Thai Fashion: Go Beyond the Boundaries of Styles

Thai-style dress has regained popularity after many years, driven by the trend set in Thai drama series. Dramas like “Buppesannivas” (Love Destiny) and the influence of Thai school uniforms on Chinese tourists, possibly inspired by series such as “Girl From Nowhere,” have created a ripple effect in the drama industry and related sectors. Initially popular in neighboring countries like Laos, Cambodia, and Burma, this trend has expanded to include China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. This resurgence includes not only the adoption of Thai clothing styles but also an increased interest in Thai cuisine portrayed in these dramas.

Historical Evolution of Thai Fashion [1]

Thai dress is considered to be diverse since ancient times. There are differences according to each social status, area, culture, and climate, etc. It can be divided into 4 important eras:  

Sukhothai Period (13th – 15th centuries)

The Sukhothai period was characterized by great cultural prosperity under the Sukhothai Kingdom. During this era, Thai people preferred wearing minimal clothing. Common men and women typically did not wear shirts; instead, they wore a single piece of cloth wrapped around the body. The style, quality of the fabric, and social status of the wearer differentiated their attire. Men favored both short and long loincloths—short for the general population and longer ones with a front tug or side hem for the elite. These were often worn with a belt and without a shirt. Women commonly wore ‘Jong Kraben’ or loincloth (for ordinary people), while noblewomen preferred ankle-length layered cloth, adorned with belts and leaving the hem hanging. Accessories like chest cloths or neck cloths were also worn.

Ayutthaya Period (14th – 18th centuries)

During the Ayutthaya period, which overlapped with the Sukhothai era, clothing varied significantly based on social hierarchy. Common people, both men and women, typically wore loincloths or ‘Jong Kraben’, along with sarongs that left their edges flowing loosely. In contrast, individuals of high rank preferred long, pleated cloths cinched with a belt, featuring smaller front tug. Soldiers opted for practicality with long pants, while women of all ranks might wear shawls or loosely draped thin veils over their bodies, sometimes going topless. The lower body was often adorned with pleats or a loincloth.

High-ranking women could be seen in shirts with pointed necks and front slits, although they covered up more in colder weather. Men commonly draped an oblique cloth over one shoulder and typically topless, except for nobles and royalty during ceremonial occasions.

The Ayutthaya period enforced strict rules and prohibitions regarding attire, particularly concerning imitation of social superiors and adherence to established customs and dress codes.

Early Rattanakosin Period (Pre-revolutionary Era, 1932)

The dress during the early Rattanakosin period resembled that of the middle Ayutthaya period, continuing into the Thonburi period. Ordinary women often wore sashes or went topless, sometimes loosely wrapping cloth around their bodies. The lower part of their attire typically featured pleats or a loincloth.

As time progressed, both men and women began to adopt shirts more widely. During the early Rattanakosin period, Thai elites maintained a style and dress code reminiscent of the Ayutthaya period, influenced by cultural continuity from previous eras. Social regulations from the Ayutthaya period persisted, including prohibitions against commoners imitating their superiors and rules governing appropriate attire.

Significant changes occurred in Thai elite dress around 1856-1947, following Siam’s signing of the Bowring Treaty with England and other Western nations in 1855. This treaty and increased diplomatic relations led to broader changes in Thailand, including in fashion. For instance, royal decrees mandated that princes and civil servants wear shirts during formal audiences, and traditional ‘Mahadthai’ hairstyle for men and ‘Peek’ hairstyle for women were phased out.

Subsequent reigns of King Rama V, King Rama VI, and King Rama VII saw further Western influence, with increased diplomatic ties and the introduction of Western products into Thailand, such as from John Samson and Son of England. (The conservation building currently houses the King Prajadhipok Museum.) This era marked a phase of “Westernized” dress for it was considered ‘civilized’, combining Western styles with traditional Thai elements. The royal court played a pivotal role in these fashion changes.

From the reign of King Rama IV to King Rama VII, there was a noticeable shift towards modern Western styles, especially in women’s attire at the royal court and uniforms for military and civil servants. This period witnessed a gradual integration of Western elements alongside traditional Thai aesthetics.

