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Village Story Blanket

Blue Hmong women wear skirts like this one to celebrate the New Year.

These women in the "Blue Hmong's Village" wear skirts like the one above. They are playing pov pob, a ball-tossing game played by young couples at New Year.

Blue Hmong men wear baggy black pants, like those seen on the man leading his family between two poles as part of the New Year celebration.

key idea
Needlework is an important skill for women in traditional Hmong society.

Hmong women have long used colorful thread and fabrics to decorate their clothing. Skirts, hats, baby carriers, and burial cloths are busy with bright patterns and designs. This needlework is called pa ndau [pon-DOW], or "flower cloth." Girls begin to practice sewing very young, helping their mothers and grandmothers.

In traditional Hmong culture, women make new clothes for their entire family for the celebration of the New Year. A new set of clothes reflects the good fortune of the year before. It also speaks of a hope for success in the year to come. Making new clothes by hand is a great deal of work. When a girl marries, it is her duty to help her new family make the new clothing. Well-sewn clothing is a source of pride for the whole family.

There are two main groups of Hmong in Laos. Each cultural group wears a unique style of clothing, which gives the group its name. “White” Hmong women wear a pleated white skirt for their New Year festival. “Blue” Hmong women (also called “Green” Hmong) are known for their indigo-blue designs.

Patterns and designs can refer to other aspects of life as well. The zigzag border design around the villages on this blanket, for example, represents the mountains of Laos. It also is a symbol of protection from evil spirits.

White Hmong women traditionally wore black pants, like men, when they worked. Blue Hmong women, on the other hand, wore their colorful skirts even for everyday activities. (See the woman picking corn in the detail to the left.)
September 2004