear the sampot at the request of Chinese envoys.

There are many variations of the sampot; each is worn according to social class. Also, these clothes vary in color, shape, and size. The typical sampot, known also as the sarong, is usually worn by men and women of lower class. It measures approximately one and a half meters and both ends are sewn together. It is tied to safely secure it on the waist.

Sampot Châng Kben

Sampot Châng Kben (សំពត់ចងក្បិន, ALA-LC: saṃbát caṅ kpin) was once the preferred choice of clothing for women of upper and middle classes for daily wear, although the practice of daily wear died out in the beginning of the twentieth century. It dates back to ancient Cambodia where deities were said to wear such styles.[2] Unlike the typical sampot, it is more similar to pants than a skirt. It is a rectangular piece of cloth measuring three metres long and one metres wide.[3] It is worn by wrapping it around the waist, stretching it away from the body and twisting the knot. The knot is then pulled between the legs and held by a metal belt. Regardless of class, all Cambodian women wear the sampot chang kben on special events. Men may also wear it, but the traditional patterns depend on gender. The sampot chang kben has also been adopted in Thailand and Laos, where it is known as Chong Kraben.

Sampot Phamuong

Sampot Phamuong (សំពត់ផាមួង ALA-LC: saṃbát phā muaṅ) are many different variations of traditional Khmer textiles.[4] They are single colored and twill-woven. There are currently 52 colors used in Sampot Phamuong. The Phamuong Chorabap is a luxurious fabric woven with up to 22 needles. The most valued silk used to create the Phamuong is Cambodian yellow silk, known for its fine quality. New Phamuong designs draw inspiration from ancient silk patterns and usually contain floral and geometrical motifs. Popular variations include rabak, chorcung, anlounh, kaneiv and bantok.

Sampot Hol

A female dancer dressed as a male wearing Sampot Chang Kben.

Sampot Hol (សំពត់ហូល ALA-LC: saṃbát hūl) is a typical traditional textile. There are two kinds of sampot hol; one is a wrapping skirt that uses a technique called chong kiet and twill weave. Influenced by the Indian patola, it has become a genuine Khmer art style after hundreds of years. The sampot hol comes in over 200 patterns and three to five colors (yellow, red, brown, blue and green). There are four principal variations: Sampot Hol, Sampot Hol Por, Sampot Hol Kben and Sampot Hol Katong. Patterns are usually animals and geometric or floral motifs.

Both Sampot Phamuong and Sampot Hol are believed to have originated from the original sampot in Udong Era, as the word Phamuong comes from the Siamese language, where "pha" mean fabric and "mung" means violet. Sampot Hol was introduced as a ceremonial skirtcloth to the Thai court as sompak poom or pha poom in the 19th century.[5][6] Thai culture slightly influenced Khmer society, Khmer weaving bears its own distinctive traits, because Cambodia already had a weaving culture before the Klung civilization. As before said above, the Khmer king ordered his people to wear sampot as the request of Chinese envoys in Funan era; so this means that Khmer culture greatly influenced Siamese society first. Thai people adopted Khmer Sampot first and then they adapted and developed it to become sampot phamuong and next it influenced back to Khmer people, this is true because the word sampot and sampot chang kben, sampot hol and more are entirely Khmer language. The culture can influence in two ways, to and fro.

Sampot Tep Apsara

Sampot Tep Apsara (Khmer: សំពត់ទេពអប្សរាអង្គរ) is a famous type of sampot from the Khmer empire era. It can be found on the bas-relief of Apsara carved around Angkor wat. Generally, the sampot tep apsara is tied to safely secure it on the waist and is held up with a golden belt. A long pleat is dropped at the middle of the sampot and recoils at the wearer's calf. The hem of the skirt is knotted. There are also two knots that hang from the waist; the left knot is longer, while the right knot is more decorative. The sampot tep apsara is no longer worn daily in modern-day Cambodia.