Contemporary Innovations in Thai Fashion (Post-Revolutionary Era 1932 – Present)

During the reign of King Rama VII, there was an adjustment in dress code guidelines aimed at simplicity and thrift, reflecting royal preferences amidst economic decline during Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram’s rule in 1941. Following the transition from Siam to Thailand in 1939, various regulations were introduced to promote orderly and civilized daily living, akin to Western standards.

One notable cultural mandate was the ‘Mala Nam Thai’ or hat-wearing custom, implemented under Field Marshal P. Pibulsongkhram’s government, urging people to wear hats outdoors for neatness and civility. This era also saw several cultural mandates, including the issuance of the “Mandate 10 on Thai Dress,” on January 15, 1941. This mandate specified appropriate and inappropriate attire for Thai people in public spaces.

Over time, enforcement waned, leading to a decline in hat-wearing practices, though preferences for Western attire persisted. Men increasingly favored pants, influenced by Western fashion trends, while women began adopting skirts as part of everyday attire. This shift marked a broader societal change towards Western fashion, initially enforced but later embraced voluntarily.

During the early phases of this transition, Thai men and women occasionally wore loincloths. Traditional fabrics such as “purple cloth” and “patterned cloth” remained popular until the present era, alongsid

Current Trends in Thai Apparel

Export and Market Dynamics: Thai exports of apparel products in the first four months of 2024 (January – April 2024) reached approximately 690.51 million US dollars, reflecting a growth of approximately +4.98% compared to the same period in 2023. The expansion is primarily driven by increased demand from key markets such as Japan, Belgium, Germany, China, Singapore, Mexico, and South Korea. Despite challenges, there are positive signs emerging in the United States market, whereas the European market continues to decline gradually due to factors such as war conflicts, inflation, and high interest rates.

Issues related to product costs, including oil prices, raw material costs, and rising labor expenses, remain critical factors influencing consumer behavior and economic conditions in the market. Thai exports are focused on new and innovative products, including sustainable options, reflecting current market trends.

Relevant agencies have set a target for Thai exports to grow by approximately +5% in 2024. The top five main export markets for Thailand are the United States, Japan, Belgium, Germany, and China, collectively accounting for approximately 62.71% of the export value. Thailand faces strong competition from countries such as China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and India.

Other markets showing significant growth in export values at the beginning of 2024 include South Korea (+34.03%), Spain (+23.26%), United Arab Emirates (+21.29%), Denmark (+10.93%), France (+2.35%), and the Netherlands (+0.55%).

Challenges and Market Development

Thailand faces stiff competition from regional neighbors and global giants in the fashion industry. High production costs and fluctuating market demands necessitate constant innovation and adaptation to maintain competitiveness. Thai fashion brands focus on quality craftsmanship and unique design to differentiate themselves in the global market, leveraging digital platforms and e-commerce to reach a broader audience.

Soft Power and Cultural Diplomacy [2]

The Soft Power Subcommittee on Fashion plays a pivotal role within Thailand’s broader strategy to enhance its global influence through cultural and creative industries. Led by the Creative Economy Agency (CEA) and supported by various government ministries, industry associations, and private sector partners, the subcommittee focuses on leveraging Thailand’s rich cultural heritage and creativity in fashion to bolster its soft power on the international stage.

At its core, the subcommittee aims to promote Thai fashion across ASEAN and Asian markets, capitalizing on the country’s renowned 5Fs cultural assets: Food, Fight (Muay Thai), Film, Fashion, and Festivals. By emphasizing these cultural pillars, the subcommittee seeks to strengthen Thailand’s identity and attractiveness globally.

Strategically, the subcommittee implements two main approaches: PUSH and PULL. The PUSH strategy involves promoting Thai fashion through exhibitions, contests, and trade markets in ASEAN and Asia, thereby increasing international exposure and market penetration. Concurrently, the PULL strategy focuses on attracting foreign investment and business activities into Thailand by organizing flagship events and improving regulatory frameworks to facilitate business operations.

Moreover, the subcommittee initiates specific projects and activities to elevate Thailand’s fashion industry standards and visibility. These include participation in international fashion events, collaborations with global fashion brands, and capacity-building initiatives for local designers and entrepreneurs. By aligning these efforts with broader national policies on soft power development, the subcommittee aims to contribute significantly to Thailand’s economic recovery post-COVID-19 and position itself as a cultural leader in the region.

