After arriving in Bhutan, one of the first things I noticed was the traditional dress donned by much of the population. The usage of the kira (for females) and gho (for males) holds great significance for the Bhutanese population. The Bhutanese dress is most distinctive. Introduced in the seventeenth century by the Tibetan lama who unified Bhutan, the gho is a knee-length robe that is tied at the waist worn with long socks. On special occasions, the gho is complemented by a kabney, a silk scarf, that runs from the left shoulder to the right hip. People of great importance, such as the King, wear a yellow kabney, as yellow signifies royalty in the country. The kira is an ankle length skirt worn tightly around the waist by a cloth belt. It is usually worn with a long-sleeved blouse called a wongsu and a short jacket called a toego. For special occasions, the kira is complemented by a red rachu, worn on the left shoulder. Brooches are often pinned on the toego, adding a slight characteristic of individuality to the customary dress. One of our speakers, Ms. Kunzang Choden, mentioned that even the most fashionable youth would shed their latest trending clothes for the Bhutanese national dress, due to the importance of it to their culture. In fact, Bhutanese law mandates that government officials and school teachers wear kira/gho to work. Children too, wear them as school uniforms.
On Thursday night, a group of RTC students let each of us borrow an outfit to try on. Speaking for myself, it was actually pretty comfortable and really warm. However, the belt that holds up the ankle length skirt was tied really tightly! It reminded some of us of how a corset might feel. After the guys in the group were dressed in their ghos one of the Bhutanese students mentioned how the gho provides the largest pocket! One of the most interesting observations is that each person, although wearing traditional Bhutanese dress, wears shoes that reflect individuality. I've seen men wearing hiking boots, loafers, or even crocs. Women wear a variety of shoes too, including three inch heels! I loved getting dressed up and plan on purchasing my very own kira before we leave!