The Pa'O, both men and women, wear very dark black or dark
indigo blue clothing with bright, colourful headdresses. These
are all bought from the local market and are mainly red, orange,
pink, white or green - from lengths of woven striped (as used
in the Shan bags) fabric, plaid factory woven scarves or the
The women wear long, loose shift blouses in the style of a
Karen hse over a matching longyis. Photos of the
Pa'O in older literature all seem to show women wearing the
sleeveless blouse without any covering jacket. I saw only one
woman - by the Phaung Daw U pagoda on Lake Inle - wearing the
blouse without a short jacket over it. Otherwise the Pa'O women
that I saw both in Kalaw and around Lake Inle were all wearing
a long sleeved, short, quite intricately pieced, jacket with
a small stand-up collar over their blouse. Note that in the
photos that the seams of the blouse have been over-sewn in coloured
thread as a decoration.
Almost all of the women I saw were not wearing leggings - except
for one (carrying large round package on her head in Kalaw market
- shown on the left) where a dark blue legging is just visible
showing below her longyi. U Min Naing (in 'National Ethnic Groups
of Myanmar' pps 118-125) mentions the women wearing leggings
and Scott writing in 1921 (p127) refers to them being worn occasionally
- in black or white. Michael C Howard (in his "Textiles
of the Hill Tribes of Burma" pp 77-78) refers to the collection
of the Goteborg Ethnographical Museum including (Hansen: 1960):
(1) a Pao skirt made of black cotton sateen (Ac# 35.39.404);
and 92) a pair of leggings made of plain indigo dyed cotton
with a cord attached for tying the leggings on (Ac#35.39.405).
Pa'O men wear dark
baggy Chinese style trousers and jackets opening down
the centre front in the Shan style. They wear similar head coverings
to the women.
The Pa'O no longer weave but purchase navy blue or black serge
cloth from the market. Sylvia Fraser-Lu (in 'Handwoven Textiles
of South-east Asia, p 98) refers to them (the women) proudly
displaying the 'Made in England' trade mark along the selvedges
around armholes and neck openings. In 1998 in Kalaw and Nampan
the women were sporting 'Made in Finland', 'Pure Wool' in white
from the selvedges as decoration. See the insert with white
writing around the back of the collar and down the front openings
of the women's jackets in the photos on the left.
Both men and women wear bright shoulder bags, frequently the
red striped Shan bags or similar bags in blues and greens all
bought in the market.
I am indebted to the following for their information on Myanmar
(Burma) and the Pa'O in particular:
Michael C. Howard - "Textiles of the Hill Tribes of Burma"
(p77-78) , Richard K Diran - "The vanishing tribes of Burma"
(p76-79), U Min Naing - "National Ethnic Groups of Myanmar"
(p13, p118-125), Burma Frontier Photographs 1918-1935. The James
Henry Green Collection (p154-5, p170) and Sylvia Fraser-Lu -
"Handwoven Textiles of South-east Asia" (p98). For
a detailed bibliography on textiles from Myanmar based on my
own book collection go to the Myanmar