Published on Thursday, 27 June 2013 11:40
One of the few things in Myanmar that has remained gracefully defiant throughout its long and turbulent history is its love affair with htamein and longyi, the two wraparound garments that lie at the core of Bamar traditional attire. Despite the country's colonial past and current reformist fervour, traditional dress is in vogue in an age where the rest of Southeast Asia is more at ease with spaghetti straps and hot pants.
This bond with traditional chic seems unbreakable. It's a source of national pride that the people of Myanmar cherish and celebrate as best as they can. And this weekend Myanmar's A-list models and actresses are coming together to celebrate both the glory of indigenous couture and National Women's Day, which falls on July 3, in "The Traditional Dresses of Myanmar Women", a three-day fashion event, which gets underway tomorrow evening at the National Theatre on Myoma Kyaung Road, Dagon Township.
Organised by the Myanmar Women Affairs Federation in conjunction with the leading modelling firm, Stars & Models International, the fashion show this year turns the spotlight on traditional fashion, with top Burmese models parading new traditional collections down the catwalk. This year's main sponsors include Karasik Silks and Khin Pyone Mon Batik. The organisers are excluding ethnic dresses from this year's, as these presented at the ASEAN Fashion Week last month in Japan.
The fashion shows aim to convey the message that Myanmar ladies look beautiful in traditional attire whatever their career choice.
"Every country has its own traditional dress. Myanmar women look graceful in theirs, just as Thai women are also very attractive when they choose to wear their national costumes," says John Lwin, managing director of Stars & Models International.
He adds that traditional chic is becoming even more popular these days especially in the booming wedding service sector.
Myanmar stands out among Southeast Asian nations because it's the only country where traditional outfits figure prominently in most sections of society both in the workplace and on the street.
The beauty of Myanmar traditional attire stems from its functionality, practicality and versatility.
In Yangon, the country's commercial capital, as elsewhere, the petite Burmese ladies catch the eye with their yinzi, or front-buttoned blouse, or the yinbon, the side-folded top paired with the sarong-like "htamein", which are made from silk or cotton and feature colourful floral motifs and prints.
Men wear collarless jackets, or titepon, over a white mandarin collared shirt and a gaung baung hat for a special occasion. For the lower garment, they opt for striped or chequered ankle-length, "longyi", also known as "pasoe".
The folding of the lower garment comes in different styles for men and women. The guys fold it into two panels and knot it in front at the waist level. The ladies' wrap-around skirt is folded from right to left and tucked in at the side of the waist.
Up to 60 models, top singers and actresses among them, will be sashaying down the runway in a vast array of glittering traditional and national costumes created by famous designers using batik, cotton, silk and cheik, the hand-woven sarong with elaborate patterns once popular in the royal Myanmar court. Batik is among the new additions at this year's show.
Represented at the fashion show are 18 rising stars from Stars & Models International. They'll be modelling different styles of batik creations designed by one of Myanmar's leading designers Ko Latt.
Cotton dresses and cheik - to be presented by 26 actresses - are from the latest collections of designers Thazin Khin and Mon Ywar Bote Bote. Silk attire will be modelled by 15 singers.
Actress and singer Aye Wuttyee Thaung will present two cotton designs created by Mon Ywar Bote Bote and also wowing the crowd as she dances to the Myanmar classic "Khaing Marlar Hninsi" ("A Virgin Like a Beautiful Rose")
"Wearing traditional dress makes me look chic and elegant. I feel I look more mature," she says.
All the models will be sporting traditional hairstyles to showcase a new collection of long-sleeved traditional blouses in a riot of colours. No sleeveless or short-sleeved designs are on this year's agenda.
"Although it's a showcase of national dress, they need not be traditional in style. I think the designs should be adapted to the current modern fashion trends," Lwin says.
"Traditional Dresses of Myanmar Women" runs from Friday to Sunday at the National Theatre in Yangon. The opening day is by invitation only. For more information, call the Myanmar Women Affairs Federation at (+959) 506 5135.
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