Images from Karen State

Richard Humpheries

Traditional Dancing

(Black and White)

Jason Miller

Karen New Year 2003

 Shwe Koako, Karen State

Sylvia Murcfeld

Karen State


 Jean de La Tour


Richard Humphries


Version Date

June 2004


Website: Designed, Built and written  by Paul Keenan

 Karen Costumes  

There are a lot of Karen dresses for Karen women. People weave white, green, blue, red, yellow, black long and short dresses with many different colors.

Karen people have many different types of traditions regarding dress. Costume is very important for us. Our costume is very pretty, they have dignity and many other ethnic nationalities like to wear it. All the costumes have different meanings. Our ancestors wanted other people to recognize us and they made a sign when they were weaving.

A long time ago there were no factories, people planted cotton, made the cotton to become thread and they always hand weaved it. Now there are many machines to produce clothes so many people have sadly, forgotten how to weave.

White dress (Say Moe Wah)

These kinds of dress people weave all of it white, with no flowering. Usually people wear this dress are eastern mountain Karen. This dress is woven very long and white. People wear it beginning when they are children until they are teenagers. Eastern mountain women who wear this are single or unmarried, If people get married they do not wear it anymore.  

Flowers Sewn dress (Say Sa Paw)

People weave this kind of dress with all black thread. People sew flowers on this dress with different colors. The hem is decorated by lacing thread. Most People wear this dress in plains areas and who believe in animist traditions. They wear it for a wedding ceremony, Karen New Year, or to recall spirits.  


Black dress (Say Moe Thu)

Is woven with black thread, the hem of the neck and arms they lace the thread and set it. Some people cut the clothes like a pagoda and head cock. They also wear it in wedding ceremony, Karen New Year, and to recall spirits.  

Green dress (Say La)

Before weaving, the thread is dyed green. They sew the hem of the neck and the arms with red lacing thread. Under the neck and the arms they sew rice. This dress is mostly worn in Western Mountain areas. People often wear this dress from childhood until they become old.  


Decorated dress (Say Sa Kee)

This kind of dress is simple. You can choose any colors, as you like. People decorate it with flowers. The flowers are like mountains, ocean waves, barns, fish bones, and chicken foot marks.


Say P'lo                                

Karen men wear white and red clothes. People wear red clothes mostly in the Delta and the plains. Eastern mountain Karen people also wear red 'Say p'lo' they pull out the long threads which hangs from the side.


Say Bwe              

Is woven strand of red and one strand of white. In the half of the middle they weave strand and they make flowers. They do not pull the thread out. The hem of the neck and the arms they lace the thread and sew it.  


Say P' Kue

The whole costume is white. The hem of the arms and the middle they make with strands then the lower part they sew flowers. This dress also does not have thread outside. The hem of the neck and the arms they take round flowers seeds and lace. Then they sew it.

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