University of Battambang

Visiting Cambodia: Traditional Clothes

Traditional Clothes

National Dress
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 for the sampot, each is washed according to social class. The typical sampot, known also as the sarong is typically 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 Chang Kben
Sampot Chang Kben (សំពត់​ចងក្បិន, ALA-LC: saṃbát caṅ kpin) is the preferred choice of clothing for women of upper and middle classes for daily wear. This practice of daily wear died out in the beginning of the twentieth century. Unlike the typical Sampot, it is more of a pant than a skirt. It is a rectangular piece of cloth measuring 3 metres long and one metres wide. 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 is adopted in Thailand and Laos, where it is known as Chong Kraben. It dates to the to ancient Cambodia where deities often wore such styles.
Sampot Phamuong
Sampot Phamuong (សំពត់​ផាមួង ALA-LC: saṃbát phā muaṅ) are many different variation of traditional Khmer textiles. They are single colored and twill woven. There are currently 52 colors used in Sampot Phamuong. The Phamuong Chorabap is a luxurious fabric using up to 22 needles to create. Phamuong variation are rabak, chorcung, anlounh, kaneiv and bantok. It usually contains floral and geometrical motifs. The most valued silk used to create the Phamuong is Cambodian yellow silk, known for its fine quality. New designs draw inspiration from ancient patterns of old silk.
Sampot Hol
Sampot Hol (សំពត់​ហូល 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 developed patterns and techniques over the centuries to become a genuine Khmer art style. The sampot hol has over 200 patterns combined with three to five colors, yellow, red, brown, blue, and green. There are four variations, sampot hol, sampot hol por, sampot hol kben and sampot hol ktong. Patterns are usually geometric motifs, animals, and flower motifs.
Both Sampot Phamuong and Sampot Hol believed to have invented from original Sampot in Oudok Era as word Phamuong comes from Siam language that Pha mean Fabric and Mung mean violet while Sampot Hol had introduced as ceremonial skirtcloth to the Thai court as sompak poom or pha poom in 19th century. Although that era, Thai culture influenced that much into Khmer society, Khmer weaving however, is not a copy from Siam, because Cambodia already had a weaving culture before the Klung civilization. At this time, Cambodia still do not know what the word like Phamung meant in that time.
Sampot Tep Apsara
Sampot Tep apsara Angkor (Khmer: សំពត់ទេពអប្សរាអង្គរ) is famous sampot in Khmer empire era, which still found on the bas belief of Apsaras carving aroung Khmer Famous temple, Angkor wat. Generally, all of thoes skirt had tied to safely secure it on the waist with their style of golden belt, drop a long pleat at the middle of Sampot which the length of that fabric recoil at the calf of the leg. The hem of skirt at the both part always get a small knot up. There are also two knots come from the waist of sampot with the left Knot is the long knot like the thin long fabric while the right Knot in the same pgysical appearance but more decortion at the middle of it knot. Today, this style of sampot become the fictional skirt for nowadays people as No of this kind of sampot wearing by anyone but will an illustration to public as it will wearing in some show as they disgus as Apsara.
Sampot Samloy
Sampot Samloy (Khmer: សំពត់សំម្លុយ) is long skirt used daily for men and women. The name Samloy mostly refers to no colour but black for ancient name, now it is sometimes recognized as the soft, thin fabric with more decoration and pattern look Sarong Batik but may be smaller. With its thin and soft appearance, the style of dress had been required to hold a knot, make it to become Sampot Chang Kben easily. However, it is necessary to make a fold at the left or right side like Sarong and Another sampot but most of female wearer, likely to hold its knot at up middle, drop a small division site at the length of Saloy at the knee to be easily to walk for the wearer. Saloy was known to be popular during Chatomok Era.
Sampot Chorabap
Sampot Chorabap (Khmer: សំពត់ចរបាប់) is a long skirt of silk embroidered all over the gold thread,, worn by woman in Khmer classical dance, newlywed and the character of Mae Hua (Khmer: មេ​ហួ) in Royal Ploughing Ceremony of Cambodia.
Sampot Sang
Sampot Sang (Khmer: សំពត់សេង) is a short skirt with silk embroidery.
Sampot Seai Sua
Sampot Seai Sua (Khmer: សំពត់សែសយ) is a kind of skirt of one colour with a gold or silver embroidered band along a lower ham. roday, this skirt is very popular among Laotian's lady than Khmer people.
Sampot Lbak
Sampot Lbak (Khmer: សំពត់លើ្បក) is a long skirt covered with entirely silk embroiredy. Today it is worn in marriage ceremonies in the place like Sampot Sabum. In ancient times, This kind of sampot is mostly worn by Noblemen of Cambodia during Lovek era.
Sampot Aslom
Sampot Aslom (Khmer: សំពត់អន្លូញ) is a long skirt with the vertical stripes, commonly worn by old people or farmer in the countryside. This one is share highly common to Burma's Longyi.
There are many variation of Tops known as Shirt in Cambodia. The invention of traditional Aor is found after Khmer empire era at the late of 13 century to 14 century
Chang Pok
Chang Pok (Khmer: អាវចងពង់) is a piece of fabric in any colour which Khmer people at the late of 13 century especially women, started used it to cover their chest, showed up only the stomach. The style of Covering, is cover it at the back and each side of the fabric to join at the middle the chest and roll it to up to be smaller to tie which this style called Chang Pok.It then developed more to Tronum which is a thick and strong fabric cover on the chest of khmer lady, which stick on the body strongly. Sometimes, the commonly style of wearing this garment is similar way to wearing Aor Chang Pok, just Aor tronum, not showed as much skin like Aor Chang Pok. Popularity of wearing Aor Tronum, were for young rich lady during Chatomok Era and today an important costume of all to be used in Khmer classical dance.
Av Bupong