Sampot Samloy

Sampot Samloy (Khmer: សំពត់សម្លុយ) is a long unisex daily-wear skirt. The word samloy mostly refers to no colour but black for ancient name; now it is sometimes recognized as the soft, thin fabric with decoration and pattern similar to the sarong Batik, although it may be smaller. With its thin and soft appearance, the style of dress had been required to hold a knot, making it similar to the Sampot Chang Kben. However, it is necessary to make a fold at the left or right side, like a sarong. Another similar sampot, primarily worn by women and known as the "Saloy". was knotted in the middle and hitched at the knee in order to facilitate leg movement. The saloy was commonly worn during the post-Angkor era.

Sampot Chorabap

Sampot Chorabap (Khmer: សំពត់ចរបាប់) is a long silk skirt embroidered with gold thread. It is worn by women in Khmer classical dance, by newlyweds and by the character of Mae Hua (Khmer: មេហួ) in the Cambodian Royal Ploughing Ceremony.

Sampot Sâng

Sampot Sâng (Khmer: សំពត់សេង) is a short embroidered silk skirt.

Sampot Seai Sua

Sampot Seai Sua (Khmer: សំពត់សែសយ) is a monochromatic skirt with a gold or silver embroidered band along the lower hem. Today, this skirt is more popular among Laotian women than among the Khmer people.

Sampot Lberk

Sampot Lberk (Khmer: សំពត់លើ្បក) is a long silk-embroidered skirt. Today it is worn in marriage ceremonies, as is the sampot sabum. The sampot lberk was mostly worn by Cambodian nobility during the Lovek era.

Sampot Alorgn

Sampot Alorgn (Longyi.


There are many variations of Tops known as Shirt in Cambodia. The invention of the traditional Aor occurred after the Khmer empire era, at the turn of the 14th century.

Chang Pong

Women from the court of King Sisowath wearing different forms of Kebaya. Styles from left to right: Av Pak, Av Pak, Av Sarabapthe, Nyonya Kebaya, Nyonya Kebaya, Av Sarabap.

Chang Pong (Khmer: អាវចងពង់) is a piece of fabric in any colour worn by Khmer people at the end of the 13th century. It was primarily worn by women, who started using it to cover their chest, leaving only the stomach uncovered. This method, called "Chang Pol", covered the back and each side of the fabric to join at the chest and was rolled up and tied. It then evolved into Tronum, a thick and strong fabric cover on the chest, which hugged the body closely. Sometimes, the common style of wearing this garment was similar to that of the Aor Chang Pok; however Aor tronum did not leave as much skin uncovered as Aor Chang Pok. The Aor Tronum was popular among young rich women during the Chatomok era; today, it is an important costume in Khmer classical dance.

Av Bumpong

Av Bumpong (Khmer: អាវបំពង់) means tube skirt in English due to its appearance like a long tube, bribe to the body at the head and drop to down easily. Aor Bupok is a long shirt like a dress than the regular shirt similar to Vietnamese Ao Dai, Indian's Kurta and Malaysia's baju kurung. Generally, It has a collar with a button at the length from the neck to chest like Kurta while it normally norrow at the middle of the shirt in the stomach part like Baju Kurung but has the small hidden cut at hem of each shirt of shirt like Ao Dai which allowed the below part of shirt turn to Wide and Big. Most of Shirt is length at the knee while few one just only Length at the thigh. This Shirt is famous during Lovek to Oudong era worn by rich lady.

Av Dai Puon

Av Dai Puon (Khmer: អាវដៃប៉ោង) is a traditional blouse from the Lovek era. "Dai puon" means inflated short arm. This shirt usually had a row of buttons. Only the richest women could have afforded one during that era.

Av Pnot Kbach

Av Pnot Kbach () is a formal shirt primarily worn by wealthy young women. It is often adorned with a row of pleats with floral decorations and often paired with a collar and the hem of arm in the same style. The period in which this shirt was invented is not known, but many believe it can be attributed to Lovek. This shirt is quite similar to a Burmese style, as it may have been influenced by Burmese culture.

Av Neang Nov

Av neang nov is a long-arm shirt worn by woman.

Av Bar Bov

Av Bar Bov is an armless coat wear on the Av neang nov and Av Dai Puon. This shirt had the double of button on its pleat. The name of Av Bar Bov is known as Lotus leaves, the literally meaning from Thailand.

