The Hmong style: The people, their history, and their textile heritage
Youwill spotoften Hmong in travel brochures, in Asian fashion magazine clippings, or in advertisements, as they are easily recognizable by their colorful and iconic dress style. Traditional Hmong clothing highlights intricate patterns, embroidery, indigo and light batiks, eye-catching colors. They have inspired travelers and fashion enthusiasts alike for years.
But the Hmong have much more to offer than their dress style. By reading this article, you will learn more about their fascinating history, their culture, their traditions, and how their fabrics continue to be worn today.
The origins of the Hmong
The Hmong are believed to have their origins in the Yellow River region of China, 3000 BC, although many experts believe they go back further than that. They did not begin to migrate until the 1800s, moving first to Indochina, then northern Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, to avoid oppression.
After the Vietnam War, more Hmongs migrated to Thailand as refugees. However, since many joined the ranks of the Communist Party during the war, they were persecuted. To this day, some people are still denied their right to citizenship, or their right to own the land they cultivate.
In the 21st century, there are now Hmongs all over the world, in countries like Australia, France, or evenUnited States. Despite everything, 95% still live in Asia.
The Hmong have a rich and fascinating culture. Traditionally, a shaman leads the tribe, and plays a vital role in complex funeral or marriage rites. When people are sick, to cure them, he goes into a trance to visit the underworld and transfer the souls of the sick people in question. He also sometimes assumes a political role in the village.
The New Year is especially important for the Hmong. It is celebrated on the 30th day of the 12th lunar month. During this time, family and spiritual ancestors are honored, and boys and girls are encouraged to play games together, in the hopes of igniting love at first sight that would lead them to marriage.
The importance of textiles
Textiles play a role in Hmong culture. Indeed, they are considered to be something so important that girls learn embroidery from the age of 5, to prepare them for the task of creating textiles for their wedding or funeral in the future.
Hmong textiles, a sartorial history
Hmong textiles are renowned across the world for their rich colors and elaborate aesthetics.
Their embroidery is particularly famous. Before the 20th century, the Hmong had no form of writing, and instead communicated ideas and stories on pieces of cloth.
This practice was not limited to women, even the men of the village created embroideries that tell stories, to convey the past of their people to the outside world, and in some cases, to reveal the extent of their persecution.
The flower fabric (Paj Ntaub)
Their flowered clothes (sometimes called Paj Ntaub), are also very popular, and feature an extensive pattern that is recurrent in Hmong culture, with evocative names like "elephant's foot", "tiger face", "Bird's wings".
The name "flower cloth" comes from the Hmong belief that if you wrap a baby in these pieces of cloth, it will be disguised as flowers, and evil spirits will not be able to remove it.
With the development of global tourism, more and more people began to visit the Hmong tribes of Asia, and fell in love with their clothes and fabrics. Over the years, their rich patterns, indigo-dyed fabrics, and detailed embroidery began to be incorporated into modern clothing, and appreciated by a new generation of people.
The Hmong's remarkable talent for textiles left behind a powerful legacy, and many decided to wear Hmong-inspired clothing in recognition of their visual appeal and cultural importance.
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