Av Bupong (Khmer: អាវ​បំពង់)mean tube skirt in English according to 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 shurt 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 is a traditional blouse in Lovek era. The name of dai puon is literally meaning according to inflated short arm. This shirt usually had a row of button and just of few of extremely rich girl counld had one during that era.
Av Pnot Kback
Av Pnot Kback is the female formal shirt used for rich young lady. The whole row of its pleat filled with the decoration of flower paird with the collar and the hem of arm in the same style. This shirt invention period is not specifics but most of people believed it going to Lovek. This one is quiet similar to Burma one, as maybe one of least inflnuced of Burma culture.
Av Neang Nov
Av neang nov is a the long arm shirt, worn by woman.
Av Bar Bov
  • Av Bar Bov is a no arm coat wear on the Av neang nov and Av Dai Puon. This shirt had the dounble 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 Woman. 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
Main article: Krama
Traditionally Cambodians 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 not clear when exactly the krama became fashionable in the streets.
A Cambodian woman wearing a conical hat to keep off the sun's heat in the rice fields. Her krama is worn underneath
The "krama" is what distinctly separates the Khmer (Cambodians) from their Thai, Vietnamese, and Laotian neighbors. The scarf is used for many purposes including for style, protection from the hot sun, an aid (for your feet) when climbing trees, a hammock for infants, a towel, or 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".
The conical hat is also worn by many particularly by workers in the countryside to keep the sun off. This, however, is a Vietnamese hat that has been adopted to a certain extent by 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, the new fashion which had been invented in the current period, will always passed down to next period but just with some elimination replaced by new version but some clothing had been disappeared through the new era for long times and restored in another period due to the popularity.
Funan Era (68 AD – 550 AD)
As the first period of Cambodia, Funan lead its earlier fashion style to Khmer people, with its recently influenced by the India in totally. Some clothing style of this period got a high similarity to Indian, 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 got some similarity on costume style, both men and women had on own.
  • Men: All the male in the region had a totallly Indian influenced in their 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 prefer their own style in Sarabat texitle, the imported from China. A bas belief evidence depicts that the wealthy people worn their clothing, very the same with Dhoti, as it tying around the upper body and tie the waist with a thin pice of clothes.
Noble man and royalty worn Sampot Chang Kben in their daily 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 Hindism spread over the country, The King always crowned with long corner crown in different colour depicts their royalty.
  • Women:the lady likely to suit themselves with Sampot in different color and wrap around with beautiful golden belt at their waist. The most useful sampot is Sampot Sarabap made from the expensive light silk in the country. They let the upper body naked but the lady need to have a sarong kor as a .collar to praise their beautyJewellery allowed such as the Big triangle earring made from wood or gold and another kind of earring similar to bracelets.
Begin short straight hair is a head hairstyle for average people while tying a chignon can seem for Royalty.
Unlike the average with rich people, poor people look like a naked person with just straw skirt cover around their waist or wearing a skirt make from animal's skin or from the cotton. They habitually have no jewelry but got a same hairstyle to rich people.
Chenla (550 AD – 802 AD)
Share the common with Funan but Chenla still received its unique style. According to the bas belief at Vat Phou, a still ruin of Chenla, its national costume noticed a high different from Funan, except the headdress which then allowed only King during that era.
  • Men: wear always ties one's hair into a chignon and crown it with funan style's headdress. Sampot still certainly wore by Chenla People but in different variation. The men enjoyed wear that kind of Collar due to half undress, hold a sword meant for brave and begin muscle for known as strong.
  • Women: the lady also ties a hair into a chignon, just like the guy but suit the hairs with a beautiful flower or jasmine, also rose into chignon, described about womanly. Otherwise, they likely to crown with the round headdress made of gold with flower decoration instead. They also loved to wear Sampot but Sometimes Lady likely to wore Sarong with flower texile around with a nice Pidan, match with the 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 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 know as Sampot. Golden Belt is announced to be 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 nomarlly, has a nignon hairstyle but allowed a large of polytail, on their shoulder.
  • Apsara: To Compare to Apsara, a celestial dancer for royalty in Angkor Era as well as reminding a khmer clothing ornaments. their main dress ornament known as Sarong Kor, a gorgeous round decorative 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 jewerly 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)
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 inflneuced 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 beautifulully for Lady.
  • 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 texile 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 decortion 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 infleuenced 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 the popularity of unisex black "pajamas." Typically the peasant outfit consisted of a collarless black shirt, baggy trousers, and checkered krama knotted loosely about the neck. Brightly colored clothing was strictly prohibited under the Khmer Rouge. People 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 this has now changed, becoming increasingly popular particularly among young women today.