2015 Sacramento Hmong New Year

Dressed to impress, both young and old came out in droves at this year’s Sacramento Hmong New Year (SHNY).

I haven’t been to SHNY in years, so it was exciting to share the experience with my kiddos. We arrived around 10:30 a.m., but took forever getting dressed in the CalExpo Fairgrounds parking lot on Saturday. If you walked by a very loud group of people trying to get dressed in their finest Hmong clothes on Saturday, that was probably me and my family! My poor mom had to contend with dressing six of us, then herself, while we juggled my adorable two-month old niece in the freezing cold. It was hectic, but it reminded me of days gone by when my parents would drive my sisters and I to Hmong New Year after New Year starting in Chico and working our way down Northern California into the San Joaquin Central Valley and ending in Fresno.

Hmong New Year never ceases to amaze me. This year, there were many who came dressed in traditional garb (which I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE), but there were just as many who chose to come in more modern Hmong-inspired designs. I ended up taking tons of pictures and want to thank everyone who graciously let some stranger (me) interrupt their conversations and ball tossing so that I could snap their photo.

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There were so many beautifully dressed men and women, but my pick of the day was this young woman in the black head wrap (second from the left). I was very excited when I saw her. She wore her Hmong clothes beautifully and was a stand out for me because you just don’t see women dressed in this traditional style with this head wrap anymore. It’s rare to find a Hmong woman wearing a headpiece that she wrapped herself or was wrapped by another for her. Now-a-days, many headpieces have been made into hats, one entire piece you just pop on your head. So, to find an authentic head wrap is pretty cool – but to find one in this style was truly amazing.

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Her entire outfit was just lovely. I loved the plain black fabric used for her shirt and sev. Her traditional silver necklace and sash with the many rows of silver coins left me reminiscent of my youth. For me, all other outfits paled in comparison to this very understated one. Her bright and authentic Hmong skirt was a stand out against her black sev. She and her friends looked beautiful and like they were having fun tossing ball when I rudely interrupted them for a picture. Thank you for not turning me away!

Oh, and please excuse my daughter for photo bombing this lovely picture. She and my sister teased me horrendously for being what they called a “creeper,” just walking up to strangers and asking if I could take their picture. Obviously that would be inappropriate under normal circumstances, but Hmong New Year is different! Everyone takes photos of everyone else, it’s the thing to do, other than making new friends, eating some really good food, tossing ball, shopping all the vendors, and reuniting with friends and family of course. I thought about photoshopping her out, but let this be a lesson in photo bombing, if you do it, I will leave you in the picture.

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Above: I loved the head pieces on these two ladies, but my favorite was how simple they kept it. In my day, women wore a lot of silver, which is no longer the case. Today, many wear just their silver necklace and one sash around the waist with only one or two rows of silver coins. As you can see, one of these beautiful ladies (right) chose to go without a silver necklace, which is very flattering with her Hmong outfit.

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Above: These ladies looked amazing in their Hmong-inspired outfits. I’m a sucker for a really good coordinated group outfit. I’ve seen a lot of interest online in this specific and another similar design. Going with black fabric, instead of a patterned fabric, for the shirt and pairing it with a black skirt really pulls your attention to the embroidery on the arms and sev. The lightweight silver necklaces align with the simplicity and overall fashion-forward look of the outfits. The middle outfit is gorgeous. I love the red, orange, and yellow embroidery on the shirt and sev. The pattern is bold and stands out even from a distance.

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Above: There were a lot of men dressed in Hmong clothes too. This couple was very stylish. The man is dressed in traditional Hmong-Thai clothes. A tell-tale sign of Hmong Thai-clothes men clothes is the short shirt. You’ll notice that it is embroidered starting below the neck of the front opening of the shirt, and the embroidered pattern runs along the entire bottom of the shirt and ends at the opening of the opposite side of the shirt. Hmong-Thai men also where the beautiful pink embroidery sash and the baggier (harem style) pants. The lady in this photo is dressed fairly similar to the photo directly above this one. She wears a black skirt and a sev with a similar embroidered pattern, however her head-piece, the opening of the shirt, and her silver necklace are different.

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Above: I loved this outfit, but couldn’t get close enough to get a close up as she was surrounded by suitors! From a distance, the red looks like it may be velvet, but that is only a guess. I think that everyone that came across this woman did a double-take. Her headpiece was very impressive and her outfit is similar to those worn by ethnic Hmong in southwest China.

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Above: I took this photo to show the many different outfits from behind. Take note of the different head pieces, sashes, belts, and skirts these ladies are wearing. Look at how the women wear their hair based on the head-piece they’re wearing. I also wanted to point out that hair matters, and doesn’t depend on whether you wear a head-piece, but rather on the style of Hmong clothes you are wearing. As you’ll notice, some have braided their hair down the back, or have partially exposed hair, while others have it tucked up into their head-piece.

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Above: I saw these two lovelies from afar and had to make a run for it in my Hmong clothes and heels to catch up with them! This style is similar to the photo above with the lady wearing the red velvet-like outfit. I would say these outfits, including the headpiece and silver, are inspired by the ethnic Hmong of southwest China. Again, I love coordinated outfits and these two looked amazing.

We had a great time at SHNY and hope you did too. If you’re planning on going to Merced and Fresno Hmong New Years, I will see you there with camera in-hand!