Overall, through its proactive engagement with stakeholders and innovative initiatives, the Soft Power Subcommittee on Fashion plays a crucial role in advancing Thailand’s soft power agenda, promoting cultural diplomacy, and enhancing the country’s global reputation in the realm of fashion and creative industries.

Cultural Significance in Modern Times

Cultural Preservation and Innovation: Thai designers actively preserve cultural heritage through their collections, drawing inspiration from ancient traditions and historical artifacts. Brands like SIRIVANNAVARI by HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana blend Western haute couture techniques with traditional Thai embroidery, creating garments that embody elegance and cultural pride. These collections highlight the craftsmanship of Thai artisans and showcase the intricate detailing and vibrant colors that define Thai textiles.

Influence of Global Runways and Fashion Weeks: Thai fashion designers participate in international fashion weeks and exhibitions, showcasing their collections alongside global brands. Events like Bangkok International Fashion Week and Elle Fashion Week provide platforms for emerging talents to showcase their creativity and craftsmanship to an international audience. Thai fashion’s presence on global runways highlights its cultural diversity and innovative spirit, attracting fashion enthusiasts and industry professionals from around the world.

Moreover, Thailand boasts a vibrant fashion scene with several prominent brands that have made a significant impact both locally and internationally. Some of the leading fashion brands include:

ASAVA – Known for its sophisticated and contemporary designs, ASAVA blends modern aesthetics with traditional Thai elements. The brand is celebrated for its meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail, offering elegant ready-to-wear collections. Asava, founded by Moo-Polpat Asavaprapha, celebrates its 15th Anniversary with the spectacular fashion event ‘Asava 15th Anniversary’ signifying a Love Letter to all women who have inspired the brand. The breathtaking show, organised at Nai Lert Park, implicitly illustrated the convergence of fashion and music.

From then till now, Asava’s core values still remain. The house believes that the genuine elegance is an echo of one’s originality and attitude. In turn, it becomes the brand’s philosophy portraying simplicity and gracefulness.

Era-Won – Era-Won, a prominent casual menswear brand, emphasizes simplicity and unique style. The brand’s core products range from casual to business pants that perfectly complement their versatile oxford shirts and t-shirts. Adhering to the philosophy, “The simplest thing with the best quality and friendly pricing can make you look good in your own style, no matter what it is,” Era-Won values high-quality products at affordable prices, ensuring that customers can express their individuality effortlessly.

Specializing in men’s shirts and pants, Era-Won focuses on designs tailored to various body shapes, offering a wide range of styles, including skinny pants, straight-leg pants, and loose, straight-leg pants. The brand pays meticulous attention to the production process and customer service to ensure quality and satisfaction. Era-Won’s dedication is reflected in their impressive sales record, with over 200,000 pairs of pants sold in just two years—a milestone that typically takes famous brands 10-15 years to achieve. With over 80 locations nationwide in leading shopping centers such as Central, Robinson, The Mall, and Future Park, as well as a robust online presence at, Era-Won is committed to providing exceptional men’s fashion to its customers.

GQ – GQ is the global authority on men’s fashion, defining coolness through its emphasis on taste and style for over 60 years. Renowned for its award-winning journalism and esteemed photography, design, reporting, and writing, GQ has become a digital, video, social, and experiential powerhouse. It fosters a community where readers gather to be inspired and share ideas on style, creativity, and culture, reaching an audience of over 50 million across six continents and 21 markets. GQ celebrates New Masculinity, moving beyond traditional definitions of manhood to embrace inclusivity, diversity, gender equality, sustainability, and mental health. Signature events like GQ Men of the Year and GQ Global Creativity Awards highlight its cultural influence.

GQ’s content helps readers live more stylish, tasteful, and thoughtful lives by covering subjects intersecting with culture and providing actionable advice from tastemakers and experts. The magazine’s service content addresses readers’ needs with specific recommendations, inspiring them to be adventurous, open, and creative. Every recommendation from GQ is thoroughly researched and effective, encouraging the audience to try new things, change their routines, or invest in something new, ultimately promoting positive action in everyday life.

