Clothing in Cambodia is one of the most important aspects of the culture. Cambodian fashion is divided by the people’s differing castes and social classes. Cambodians traditionally wear a checkered scarf called a “Krama”. The “krama” is what distinctly separates the Khmer (Cambodians) from their neighbors the Thai, the Vietnamese, and the Laotians. The scarf is used for many purposes including for style, protection from the sun, an aid (for your feet) when climbing trees, a hammock for infants, a towel, or as a “sarong”. A “krama” can also be easily shaped into a small child’s doll for play. Under the Khmer Rouge, krama of various patterns were part of standard clothing.
The long-popular traditional costume known as the Sampot, an Indian-influenced costume which Cambodians wore since the Funan era, has lost popularity. However, Khmer People’s clothing also changed depending on the time period and religion. From the Funan era back to the Angkor Era, there was a strong invasion of Hinduism which influenced Cambodian fashion to have upper naked, wear Sampot and wear their jewelry like bracelets and especially, collars like Sarong Kor, a symbol of Hinduism.
After the decrease in popularity of Hinduism, leading to Buddhism, Khmer people started wearing the blouse, shirt and trousers of Khmer style. Most important of all, Khmer people, both common and royal, stopped wearing the Hindu-style collars and began to adopt shawls like Sbai with beautiful decoration instead. This new clothing style was popular from the Chaktomok region to Udong period.
In fact, a Khmer lady habitually chooses the right colour for her Sampot or blouse, both to please herself and to follow the costume of good luck.
Some Cambodians still wear a religious style of clothing. Some Khmer men and women wear a Buddha pendant in a necklace fashion. There are different pendants for different uses; some are meant for protection from evil spirits, some are meant to bring good luck.
Otherwise, in the notable class people in Cambodia, especially the royal caste, have adapted a well known dress as well as expensive fashion style.Sampot is still well recognized among the royalty. Most royalty prefer Sampot Phamuong, a new version of sampot adapted by Thai people in the 17th century. Since the Udong period, most royalty have retained their dressing habits. Female royalty created the most attractive fashion. The lady always wears a traditional cape called sbai or rabai kanorng, which is draped over the left shoulder, leaving the right shoulder bare. Rarely was the cape worn over the right shoulder. The sbai or rabai kanorng would have been sumptuously fashioned in the old days in threads of genuine gold or silver. The cape in the old days would have hung down to the hem of the Sampot.
Dancers wear a collar known as Sarong Kor around their necks. Importantly, they wear a unique skirt called Sampot sara-bhap (lamé), made from silk inter-woven with gold or silver threads, forming elaborate and intricate designs that shimmer as the dancers move. This is held in place with a bejewelled belt. A multitude of jewellery is also worn by the female dancers. These include earrings, several pairs of bangles, a garland of flowers in the form of a bracelet, bracelets, anklets and an armlet that is worn on the right. Several body chains cross over the body like a sash. A circular or diamond shaped pendant is worn around the neck.
There are several different types of mokot worn by female royalty. The typical mokots that are worn are much similar to those of male royalty. Some crowns are just like tiaras where at the back of the mokot hair is let loose, cascading down the back. Other mokots have a few accessories such as ear pieces that would sit above the ear and help hold the mokot in place while a comb at the back is just an added accessory. Flowers are also worn on the mokot in the same style, but the hanging garlands of flowers are worn on the left and the bouquet is worn on the right. The best example of these royal clothes is illustrated by Khmer classical dance costumes, which are an adaptation of the beautiful royalty costume.