Celebrate APAHM by Exploring the Rich Heritage of Asia Through Traditional Clothing

With the globalization of cultures, people are increasingly embracing their heritage. Whether it be food, traditions or art, embracing one’s culture is en vogue. One of the essential elements that can connect someone closer to their ancestral roots is clothing. Traditional clothing may be hard to find for people living in the West, especially those who don’t have access to Chinatowns and Little Indias, but with the power of the internet and flexible measuring tape, finding clothing for all your celebratory needs has never been easier — we even did the legwork so you don’t have to. 

Below is a list of traditional clothing found throughout Asia and online shops where one can encounter both feminine and masculine garments without (completely) breaking the bank. 

Inspired by the ethnic clothing of the Manchu people, these dresses are form-fitting garments that were first popularized in the 1920s. Often worn by Chinese socialites and high-society women in Republican-era Shanghai, this style of traditional dress has had a lasting impression on contemporary Chinese fashion.

Beth and Brian Qipao – Founded by husband and wife, Beth and Brian Qipao has an extensive curation of qipao for a wide range of occasions and a selection of tangzhuang made for children and adults.

East Meets Dress – This brand specializes in Chinese wedding wear after founders Jenn Qiao and Vivian Chen discovered a hole in the market for overseas Chinese trying to find traditional clothing for their big day. They have a collection of traditional and modern styles (including jumpsuits!) for any kind of bride or groom! 

Hanfu is the broader term for the traditional wear worn by Han Chinese people and is often the flowy, robe-like garments one would see in Chinese wuxia and historical dramas. Specific styles can vary depending on the ruling dynasty of that time as design elements of each era are influenced by politics and societal culture. Hanfu has experienced a resurgence in popularity over the recent years due to cultural reconnection by Chinese Mainlanders and the wider diaspora. 

The Hanfu Story – This Singapore-based brand offers worldwide shipping and showcases a beautiful selection of traditional and modern styles inspired by the different dynasties throughout Chinese history. 

Nüwa Hanfu – Started by TikToker and “hanfluencer” MochiHanfu, Nüwa Hanfu curates historically accurate hanfu sets and accessories to guarantee authenticity. Her mission is to share the beauty of Chinese culture with the West and provide a way for Chinese diaspora to buy genuine and quality pieces. 

South Korea’s national dress, the hanbok, can be traced back to the nation’s early history and was the daily wear for many Koreans until the 19th century when their borders opened up to the West. Nowadays, hanboks are mainly worn in celebrations and for special occasions in traditional and modern styles. 

Leehwa Wedding – With a history of over five generations in Korea, this family of artisans brought over their skill sets to the United States and opened up a studio in 1993. LEEHWA is one of the oldest businesses in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, helping Korean American brides bridge their two cultures together for nearly 30 years. 

Hoya – Created by Catharina Hur, a queer Korean woman, this brand boasts being the world’s first plus sized hanbok brand as its sizes range from U.S. size 2 to 28 (with the option for a larger, custom size at no additional cost!). The shop ships worldwide via their Etsy storefront but those in Korea can visit their showroom in Seoul or their website.

One of the more well-known ethnic garments of South Asian people, a saree is a long strip of cloth arranged around the body, often over a fitted top and an underskirt. The unstitched fabric can be draped in many different ways depending on the region and is often worn as everyday wear in India, even in contemporary times.

Andaaz Fashion – Those at Andaaz Fashion strive to be one of the United States’ preferred destinations for South Asian traditional wear as they have a large array of garments like salwar kameez, lehenga and anarkali

Often worn for more ceremonious events like weddings and festivals in South Asian cultures, a lehnga set consists of an embellished floor-length skirt, a blouse and sometimes a shawl. Lehngas are said to have been introduced to South Asia during Mughal rule in the 10th century to reflect Persian fashion but has also evolved over the years to reflect modern Indo-Western designs. 

Chandan Fashion – Toronto natives will be familiar with Chandan Fashion, the iconic South Asian bridal shop that has been operating since 1984. While based in Canada, people from all over North America have sought out their extensive collection for their special day. Our Canadian-based readers can also watch the family behind the Little India bridal shop in their CBC docuseries “Bollywed,” following the Singh family’s daily life and business. 

Salwar Kameez 
Salwar kameez is the traditional dress of people in the Punjab region of India and parts of Pakistan. With salwar referring to the loose fit trousers and kameez, the tunic worn with it, there are bound to be an endless number of styles and forms that have developed over history for just about every occasion, gender and body type. 

The Plus Size Store by Meera Creations – Established in 2012, Priti Bhatia and Anchal Bhatia started their online storefront to cater to South Asian women of all shapes and sizes. While based in India, they do offer worldwide shipping of their hundreds of size-inclusive garments. 

‘Ie Lavalava 
Known as the lavalava by Samoans (with iterations from other Oceanic communities like the Tahitian pāreu and the Tongan tupenu), this garment consists of a piece of fabric tied around the waist worn by all genders in Polynesia. As an expression of Polynesians’ cultural identity, lavalava are worn in daily settings like work or school and has deep ties to Oceania’s pre-Colonial history. 

CHEEHOOlife – Owned and operated by Tui and Catey Avaava, the couple started CHEEHOOlife after discussing where someone could buy a lavalava outside of Samoa. The business has been able to grant Tui with a stronger connection to his Samoan heritage while also giving back to their community. 

