Lao Fashion and Style
The sinh is a traditional garment worn by Lao and Thai women. While Thai women typically only wear the sinh for special or cultural events, in Lao the sinh is still very popular and is the go to style of dress that national and foreign women wear to work.
According to my friend Hongkham “The design of Lao and Thai sinhs are very different. The Lao sinhs are more intricate and have more detail.”
The sinh is made of cloth and is wrapped around the waist like a skirt. They come in many styles and colors, and women typically wear them with a waistband to hold the garment in place. Many women wear the sinh with stylish blouses of varying colors, creating a chic style that combines the traditional with the modern.
The sinh is not just a skirt, however, it is a traditional garment and many tailors will not cut the garment above the knee. The sinh is meant to go past the knee, and few if any tailors make exceptions, even for foreigners.
You can find sinhs made of cotton or silk, and they are available in the night and morning markets in Vientiane. The silks sinhs, however, are typically the most beautiful and most expensive, sometimes selling for several hundreds of dollars.
“The sinh is a signature of our culture. When I was a child and saw other people wearing it, I thought it was beautiful and thought that I wanted to wear it as an adult” said Hongkham
As popular as sinhs are, they are not the only style of dress Lao women wear. Lao women also wear skirts in the modern sense, sometimes with Lao designs, such as the one you see in the first picture.
Many young Lao people wear jeans and t-shirts, similar to young Thai people and young people in the Western world, but there is still a general high regard for Lao traditional dress, as Hongkham explained “Lao people have to wear the traditional outfits because it’s very perfect. I don’t want to change anything about our culture. I am proud of it!”