Av Pak

Av Pak is a recent popular fashion blouse in Cambodia worn by women. This one is known as the khmer version of Kebaya with plain stamped cotton elaborately hand-painted embroidered silk with gold thread. In the past, this kind of shirt required it own unique style with only white colour with the high full of embroider. Today, This shirt has the more gold thread in several colour and had cut into a lot of modern fashion which highly popular to Khmer people especially middle aged and young woman with the narrow style and several decoration model. This shirt had been noted as today's khmer national costume where a lot of khmer girl had used this blouse at the special occasion both inside and outside Cambodia to revived the khmer identity. This shirt usually worn with Sampot Hol and a few worn with Sampot Chang Kben


Cambodians traditionally wear a checkered scarf called a krama. The krama has been a symbol of Cambodian dress since the first century reign of Preah Bath Hun Tean, although it is unclear exactly when the krama became fashionable in the streets.

A Cambodian woman wearing a conical hat in the rice fields to shade her from the sun. Her krama is worn underneath.

The krama is one trait that distinguishes the Khmer from their Thai, Vietnamese, and Laotian neighbors. It is used for many purposes, including for style, for protection from the hot sun, as an aid for one's feet when climbing trees, as a hammock for infants, as a towel, or as a sarong. A krama can also be easily shaped into a small child's doll for play. Under the Khmer Rouge, all Khmer were forced to wear a checkered krama.[7]

The conical hat is also worn by many, especially by workers in the countryside to shade them from the sun.[8] This, however, is a Vietnamese hat that has been adopted to a certain extent by the Khmer in the provinces adjacent to Vietnam.

Cambodian clothing style by period

Traditional Cambodian clothing is broadly referred to as Sampot with many variations as national dress of Cambodia. Assisting on one status in Khmer society, Khmer clothing has varied by region and time, and each social class has a different sense of fashion. Generally, new fashions are passed down to the next generation with some variations. However, some clothing styles disappeared through the new era for long times, only to be restored in another period due to their popularity.

Funan Era (68 AD – 550 AD)

(Khmer: សម័យហ្វូណន)

As the first period of Cambodia, Funan led its earlier fashion style to Khmer people, with its recently influenced by the India in totally. Some clothing styles in this period bore high similarities to Indian fashions, just some different according to the native origin until the popularity of Sampot came to the country after a Cambodian king ordered the people of his kingdom to wear the sampot at the request of Chinese envoys. Despite some similarities in dress, men and women wore distinct clothing styles.

  • Men: All the males in the region wore totally Indian-influenced clothing. The people in the region generally worn Sampot Chang Kben but the more influenced from Indian than today style. The noblemen, royalty and king preferred their own style in Sarabat textile, imported from China. A bas relief evidence depicts that the wealthy people wore their clothing, very the same with Dhoti, by tying it around the upper body and tying the waist with a thin piece of cloth.

Noblemen and royalty wore Sampot Chang Kben in everyday life with the chest exposed. The varieties of Yantra tattooing had found in drawing of ancient Khmer script on their body in order for protection. With the spread of Hinduism across the country, The King always crowned with long corner crown in different colour depicts their royalty.

  • Women: Women likely suited themselves with Sampot in different colors, wrapped with a beautiful golden belt at their waist. The most useful sampot is Sampot Sarabap, made from the expensive light silk in the country. They left the upper body naked but the lady needed to have a sarong kor as a collar to praise their beauty jewellery allowed such as the Big triangle earring made from wood or gold and another kind of earring similar to bracelets.

Short, straight hairstyles were popular among common folk; the chignon was typically reserved for royalty.

Unlike the average with rich people, poor people wore a simple straw skirt cover around their waist or a skirt made from animal skin or cotton. They habitually had no jewelry but wore a similar hairstyle to rich people.

Chenla (550 AD – 802 AD)

(Khmer: សម័យចេនឡា )

Clothing styles in this period bore certain resemblances to clothing trends in Funan; however, Chenla still received its unique style. According to the bas belief at Vat Phou, a still ruin of Chenla, its national costume differed significantly from that of Funan, excepting the headdress, warn only by the king during that era.

