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 Post subject: Lao ikat skirt
PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2009 12:13 pm 

Joined: Sat May 09, 2009 1:01 am
Posts: 248
Location: Japan
Can anyone tell me which Lao group this ikat skirt is from.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:54 pm 

Joined: Thu Feb 05, 2004 12:27 am
Posts: 124
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Rushing out of the house, but got an email from Pamela mentioning this piece. It is a spirit skirt (sin phii) from Xam Nuea Province in Laos. I will write more about later about these wonderful pieces and show more examples. This is a very nice piece. Crisp ikat.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2009 9:29 pm 
Site Admin

Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
Posts: 1997
Location: Canterbury, UK
Bill, you are a star (and welcome back)!!!

I had been composing a response separately and just come onto the forum to post it. When I refreshed the thread I was very pleased to see the post from Bill and that he confirms that the skirt is a sin phii, (spirit skirt) from Xam Nuea!!! Good of you to prove me right when I said you had expertise in this area! I will go ahead anyway with what I was going to say.


I know something about Lao-Tai textiles although I am not an expert. Probably forum members Bill Hornaday (who has a considerable collection of Lao textiles) and Susan Stem are much more expert than I. We don’t seem to have heard from Bill for a few months [before today!!] At the moment Susan is having considerable struggles with her internet connection and finding it difficult to get and stay on-line. I will, therefore, make a few comments.

We have a (bad?) habit on the forum of almost immediately referring to this or that book which can be of help in identifying textiles. I am afraid that this is no exception! My immediate reference for Lao-Tai textiles is Lao-Tai Textiles: The Textiles of Xam Nuea and Muang Phuan by Patricia Cheesman which she self-published in 2004 via Studio Naenna, her business in Chiang Mai. ISBN 974-272-915-8. It is not easy to find the book as, unfortunately, it has suffered from a poor distribution. I checked out the Studio Naenna website today and found the book There is also some information about it on forum thread ... .php?t=213 In January 05 I wrote a review of the book for the February edition (No 30) of the Oxford Asian Textile Group Magazine. I will attach a pdf of the article here but I quote a para from the review which perhaps is relevant to your question:
“Core to Cheesman’s research and classification of textiles is that Lao-Tai peoples used textiles and clothing to express their desire to belong to certain communities whilst pledging allegiance to their chiefs. Clothing styles were outward signs of allegiance and when people relocated to different muang under a new chief they changed their clothing and textiles accordingly. Thus she identifies textiles by their most recent provenance giving localities in an historical setting. This contrasts to the traditional approach of explicit identities along ethnic lines. Generally Cheesman’s research indicated that, unlike clothing, textiles made for household use maintained their original style despite migrations and deportations as they were not publicly seen. Discontinuation of home-produced textiles indicated availability of commercial household textiles.“

I think that your skirt is a sin phii (spirit skirt) worn only at a funeral by a daughter-in-law or by the female corpse or by a shaman (when it would be a sin mor phi – shaman’s tube skirt). Patria Cheesman says, page 185,:
“The ikat motifs on the sin phi were river dragons, the funeral tree and roof-like forms representing the thiang haew, house structures built over the graves at the cemetery....A woman usually wove the sin phi for her daughter-in-law to wear at her funeral, and the daughter-in-law in turn was dressed in it when she died. In this way the souls of the two could meet in the after life.”

I have not been able to find an identical skirt to yours in the book. None have the same hem as yours. The main body of your skirt is probably most similar to 8.51 on page 186
“8.51 Upper Xam Nuea style sin mor phi with hua buan waistband. The roof structure of the thiang haew house built over the grave is depicted in the red ikat sections with ngueak dragons and ritual trees atop. 132 x 95 cm.”
Patricia Cheesman says, page 186, under the heading Sin phi (spirit skirts) Xam Nuea style:
“The Xam Nuea style sin phi had complex discontinuous supplementary weft bands between the ikat bands. The different Xam Nuea sub-styles employed their typical colours in the supplementary yarns. A plain indigo hem piece called tiin tam nae and a white waistband were added.......The Tai Nuea and Tai Khang often added decorative hem pieces with discontinuous supplementary weft patterns to their sin phii and sometimes made these textiles for sale to Austro-Asiatic groups whose shamans also used this design.”

It is the “complex discontinuous supplementary weft bands between the ikat bands” which seem most similar to those shown in your skirt. Your hem is quite different from any that I can see in the book.

I have not been able to find anything from Patricia Cheesman giving us permission to post images from the book on the forum. I have asked Susan Stem whether she might have asked Patricia for permission on our behalf. I have a feeling we may have permission but that may just be wishful thinking!!!

I look forward to Bill coming back to us especially if he also posts some examples from his own collection.

review_Lao-Tai_Patricia Cheesman.pdf [117.03 KiB]
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on-line tribal textiles resource
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