Greyhound – Greyhound is synonymous with edgy, urban fashion that resonates with the cosmopolitan lifestyle. It is known for its innovative designs, particularly in casual wear and denim, capturing a youthful and modern aesthetic. In 1980, Greyhound was founded in Bangkok by four friends with no formal training in fashion or food, and no grand ambition. Informed by a wide range of interests from arts, music to architecture, Greyhound is nevertheless bound by shared aesthetics. There is no scientific procedure for discovering the Greyhound DNA, but after three decades of organic growth through trial and error, Greyhound is known for its unique creativity. The friends did not set out to create a brand but they grew into one.

Why “Greyhound”? Because it invokes the image of a sleek, elegant and noble creature, full of spirit and, most of all, a man’s best friend. Today Greyhound is more than just a brand of clothes. It is a way of life.

Insomnia By Vara: Insomnia By Vara offers a minimalist yet chic and high-fashion style. The brand appeals to those who appreciate simplicity and clean lines in their attire. Known for its unique cutting and design, Insomnia By Vara exudes a sense of modernity and confidence. It’s ideal for individuals who prefer a cool, stylish look akin to modern icons like Khun Aum Patcharapa Chaichua. These brands not only contribute to Thailand’s fashion landscape but also showcase the country’s creativity, craftsmanship, and unique cultural influences on the global stage.

ISSUE – ISSUE is celebrated for its youthful and trendy collections that appeal to fashion-forward individuals. The brand focuses on versatility and accessibility, offering a wide range of styles from casual wear to formal attire. From its humble beginnings as a small clothing store in Siam Square, ISSUE THAILAND has grown into a renowned fashion brand that almost every teenager in the 90s knew. 

ISSUE is a Thai fashion brand with a distinctive character, founded by Roj-Phuphawit Kritphonnara, a designer passionate about Indian culture. The brand’s identity is infused with elements inspired by India, from its logo that resembles Indian script to the bold patterns and colors drawn from the vibrant Pink Continent. Visitors to the ISSUE shop are greeted by the unmistakable aroma of incense sticks and the unique sound of chanting, creating an unforgettable sensory experience.

JANESUDA: JANESUDA, created by Jenny Janesuda Parnto, caters to confident, smart working women. The brand focuses on designs that balance brightness with a touch of sexiness, aimed at creating positive energy for both the wearer and the observer. Emphasizing affordability, JANESUDA aims to empower women to handle daily tasks with style and confidence.

KLOSET – Founded in 2001 by a small group of fashion enthusiasts, KLOSET is a Thai brand known for its whimsical and playful collections that embrace the cultural essence of Thailand. The brand’s founder saw a gap in the ready-to-wear market and aimed to create unique, high-quality designs that cater to fashion lovers with a penchant for vintage vibes, standout patterns, and vibrant colors. KLOSET’s commitment to delicate, handmade details has set it apart, earning it a loyal following among those who appreciate storytelling through fashion.

KLOSET is celebrated for its distinctive identity, blending vintage femininity with modern twists. Known for intricate handcraft details like traditional stitching, sequins, and embroidery, the brand offers collections that exude sweetness and delicacy. With branches in major Bangkok department stores and an expanding international presence in Japan and China, KLOSET has gained wide acceptance and media attention, becoming a staple in the Thai fashion scene. The brand’s participation in ELLE Fashion Week 2003 marked a significant milestone, solidifying its reputation and leading to its enduring popularity.

Milin – Milin, renowned for its blend of elegance, sensuality, and rebellious spirit, is dedicated to reshaping women’s fashion. The brand’s philosophy revolves around creating pieces that embody both refinement and a daring edge, appealing to the modern woman who values sophistication and innovation in her wardrobe. Milin’s “Total Package” collection is a testament to this ethos, showcasing the brand’s commitment to exquisite tailoring and sharp patterns that highlight the artistry of fashion design.