  • Men: men would tie their hair into a chignon and crown it with a Funan-style headdress. Men continued to wear the Sampot, but in many variations. The men wore a kind of Collar due to half undress, hold a sword meant for brave and begin muscle for known as strong.
  • Women: women also tied their hair into a chignon. They then adorned their head with a beautiful flower, jasmine or rose. They would also crown their head with a round floral headdress made of gold. They also wore the Sampot or a floral textile Sarong with a nice Pidan, matched with a golden belt and hold a new style of khmer sarong kor below their neck despite naked their breast and stomach. The most important thing of this era, the servant lady in the palace, know to wraps this left shoulder to their back and stomach by shawl like sbai instead which is a symbol of Buddhism as well as Royalty wore Sava, a loosely decorated band of beads worn crosswise.

Angkor Era (8th century to 14th century)

(Khmer: សម័យអង្គរ )

Khmer Empire or Angkor period is a strongly wave in Cambodia history, which then spread its whole culture to foreign as well as its more Khmer fashion style rather than Indian of previous period. According to Zhou Daguan's Description of the Khmer people, He wrote that:

  • Men: had their chests exposed, walked barefooted and wore only a piece of cloth wrapping around their waists known as Sampot. Golden Belt were used again for the people in that area. Another average people wear a heavy silk short with a hand design on the legs, with the gold, black and white colour for useful. Instead of Golden Belt, they also wraps around the waist with Khmer's Krama and wear Sarong as well. Two hairstyle is a regular ornament as straight hair and Chignon style.
  • Women: Female people had a nude chest, has no shoes but their traditional Sampot and Sarong. Their Sarong and Sampot noticed to be longer than men's, having a lot of Knots. Zhou Daguan reported that the common women had no hair ornaments, though some wore golden rings or bracelets and metal belt. Beautiful women were apparently sent into the court to serve the king or his royal family at his whim. Another evidence illustrate that average lady and rich lady in that era, used a golden buckle to cover this upper body and normally, has a nignon hairstyle but allowed a large of polytail, on their shoulder.
  • Apsara: To Compare to Collar (red colored) is highly visible, found just below the neck the collar is embellished with detailed gold colored copper ornaments and beaded designs. Also included a loosely decorated band of beads worn crosswise called Sava.They wore only Sampot but more higher decoration than ordinary Sampot with two knots around the waist. The right knot is long knot but left knot design more charming and fashionable. They cover their waist with a high professional design belt, decorated with warped spear-like tips draped on a red cloth, the straight cloth differs as it is a flat red cloth. Their most used jewelry confirmed as Ankle Jewelry, Dangling Earrings and Wrist Jewelry but best of all is Apsara's Crown features three points and two or three garlands with ornate adornments, made of Emerald and Gold.

Despite, this apsara costume not to wore today, it became the high culture of Khmer national costume and the main dress for Cambodian Famous, Apsara Dance.

  • Royalty: For the guy in a first class or known as royalty, they retreat their own type of Funan and Chenla's costume back as well as that era, Female's national costume got motif than the male gender but extra with Sava and Sarong Kor. In Contrast. The court lady and Queen have no different that Apsara according to their costume but Queen Jayarajadevi and Indradevi carving are the best example with its unique different sava, made from silk feature golden twinkle floral print instead of bead to Apsara. The Queen Indradevi's crown confirmed a ten point and a large diamond center on headdress.

Charktomok period (1437 AD – 1525 AD)

(Khmer: សម័យចតុមុខ )

Khmer women dancing

Since Thais sacked Angkor in 1400 AD. Chatomok period at its earliest time (Nowaday Phnom Penh) maintain the highly invader of Buddhism rather than Hindism influenced since King Jayavarman VII,the great reign. This post-angkor era submitted a power achievement dress contact with Buddhism and abandoned some style substitute to Hindu such which had came through three period already. Legacy Deva's Apsara's crown among the one. According to unsure evidence for clothing habit of Khmer People during Chartomok, some thoughts suoposed its style fade to Lovek region. However it then report that Chartomok People acquaint as great extraordinary fashion style than Lovek.

After a long lost war, Cambodia Suvivar aware to lost an original way of living but then created the newstyle with the influence from its neighbourhood Country s into uniquely khmer thinking. Different of first three kingdoms in Cambodia, Cambodian had no tops exposed again but the nice fabric cover around beautifully for women.

