No one has done more for the Thai traditional costume than Her Majesty the Queen. During the early years of His Majesty the King's reign, starting in 1960, Their Majesties embarked on a series of state visits around the globe to reinforce ties with other monarchies and heads of state.
In Royal Fashion: The Style of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand By Melissa Leventon and Dale Carolyn Gluckman for the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles 216 pp 1,800 baht ISBN: 978-616-91379-0-0 Available at the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles Call 02-225-9430
When Her Majesty could not find any suitable traditional Thai costume to wear on these visits that would represent the finesse of Thai culture, she decided to conduct research into ancient Thai history and Thai costumes through the ages. From this research, Her Majesty formulated a series of Thai costumes to be worn of various occasions, ranging from the Thai Ruan Ton and Thai Chitralada for daytime, the more formal Thai Amarin, Thai Boromphiman and Thai Chakri for evening wear, as well as the Thai Dusit, Thai Chakraphat and Thai Siwalai.
Her Majesty also sought the creative experience of one of the world's top couturiers, Pierre Balmain, to create a wardrobe for her state visits that would display elegant design and precision cutting combined with the beauty of Thai silk.
This book, that complements the exhibits at the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles (QSMT), tells this story, and more.
Chapter 1 traces the history of Thai women's fashion from 1860 to 1960, and is illustrated with images from mural paintings, as well as old black and white court photographs of various queens, royal consorts and princesses that reflect the development of court dress during the age of the country's westernisation.
Chapter 2 gives the background of the eight styles of traditional Thai costumes as recreated by Her Majesty the Queen, with photographs of Her Majesty looking resplendent in those costumes, becoming a source of inspiration for Thai women of all classes to emulate.
The book then continues to describe Her Majesty's fashion collaboration with Pierre Balmain and the establishment of the Support Foundation, and features as the main part of the book a series of images or plates of Her Majesty's gowns that are on display at the QSMT, often with close-ups to show the intricate workmanship of the embroidery, accompanied by archive photographs of Her Majesty wearing those gowns. According to the writer, Dale Carolyn Gluckman, it shows how "she made them her own, she made them beautiful, and she made them desirable".
The book ends with a chronology of the Chakri Dynasty, a description of designers, and a glossary of terms.
In Royal Fashion is the English version of the original Thai book that was launched together with the museum's current exhibition, but is not an exact translation of the Thai language, since some parts need to be expanded for the foreign reader, so they can understand and appreciate what Her Majesty the Queen has done for the country.
The heart of the book is undoubtedly the exquisite photography that makes you want to linger on each page in wonder at the beauty of the textiles and workmanship. Leading photographer Nat Prakobsantisuk found this assignment a major challenge. He had to show the details of the threads and delicate weave, the patterns and intricate embroidery, as well as the depth and dimension of the fabrics. And Nat certainly rose to the occasion, with a series of breathtaking photographs that bring the book up to international standards.
Evening gown by Pierre Balmain, Paris, made of silk ikat trimmed with dyed ostrich and chicken feathers, 1981.
Details of the brocade embroidered by the House of Lesage, Paris, on the Thai Siwalai gown by Pierre Balmain, Paris, 1972.
A four-page fold-out showing a Thai silk evening gown created by Pierre Balmain for Her Majesty the Queen in 1960.
The eight styles of Thai Phra Rajaniyom costumes.