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Pa'O clothing

all text & images Pamela A Cross

go to photogalleries of Pa'O - Kalaw market and Lake Inle
to 44K Jpeg 9809Q31  Pa'O woman at Phaung Daw U pagoda, Lake Inle, Shan State. This was the only Pa'O woman that I saw wearing her dark blouse without a covering long-sleeved short jacket. Most of the old photos I have seen of the Pa'O show them wearing their blouses and longyi but no jackets.

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 frequently towels.

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 bibliography.


to 34K Jpeg 9809N04 Pa'O women at Nampan 5-day rotating market, Lake Inle, Shan State with their piles of thanapet leaf from cordia trees used for rolling around the local cheroots.
to 27 K Jpeg 9809H15 Pa'O woman sitting by her produce in Kalaw Market, Shan State. Note her turban tied from a woven scarf bought in the market and her Shan bag in her lap. She is wearing a short jacket, with long sleeves over her shift blouse which has a trim of embroidery in the 'V' of the neck and it is possible to see an echoing embroidery in the side seam of her blouse to the left of the photograph. The jacket has machine stitched detail around the piecing.
to 22K Jpeg 9809I24 Pa'O market trader in Kalaw 5-day rotating market re-tying her head covering - a length of white cotton cloth. Note the cut of her jacket over her loose blouse over her longyi.
35K Jpeg 9809H33 Pa'O woman walking through Kalaw 5-day market, Shan State. This was the only Pa'O woman that I saw wearing leggings under her longyi. Also note the embroidered seam down the back of her blouse showing beneath her short jacket.
to Pa'O at Nampan 5-day rototing market, Lake Inle, Shan State
to 26K Jpeg 9809K01 Pa'O woman striding through the 5-day rotating market in Kalaw, Shan State. Her garments of black serge short, long-sleeved jacket with selvedge woven trim inset down the opening of the jacket, loose blouse with embroidered trim along the seams and calf length longyi are set off by the plaid scarf wound around her head and her striped bag
to 34K Jpeg 9809O01  Pa'O man at Nampan 5-day rotating market, Lake Inle, Shan State
to 22K Jpeg 9809N25 Pa'O woman at Nampan 5-day rotating market, Lake Inle, Shan State with a finely made jacket with selvedge woven lettering inset into the collar. Her striped woven head-cloth matches her shoulder bag.
to 31K Jpeg 9809I25 Pa'O man walking through Kalaw 5-day market showing his loose trousers, Shan style jacket and towelling turban
go to photogalleries of Pa'O - Kalaw market and Lake Inle
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this page last updated 2 January, 2004