Two topics I am interested in are 19th - early 20th century Siam/Thailand and gender dissimulation.
This photographic image from 1900 shows a Siamese woman in traditional dress. She is wearing a loincloth, known as sarong or chongkraben in Thai. This covers the waist to the knees, and is formed with a length of cloth wrapped around the waist and thighs which is then passed through the legs before being secured. She also has the sides of her head shaved, leaving only a topknot and two locks in front of her ears. There is a cord around her shoulder that is looped round her torso, but otherwise her upper body is completely bare, leaving her breasts completely uncovered. Men would also present themselves in a similar way - bare chested, loincloth only, partially shaved head. (Unfortunately I cannot readily find information on Thai non-binary identities and presentation with my limited resources, which makes me sad and frustrated.)
Please observe the next image:
Dating from several decades later, between 1935 - 1945, it is a poster which shows proper Thai dress, as circumscribed by Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram. He issued a series of Thai cultural mandates (many of which are still de facto in effect today) that described appropriately civilised behaviour as befitting Thai citizens.
The left hand side shows inappropriate dress, which are described in text below the picture. Examples of dress, grooming, and carriage now deemed uncouth include:
- Wearing a sarong
- Sporting a completely bare torso
- Having a shaved head
- Wearing an “Indian hat” or head covering/wrapping.
- Binding one’s chest or wearing only undergarments to partially conceal one’s upper body
- Carrying loads upon one’s head
Dress and comportment considered acceptable were as follows:
- Wearing uniforms;
- “International style” attire
- ‘Polite’ versions of traditional dress, such as pha sin/pha toong
- Wearing longer hair
- Ensuring they wear presentable garments which are clean and neat
These orders were applicable to everyone.
Notice that they clearly erase any ethnic and cultural markers (indeed, the mandates explictly erased all identities and referred to all Thailanders as “Thai”) and, returning to the topic at hand, dissimulated gender by prescribing hair and dress according to norms which could perhaps be described as recognisably Euro-American.
One day I will do more research on why and how this came about, &c.
Ahhh oh my god this is so amazing and i want to know so much more about it.
This is indeed very interesting.