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Published: 01 May 2021

By Andy Ross

Discovering Textiles - the National Dress of Bhutan

Bhutan, the small Asian kingdom in the Eastern Himalayas, has a strong national identity, reinforced in part by its national dress code. 

During the reign of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the 17th Century unifier of Bhutan, elements from Tibetan and Bhutanese traditional dress were consolidated in an attempt to unify the country. The Kira and the Gho, worn by women and men respectively, are still in use today, signifying pride in the nation. The original handwoven fabrics that go to creating these garments can nowadays be machine-made, but the most expensive are still those woven by hand because of the time it takes to make them. The technical skills employed to make the fabrics take years to master, and these skills are taught at, amongst other places, the Royal Textile Academy and at Thimpu Institute for Zorig Chusum, a school where Bhutanese traditional arts and crafts are taught. Bhutan is also proactive in keeping abreast of developments and applying new knowledge to keeping its traditions alive, as you can see in this 2016 research project.

It is mostly the women of the nation who weave and in a country where this craft allows a good income to still be made, in spite of modern influences affecting the way in which people dress, it is inspiring to learn about a living and vibrant tradition