It has been years since I have been to the annual Stockton Hmong New Year celebration. This year I took my daughter and youngest son with me to check it out. There weren’t nearly as many people as I thought there would be, but it didn’t matter. Many of the people who did come out came dressed beautifully!
All the lovely ladies featured in the below photographs were kind enough to let a total stranger (me) go up to them, chat with them, then snap their picture! If you know who these beautiful ladies are, please share this blog post with them.
This group of beautifully dressed, young Hmong women made their way to my top three pictures of the hundreds that I took throughout the day. Why? Because they accomplished what many try to do and fail. They were able to combine authentic, traditional Hmong attire with modern styling without diminishing the integrity of the Hmong clothes.
All of these girls are wearing authentic, traditional Black Hmong skirts. Which means someone took the time to cross-stitch by hand nearly seven yards of fabric to make the taab tab of the skirt. At a minimum a taab tab alone takes approximately three months to make. And that is only if you have no other time commitments. If you had nothing to do but sew and eat, it would probably take you 18 months to make taab tabs for these five ladies. Again, that doesn’t take into consideration the time to piece the entire skirt together and the pleating.
They are all wearing simple black Hmong shirts and sevs with the traditional blue cuffs and front shirt panels. It seems simple, but remember this, Hmong clans and tribes are identified by the clothes they wear. Black Hmong are called such because it refers to their black colored attire. It is important to note that Black Hmong shirts have narrow sleeves that run the entire length of the arm. The bottom of the sleeve ends in a blue cuff that measures about an inch. The girls are also wearing the front opening of their shirts flipped inside out, so that you can see the same blue lining used for the cuff.
These girls are not wearing the traditional silver necklace associated with Black Hmong, however since the only silver they are wearing at all is the little sash around their waists, it works real well! It compliments their trendy shoes and hairstyles. Speaking of hairstyles, you will notice they are not wearing any type of headdress. Again, I don’t mind because they have gotten everything else right. They are even wearing authentic leg wraps, one of my favorite things about Hmong-wear.
These two ladies dressed from head to toe in authentic Hmong attire were a highlight of my New Year experience. It was so nice to see girls making the effort to dress true to their Hmong roots. This type of Hmong-wear is generally referred to as Hmoob naav tab lab or translated Hmong who wear red skirts. If you compare these Hmong skirts with that of the group above, you will notice that there are differences. There is much more red applique in the batiked section of the skirt, the taab tab is much wider, the taab tab includes green applique, and the foot of the skirt is much narrower.
True to this type of Hmong clothes, the sleeves are wider and only come down to right below the elbow. The blue cuff on the bottom of the sleeve is much wider than that of the girls from the first picture above. Also, take note of the applique work on the front opening of the shirts peaking through the silver necklace. This is very similar to the pattern found on the Black Hmong shirts, except this type of Hmong does not flip that section of the shirt inside out.
This type of Hmong attire has several different headdresses, but these girls are wearing the most common type which is made of a black (but can also be found in purple or indigo) turban and black and white siv ceeb.
What is Hmong New Year all about? It means different things to different people. For some it is a chance to catch up with people they haven’t seen all year-long. For others it’s their chance to show off their finest Hmong clothes. Some go for the food and festivities, and people like me go to people-watch.
For our young people, they go to throw some ball. I had to include this picture because when I was a young girl we lived to throw ball at the New Year. These girls are dressed in authentic traditional Black Hmong clothes. They are wearing matching headdresses as well.