Milin’s designs are characterized by their luxurious fabrics and intricate detailing, ensuring that each piece stands out in terms of both quality and style. The brand seamlessly integrates contemporary silhouettes with avant-garde elements, resulting in a unique aesthetic that is both timeless and cutting-edge. Milin caters to women who appreciate elegance with a twist, offering garments that are not only visually stunning but also thoughtfully constructed to enhance the wearer’s confidence and individuality. With its focus on high-end materials and meticulous craftsmanship, Milin continues to set new standards in women’s fashion, making it a favorite among fashion-forward individuals who seek to make a statement.

SIRIVANNAVARI – A multi-faceted artist, HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya founded her eponymous ready-to-wear label, SIRIVANNAVARI, in 2005. A success story of 17 years in Thailand distinguished by its focus on creativity and savoir-faire; its blend of Western styles with Thai heritage, and its support for the Thai textile and artisan industry, the brand has a unique positioning in the fashion world. 

From her multiple travels in Thailand and abroad, Princess Sirivannavari brings back a vast range of inspirations that she will reinterpret in her designs for SIRIVANNAVARI. In keeping with the brand spirit and excellent craftsmanship, the various details and aspects of traditional art and culture from different civilizations are blended into a constant dialogue with the designer’s own culture and translated in each collection through a vast palette of materials, colors, embroideries, and technical savoir-faire, to bring a unique vision in style and creation.

Recognized for its creativity, distinguished designs, and savoir-faire fashion, SIRIVANNAVARI incorporates femininity with masculine silhouettes, graphic prints, artisanal techniques, and cross-cultural aesthetic touch.

T AND T Bangkok: T AND T Bangkok is known for its colorful and eye-catching designs, perfect for everyday wear with a vibrant and unique style. The brand’s clothing stands out for its suitability in various settings, from casual outings like shopping or cafe-hopping to more festive occasions such as parties or birthday celebrations. T AND T Bangkok aims to make its wearers stand out with its bright and distinctive apparel.

TOHNS – Tohns is an energetic Thai fashion brand launched in 2014 by designer Mr. Noom Thontham Phongpanich. The brand is renowned for its unique style, blending Thai embroidery techniques with modern designs to create wearable and fashionable clothing for all genders and ages. Tohns gained significant popularity due to its stylish and affordable pieces, which quickly became a favorite on social media. This exposure led to a rapid increase in followers and a surge in demand, resulting in many items selling out quickly.

Despite its recent surge in popularity, Tohns has been a prominent name in the designer industry for over five years. The brand was chosen to design evening gowns for the Miss Universe 2018 pageant and has created costumes for television series and high-profile events, including a wedding dress for Poi Trichada. Tohns offers a range of products from colorful jumpsuits to vintage-style dresses, with prices starting at 1,690 THB and reaching up to tens of thousands. The brand’s commitment to quality and unique design has made it a favorite among fashion enthusiasts. Additionally, Mr. Noom’s role as a stylist and his position as a designer for the brand SAIFAH BHAYU further showcase his fashion expertise and the brand’s potential for continued success.

Vatanika – Vatanika is a renowned Thai fashion brand founded by Vatanika “Prae” Patamasingha Na Ayudhya in 2010. Initially starting with the production of luxury handbags sold online, the brand quickly expanded into women’s clothing. Prae, who studied at Central Saint Martins and the London College of Fashion, returned to Thailand to launch her first women’s clothing collection in Autumn/Winter 2011, and opened the brand’s first store in 2012. Vatanika’s designs are known for their elegance, sexiness, and sophistication, crafted from high-quality materials and impeccable sewing techniques. The brand aims to make every woman feel special and confident in their attire, with collections that balance contemporary design and practical use.

Vatanika has rapidly ascended to prominence, becoming a leading fashion designer in Thailand with widespread acclaim. The brand’s women’s clothing has been featured in prestigious fashion magazines such as Vogue, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar. Vatanika has also collaborated with international brands like L’Oréal and Diageo, part of LVMH. The brand’s global recognition is highlighted by Hollywood celebrities like Ariana Grande, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Bieber, and Kylie Jenner donning Vatanika’s designs. Additionally, the brand partnered with UN Women in 2019 to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, with Prae serving as an official Champion for Change. Vatanika’s success reflects Prae’s passion and dedication to making her brand a globally accepted name in fashion.