Penina’s Island Boutique – This Australian-based brand is on a mission to provide the world with a one-stop shop for Pasifika essentials like lavalava, puletasi and more, no matter what island you’re from. 

Áo Dài
Known as modern Vietnam’s national garment, áo dài is a long tunic with slits up the sides worn over silk trousers. The current style of áo dài is derived from the 18th-century style worn by those living under Lord Nguyễn Phúc Khoát, who asked his subjects to wear a long tunic with trousers in order to distinguish themselves from the rival tribes. The outfit was later adapted in the 1930s to fit modern and French influences during that time. 

Mark&Vy Ao Dai – Started by an Australian Vietnamese couple, Mark and Vy, this Vietnam-based business creates custom-fit áo dài and offers free worldwide shipping. Each garment is sewn by Vy’s own mother, an expert tailor who has been making áo dài for over 30 years. With each dress being custom-made to a person’s measurements, their áo dàis are more accessible to those who do not fit standard sizing. 

Ao Dai by CuteSass – With a mission to help people embrace their Vietnamese heritage, Ao Dai by CuteSass has options for both traditional and modern styles that hope to cater to all tastes. Their Orange County-based business not only carries the contemporary áo dài but also carries other Việt phục like áo tấc and áo nhật bình

Chut Thai 
Translated to “Thai outfit,” the chut Thai for femme-presenting people typically consists of bottoms (either a skirt or a pair of pants), a blouse and a pha biang worn across the chest. The most notable chut Thai style is the chakkri, one of the eight styles of Thai national dress developed by Queen Sirikit during her reign. 

Thai Outfit – This shop was created to provide people access to traditional Thai garments worldwide. While their collection is rather small, their shop boasts high-quality dresses and one-of-a-kind accessories. 

Ubonphan Haute Couture – This Etsy shop is based in Thailand but offers worldwide free shipping for their stock of garments and accessories that include Thai, Khmer, Hmong and Lao traditional clothing. 

The Japanese national dress, kimono can simply refer to the wrap-front garment with square sleeves and a long, rectangular body. It can come in styles ranging from the casual yukata to the embellished furisode. In modern times, kimono are typically worn during festivals and special occasions as it has become reserved as formal wear in most Japanese traditions. 

Chopa – Established in 1994, Chopa has been selling kimono and yukatas in the United States for nearly 30 years. It offers a wide array of authentic garments for all genders and body types imported directly from Japan at an affordable price. 

Kimono Yukata Market Sakura – Started by Yuzo Mishima in 2007, this Tokyo-based online shop is dedicated to making authentic kimono and yukata accessible to the world. His mission is to preserve the tradition of the garment as kimonos have been pared down to a trendy and lightweight cardigan. 

Modern Filipiniana is best characterized by its iconic “butterfly sleeves” which are pleated to be structured above the shoulder, giving it the distinct silhouette many may know today. The term Filipiniana is an umbrella term for the many variants of garments made in the Filipino tradition including blouses, dresses, boleros and more. 

Narra Studio – Narra Studio works directly with artisans and indigenous communities throughout the Philippines. By having a curated collection of hand-crafted garments and accessories, they create a cultural bridge between the diaspora and the motherland through clothing.

VINTA Gallery – Women-owned and run, Toronto-based VINTA Gallery started with a mission to pay tribute to the glamour of historical Philippine fashion while highlighting Indigenous textile traditions. The atelier has become a favorite of many Filipino celebrities, including Bella Poarch, Eugene Cordero and Liza Soberano

Derived from the Arabic word for clothing, kebaya is a traditional blouse worn all throughout Southeast Asia. The open front garment is commonly made from lightweight fabrics with long sleeves and embellished with intricate embroidery. Kebaya has been adapted to fit various ethnic groups across the region as each community has adopted the garment. This has led to five Southeast Asian countries, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Thailand, to jointly submit kebaya to be honored for its cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

Tantyzaa Indonesia – Based in Indonesia, this Etsy store works with local artisans in communities across Indonesia to source materials like dyed fabric and embroidery ribbon to create their garments. The store’s owner, Tanti Lestari, designs and sews kebaya alongside her mother, sells handwritten and hand-stamped batik made by her sister-in-law and jewelry created by Balinese and Yogyakartan artisans. 

Asxd13Collection – This Etsy shop specializes in primarily Balinese kebaya reimagined with contemporary silhouettes. The store also boasts free worldwide shipping, as well as garments for feminine, masculine and youth bodies. 

Central Asian climates determine how Mongols have dressed, historically and in modern times. The deel is a robe-like wrap that resembles a long overcoat with a long sash/belt wrapped around the waist. In modern times, deel is still worn by herders but in urban areas, feels are worn mainly by elders or for festive occasions. 

Mongulai – Founded in 2016 by Telmen Luvsandorj, Mongulai is a Mongolian online platform that sells Mongolian-made products including clothing, food and, even, a whole yurt. Luvsandorj works closely with Mongolian small businesses to source authentic deel and accessories and allows customers to support Mongolian herders, craftsmen and artisans. 

Mongolianz – Created by Orgilbulgan Bayar, Mongolianz wish to serve as a bridge to connect Mongolian businesses to foreign consumers while educating them on Mongolian culture. The store offers deel in both modern and traditional styles for masculine and feminine frames designed by Mongolian artisans.