  • Men:Most of Men preferred Shirtless unless They were more wealty to find a top to suit their body. Odinary Khmer male's attire known specific as a wrapping like Chang Kben in several colour but more up to their thigh and strong hugging lower body, left them easily to work. The Noblemen or lord always worn a round collar shirt with a long pleat at the front and obtain four pocket at both side. At the period, most of male people had their hair long.
  • Women: Lady for this era satisfied themselves with high decoration garment. The Young lady consumed to wrap a wide fabric which about 2 meter around their body in Chang Pok style showed up the small part of stomach. This fabric is likely to decorated with several colors and many piece of silver, made by both heavy and soft cotton depend on rich or poor. The poor had to bandaged their body by joined the ends at middle of chest, drop the remain tail, length to their navel. In contrast, the rich lady tied their self in Chang Pok style more firmly by bride the bit of its upper hem at the left of another side, surely as its was hugging. However, it then developed to more tight, used a strong and solid cotton to weaving a fabric then covered their tops and join it end at left or right side of their body but sewed it to one piece which made the worner decreased their worried for its accidentally drop off. They also tie a lovely, big and soft shawl around their shoulders or down to the centre of their back but hold it on their arm instead. They worns with wrap around skirt called Sampot Samloy in their favourite colour and textile especially flora print called Kean or in the light silk and more strong cotton. Sampot Samloy always worn by kept the front pleat, holding one side more up to make a knot at the top, secured with a golden or metal belt.Their hairstyle announced as worn their hair up in a bun or scatter the hair, raised the hem of hair at temple then drop over it shoulder to back with beautiful flower cover the hair or pinch it with nipper. As well as young lady, the old first class lady enjoyed wearing the fabric around their upper body but in weak decoration and not so charming colour. They worn it with their favourite Sampot Samloy generally in front pleat by only put its top hem to another side top or worn in 'Sarong included some head jewelry as Bracelets, necklace and earring, made from silver, gold and metal. Astonised from young age, The female elders, performed their hairstyle out as Chignon style only.

In contrast, the third class or average female people, had the some style of clothes to the upper class but with black colour the most and usually wearing Sarong with no decoration and Shawl but Krama is a useful fabric.

  • Royalty: To Began in Monarchy, the fashion must be the most elegant of all. The King worn a long sleeves shirt at the top sewed with a hugging arms in rich embroidering, with a collar in sometimes round decoration and somes in a little sharp tips.It had sort of Epaulette that is a piece sewed with the shirt arching upwards like Indra's bow, represent a Chinese Style dressed influenced used during Tang Dynasty. There were Criss-crossing the front is the kse-sangvar of chains of rank which forms an 'X' as they cross over one another, on top of the kse-sangvar a diamond shaped pendant is worn. At the lower part they worn a knee length hugging trouser with some decoration at the hem, covering by a Chang Kben which kept at thigh and had a belt at the waist. Another accessories including one rectangular loin-cloth at the front and sometimes two others on the side that look like fish tails.THis three pieces was traced to Angkor era. The King need to crown with a similar crown of Angkor period but more sharp tip and high.

Black pajamas

The Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s was well-noted for popularising black unisex "pajamas." The typical peasant outfit consisted of a collarless black shirt, baggy trousers, and a checkered krama knotted loosely about the neck. Brightly colored clothing was strictly prohibited under the Khmer Rouge; colors were limited to black, dark blue, or maroon plain coloring. Women were strictly forbidden to wear any Western-style trousers or jeans at any time, although after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, these became increasingly popular, particularly among young women.[9]


  1. ^ a b The Cambodia Daily WEEKEND
  2. ^ Clothing, Traditional—Cambodia | Encyclopedia of Modern Asia
  3. ^ Microsoft Word - Texte Soubert.doc
  4. ^ Khemerak Travel - Tourist Destinations
  5. ^ Asian Art Collection Khmer people
  6. ^ Abstract Part 3: Cambodian Textile and Khmer and Cham Culture
  7. ^ Tom Vater (29 December 2009). Moon Cambodia. Avalon Travel. p. 270.  
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Cambodia Dress - Flags, Maps, Economy, History, Climate, Natural Resources, Current Issues, International Agreements, Population, Social Statistics, Political System
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