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Miao Festival Outfit

The MIA’s outfit is similar to the festival garments worn by this group of Long-Horned Miao women.
Photo by Dan Dennehy, Minneapolis Institute of Arts

The jacket’s batik decoration displays the maker’s skill and wealth.

At first glance, the designs on the jacket look purely geometric, but a closer look reveals abstract mountain flowers and crossed bamboo roots.

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A Closer Look at a Miao Outfit

Like most traditional Miao festival garments, this outfit of the Long-Horn Miao people has a cotton jacket and pleated cotton skirt. The long tail on the jacket’s back is unique to the Long-Horn Miao. A black wool apron (not pictured) is worn over the skirt. Today, an umbrella-shaped bag, colorful stockings, and tennis shoes would be added.

The jacket opens down the middle. Its deep sleeves are decorated with multicolored batik, a special feature since much batik is done entirely with indigo dye, which is blue. The woman who made this garment had enough time, money, and skill to include additional colors. The front of the jacket has silk embroidery and appliqué decoration in red, blue, white, and yellow. The red stands out because in Miao culture red is an auspicious color, bringing good luck. It is used frequently in textiles, especially baby carriers.

The designs on the jacket look geometric but are actually abstract mountain flowers and crossed bamboo roots. Mountain flowers flourish where the Miao live and often appear in textile designs. Bamboo roots, which grow rapidly, symbolize prosperity.

The pleated skirt has a wide band of blue-and-white batik at the top and many colorful horizontal stripes. Made of embroidered and appliquéd cloth, the stripes stand out against the black background. The skirt was constructed in separate sections which were then pieced together. Its wrap-around style allowed the wearer to use it throughout her life without making alterations.

The bright stripes were made with embroidery and appliqué.
November 2008