Tibetan Clothing

Editing: Jackson Harvey
Research: Khamo Kyi
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
[Catalog No. CFV11277; © 2019 Smithsonian Institution]

The designs, patterns, and fabrics of Tibetan clothing communicate not only where a person is from but also their ethnicity and background. The traditional Tibetan robe is called a chuba, which may take five different forms: woolen robes made with inner layers of sheep fur; pulu robes, which are made by fluffing and combing the wool, twisting it into a thread, and then weaving it with a wooden shuttle loom; lambskin robes—both white and the more valuable black lambskin—which often require forty pieces of lambskin; sheepskin robes; and light robes. Tibetan robes are distinct with their wide fronts and wide waists, which are buttoned on the right side. They often have soft fur, wool, or colorful cloth on the collar, front, cuff, and the lower hem of the gown. Tibetans have been making and wearing robes for thousands of years, and their traditions still stand strong today.

Questions for Discussion

  • What do you think of the clothing shown in the video? Where would you wear outfits like these, and what do you think you would be doing while wearing these clothes?
  • What materials and techniques are involved in creating Tibetan clothing?
  • These Tibetan garments are both beautiful and practical, since they keep the wearer warm. What clothing do you have that makes a fashion statement and also serves a practical purpose?