Mongolian Clothes for Women:
Traditional, yet wild enough for
Star Wars!

Mongolian woman in traditional clothing

Mongolian clothes for women seem generally to be more bright and colourful than those for men. The public domain pictures you see here show modern-day Mongolian women in traditional "deel" robes. Some are everyday wear but some of these deels are apparently for special occasions.

Notice the warm cuffs on this young woman's blue deel? That's a mark of practicality, yet the careful stitchwork may mean this is a more formal outfit.

Purple deel on Mongolian woman

This Mongolian woman's deel looks like everyday wear. This photo was taken in a yurt (also known as a "ger"). That's the traditional Mongolian tent home still used by many people in Mongolia.

Again you see a satiny sheen to this robe. The round patterns on the cloth are very common, as you'll see in the pictures below. The purple colour is popular.

Mongolian grandmothers in traditional clothes

These Mongolian grannies have a variety of hats, but each has a pattern of round stitching on the deel. Notice also that the lady in the middle has something stuck in the front fold of her robe. That's one of the advantages of traditional Mongolian clothes; they make it easy to carry things even without pockets.

Smiling Mongolian ladies

In this photo, once again you see the round patterns on the deels. Both have colourful sashes too, acting as belts and as another place to carry things.

The main reason I like this photo is because of the smiles, but look at the character in those Mongolian faces.

Old lady in traditional Mongolian clothes

This old woman's Mongolian clothes show many of the features we've seen already. This is everyday wear for her, and despite the modern clothes of those around her, I doubt that Mongolian people would give her a second glance.

Traditional Mongolian dance costume

This young Mongolian girl's traditional clothing is definitely for a special occasion. It looks kind of Russian-Cossack doesn't it? I'm not sure about that hat though - it looks too much like a Santa Claus hat to me.

Notice the people in the background? The three younger people are wearing Western styles but the two older ladies are in deels. You see both modern Western clothes and traditional Mongolian deels in modern-day Mongolian cities.

Now let's go from a Mongolian girl born near the turn of the century, to some Mongolian women born before the previous turn of the century!

Queen of Mongolia

Here is a portrait of the lady who was the Empress of Mongolia, Sharav Dondogdulam. Her husband, Bogd Khan, reigned as "Khan" (Emperor) from 1911 to 1924. (Public domain picture from Wikipedia)

This royal Mongolian fashion is not look as fancy as we might expect. Perhaps this is because Bogd Khan was a lama, a religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

A portrait of him by the same artist shows him in plain monk's robes, so maybe his wife was also expected to dress simply, or at least more simply than some of the noblewomen of that time.

In the second Star Wars movie trilogy we meet Queen Amidala.
This is not her...

Clothes for Mongolian women royalty

... but doesn't it look a lot like her? This photograph is from around 1908. (Public Domain photograph from Wikipedia) The hair is supposed to resemble sheep horns, and I wish we could see the colours! The costume designers for the Star Wars movies were apparently inspired by Mongolian fashion like this. They did not change the "look" by much for Queen Amadala, did they?

(Trivia: Handmaiden Sabe, the Star Wars movies' double for Amidala, was played by Keira Knightley in one of her first movie roles.)

"Mongolia Today" has interesting articles about life in Mongolia. They used to have an article about old-style Mongolian clothes for women which is now available only at the Internet archive WayBack copy. Here are a couple of interesting quotations from it:

  • "So exotic and colorful are Mongolian clothes that French artists working on the latest episode of the Star Wars could not resist but to adopt a full dress of a Mongolian woman for Queen Amadala."
  • "Traditional woman costume is very bright and lavishly decorated. Especially exotic was the married woman's hair dress resembling wild sheep horns or wings. Though there is a legend saying that this headdress reminds about a woman who looks like bird with two wings protecting the hearth, it had rather an aesthetic meaning and eventually was replaced with a wig."