The Traditional Dress of Cambodia - A Complete Guide

A trip to Cambodia and its famous cultural ruins can be an adventure for a lifetime. Sites like Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and the Royal Palace of Phnom Penh attract numerous travellers from all parts of the world. Though your entire stay in Cambodia can be an adventure, it is important to remember what people here like and dislike. Being a somewhat conservative country, the people in Cambodia give a lot of importance to the way people dress and carry themselves. Wearing casual shorts, skirts or tank tops with hot pants can be misconstrued as disrespecting the culture of Cambodia and the values that the people there believe in. The best way to have a safe and memorable journey through Cambodia can be made in the traditional dresses of Cambodia, which will make your overall travel experience a joyful one.

Here are some of the traditional dresses of the people of Cambodia -

1. Sampot

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Sampot is the traditional national dress of Cambodia which traces its origins back to the 1st century AD when the ruler of Cambodia asked all the people of his kingdom to wear a dress to cover their bodies, under the influence of some Chinese envoys. This traditional dress has survived up to date despite the roller coaster-like history of Cambodia. It is a long piece of cloth, rectangular in shape which is to be wrapped around the lower part of your body and the extra cloth can be used to make various patterns in the front at the belly. The length of the Sampot is usually 5-6 feet. These silk woven clothes are used on various events and festivals in Cambodia like weddings, funerals, and New Year Eve.

Sampot covers the lower portion of the body, for covering the upper body the Cambodians wear what they call Chang Pong. Chang Pong is a shirt-like attire that covers the shoulders and upper body, for women the cloth goes on the cover the shoulder and leaves a little portion of their belly exposed. 

The Sampot that we find these days is influenced by the ever-changing choices of the visitors and local people. The variations of Sampot include Sampot Phamnuong, a fabric made with 52 different colours, and Sampot Hol which is available in more than 200 different patterns. Choose what you like! Some locals of the country still cling on to the old version of the national dress, as a part of their rich tradition and varied culture.

For the tourists who are visiting Cambodia and want to try on the Sampot, you can visit the Angkor Wat. At Angkor Wat, you see Khmer women wearing Sampot, you can ask them to dress you up and take good pictures! 

2. Sampot Chang Kben

A little alteration to the Sampot gives us Sampot Chang Kben, a cloth similar to the Sampot but around 9 feet in length. In ancient Cambodia, or even today in some parts of the country, there is a lot of distinction between the dressing of the rich, poor, and middle class. While the Sampot was common amongst the lower section of the economic society, Sampot chang kben is normally worn by rich and middle-class women. The cloth is wrapped around the lower body and appears more like trousers than a skirt. It is normally worn only on special occasions these days.

3. Krama

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Krama, synonymous with Cambodia, is the signature fabric of the country of Cambodia. It is a multipurpose piece of cloth the usage of which varies depending upon the different regions of the country. Krama is a checked scarf which can be worn around the neck while posing for pictures, and while roaming around both the rural and urban parts of Cambodia. It is also worn over the head as in the case of farmers in the countryside. Apart from this, the Krama can be used as a sarong, a towel, or even a baby’s hammock. Krama, once a traditional dressing element has now been made a national fashion trend. Typically, the Krama is made of mauve and white squares but nowadays due to the increasing public interest, they are now available in different shapes, sizes, patterns, and qualities. If you are interested in it, you can buy them at local stores and get photographed! 

4. Av Pak

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Av Pak is a traditional blouse dress that is a part of the fashion of the Khmer people. Av Pak or as it is called ‘embroidered shirt’ in simple terms, is a sheer and delicate blouse that is embroidered with golden threads. This embroidered shirt gives it a simple yet classy and rustic look. The Av Pak is a little similar to the Kebaya from the Chinese tradition. It can be paired with the Sampot or the Sampot chang kben as the latter only covers the lower part of the body in the form of a skirt or a trouser. The combination of these two is considered as a modern suit- a dress worn by the local Cham and Khmer people. You can try on the Av Pak along with the sarong while on your trip to some of the eminent sites in the country, or you can buy them in the local market. The Av Pak as a national garment is now only worn on important festivals and events in the country but you will get a good sneak peek into the rich Khmer tradition on your visit to Cambodia!


Let us know down in the comments below if you have ever tried on any of these traditional dresses of Cambodia. Also, be sure to let us know your favourite memory associated with it!! 

This post was published by Kiran Kulkarni

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