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Handmade shirt panel

Women's Hmong Thai front shirt panel. Source: The Miao Culture Tumblr

Women’s Hmong Thai front shirt panel.
Source: The Miao Culture Tumblr

Three beautiful Hmong Thai women’s shirt panels. These panels are sewn on the front opening of a shirt. I have seen them sewn on either side of a shirt; however I prefer it on the right side, with the left side of the opening just being a straight edge.

Unlike the many machine-embroidered designs that are worn today, these are handmade. No two are alike. Each design uses various embroidery and appliqué techniques. The colors are more dull than what they would have been when they were first made, but you can still see the striking differences in patterns and colors.

The sharp pointy edges are very dramatic. A lot of work went into making every stitch perfect.

Not quite right? Then make your own!

Striped sleeve Hmong outfits

Striped sleeve Hmong outfits

I found these beautiful striped Hmong outfits on one of my visits to the swap meet. What I really like about them is the use of colored fabric for the cross-stitch design – red, purple, and blue. I think like me, many of you are probably more used to seeing and working with white and black cross-stitch fabric.

The black and red outfit is my favorite, because I prefer the front opening over the other two outfits, which has a more crew-shaped neckline. I also like that on the black and red shirt, the stripes are all solid colored fabric, except for the final pattern along the cuff of the sleeve. Whereas on the purple shirt, you can see that the stripe at the top of the sleeve has a cross-stitch pattern similar to the sev.

Intricate cross-stitch pattern

Intricate cross-stitch pattern

The pattern used on the cross-stitched section of the sleeves on all of these shirts is a traditional pattern used on various pieces of Hmong clothes. What I associate the pattern with the most is a man’s sash. I have never seen this pattern interpreted like it is here for the sev. The same pattern used in the sev, has been applied to each side of the opening of the shirts. The choice of thread colors used on each of the colored cross-stitch colors are smart and striking.

I was very tempted to buy one of these outfits, but all of the patterns on this outfit were stitched by machine, and I prefer that my own collection is handmade whenever possible. I also prefer authentic designs. For example, the length and width of the sleeve is quite odd. The sleeve either needs to be longer and narrower so that it ends at the wrist, or shorter and wider so that it ends at the elbow. Also, I was quite unsure of the crew-neck design on the purple and blue outfits. I could certainly be wrong here, but I don’t quite think the neckline is true to traditional Hmong outfits.

So, when you see a Hmong outfit that you love, but there are a couple of things that are off, which cause you to hesitate or hold you back from buying it, snap a photo and make your own. By making your own Hmong clothes, you can truly make an outfit your own and incorporate the things you like and leave the things you aren’t too fond of out! That’s what I’m going to do. I am going to use these amazingly intricate patterns to create my own outfit. You’ll have to stay tuned to find out how they turn out!

More Black Hmong headpiece

Front, side, and back view of Black Hmong headpiece

Front, side, and back view of Black Hmong headpiece

This post piggybacks on my last post, which featured the Black Hmong headpiece. This picture shows the headpiece from the front, side, and back. The shirt is also a traditional Black Hmong shirt, although the applique in the front opening is not turned inside out. The back of the photo also shows the laug of the shirt, which sits at the nape of the neck. Unlike some Hmong shirts, the laug on Black Hmong shirts are flipped so that the beautiful applique work is facing down and all you see is the stitch work from the applique on the reverse side.

Black Hmong clothes hold a special place in my heart, so you will be seeing a lot of it!

Black Hmong headpiece

Hmong Dlub

This headpiece belongs to the Black Hmong (Hmoob Dlub/Hmoob Dub) of Laos. It’s just simply beautiful.

The headpiece is pieced together, layer by layer, to create a look unique to this people. The final touch is a small sash of silver coins wrapped around the top of the headpiece.

Hmong Xieng Khuang headdress

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This beautiful headdress is typical of Hmong originating from the Xieng Khuang Province of Laos. It is worn by women and girls only. It is created by wrapping the head with one long piece of gauze-like fabric, which produces a turban-style look. The headdress is finally finished with a black and white striped fabric called a siv ceeb, which crosses right above the middle of the forehead bringing attention to the face.

The turban itself varies in color from bright indigo, to the pictured darker purple, to black. This black and white siv ceeb is very traditional, however this too can also vary greatly, especially with more modern types of ribbon and sashes available.

Hair is usually pulled up and tucked into the headdress, pulled into a ponytail as pictured, or a bun. Traditionally, women wear their hair only partly tucked in at the back of the headdress.

UPDATE: Elephant’s foot

Elephant's Foot outfit, pattern for shirt cuff and front opening.

Elephant’s Foot outfit, pattern for shirt cuff and front opening.

In January, I posted Elephant’s Foot, a pattern used in a sev for a new Hmong outfit my daughter is working on. As promised, pictured above is what I designed for the cuff and front opening of the shirt.

You will see three distinct ‘blocks’ in the picture above. Each ‘block’ is 27 stitches and measures 2 7/8”. The entire piece is 8 blocks long and measures 15 3/4” X 2 1/2”. It uses the same 15-count black cross-stitch fabric, and pink and yellow thread used in the sev.

Elephant's Foot pattern for sev.

Elephant’s Foot pattern for sev.

I felt like the pattern ‘as is’ from the sev was too wide for the shirt, so I created a new pattern using elements from the Elephant’s Foot pattern. I wanted the completed outfit to be cohesive, like the sev and shirt belonged together. In order to do this, it was important to use the same materials previously used. It wasn’t right to introduce new colors or fabric to the outfit at this point. I used the center and corners of each block of the Elephant’s Foot pattern to create this new design.

Stay tuned for the completed Hmong outfit!