In April I lightly touched on how lack of access to materials regarding my Cambodian heritage always made me feel as if I was out of touch from the community. Fashion was one of the ways in which I wish I could’ve been able to explore more as a child. When I traveled to Cambodia a few years ago, I brought back a sarong gifted to me by my adopted brother’s aunt. It’s a treasure I hold so dear to my heart because it symbolizes so much richness existing in the Cambodian culture that has yet to be discovered by me, and by others.
Diving into my identity by heritage is thrilling, but I know it will be met with challenge considering I have my own language barrier to break through, in addition to the fact that there aren’t a lot of credible resources available for me to pull information from. I’m excited to be adding more of these topics into my blog and I hope it encourages you to explore and document more of your own heritage for future generations!
The outfit I’m wearing is a mixture of old and new to make up the “look” of a traditional Khmer outfit. This feels like the perfect example of what many children of a diaspora go through when trying to piece together tradition and history with modern day society. Scroll down to learn more about why I chose to each piece to put together this look.
The Sampot (Sam-phut) or sarong skirt is a nationally recognized way of dressing in Cambodia. Different socio-economic classes dictate how formal the full outfit looks, but you start your outfit with the sarong of choice first.
Key components of the full traditional outfit are belts, jewelry (mainly a very distinct necklace) & chains draping from one shoulder to the opposing hip. This is a random costume belt I purchased in DTLA at a little street fair while adventuring with my best friend. While this technically resembles a Greek key motif, it still reminded me of Cambodia so I knew I had to get it.
This dainty necklace reminds me of when my mom would visit the Khmer jewelry shops in Long Beach growing up. Long Beach, CA is recognized as “Little Phnom Penh” for its strong and high concentration of Cambodians.
Plumeria rubra (Frangipani)
Although not the national flower of Cambodia, I saw a lot of plumeria flowers everywhere when I was there. This Plumeria flower clip is actually a souvenir a friend picked up for me while she was in Hawaii. I generally love flowers in hair and because they remind me of my trip with my mother, I thought they’d be perfect for the outfit.
I recently got these earrings from BaubleBar and immediately knew I wanted them because they are very similar to what an Apsara, a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist culture, adorns in visual portrayals of them.
OFF-THE-SHOULDER CROP TOP
This top is from Zara and is from a few years ago. Though far off from what would be worn in a traditional Khmer outfit, most blouses that go well with a sarong are white and fitted, and either sleeveless, strapless or with puffed sleeves.
There’s so much more I have yet to learn about the meaning and context of what completes a traditional Khmer outfit, and I hope you join me in uncovering the history I have always yearned to understand as a child. What’s fashion like in your own heritage?