Royal Wardrobe: How Thailand's Queen Made Politics High-Fashion

A young Thai Queen with the late King
A young Thai Queen with the late King | © manhhai / Flickr
Sarah Williams

If you look at pictures of female members of the Thai Royal Family you’ll likely notice that they often wear similar attire. This is no coincidence; they will almost certainly be wearing one of the official outfits of chut thai phra ratcha niyom (Thai dress of royal endorsement). Read on to find out how these officially sanctioned outfits came into being.

European influences in Queen Sirikit’s early life

Born in 1932 to a Thai prince, Sirikit Kitiyakara is a descendant of King Chulalongkorn. Her father was a diplomat who was often posted overseas. She spent her early years living with her family in Bangkok during the First World War. When the war ended, Sirikit’s father took the family to live in the UK, where the teenage Sirikit became fluent in English and French, learned how to play the piano, and finished her education. The family travelled around various European countries and lived in places like Denmark and France.

While living in Paris, Sirikit Kitiyakara studied in a prestigious music academy. She socialised in political circles, largely because of her father’s work, and was a member of the upper class. She met Bhumibol Adulyadej in Paris too, accompanying the new Thai king on sightseeing trips. She then went to study in Lausanne, Switzerland, on the request of the king’s mother, close to where the king was also studying.

Queen Sirikit on an international visit

Moving more into the spotlight

The young Sirikit Kitiyakara and Bhumibol Adulyadej became engaged in 1949, marrying the following year in Bangkok. Their wedding took place just one week before the King’s coronation and the couple then returned to Switzerland to finish their studies.

She acted as the regent when the King entered the Buddhist monkhood for a period. Having completed the duties exceptionally well, she was named as the official Regent of Thailand (the person who performs the monarch’s duties in their absence), becoming only the second queen throughout Thailand’s history to have been given such an honour.

The Thai King and Queen in the 1960s

Clothing fit for royalty

Although Queen Sirikit always dressed elegantly, modestly, and stylishly, she quickly realised that Thailand didn’t actually have an official national outfit. There were various traditional items of clothing but no one outfit to represent Thailand at an international level. As a diplomat’s daughter and wife of the Thai King, no Thai woman would have felt under as much pressure to look good in public.

On visiting Europe and the USA alongside her husband on official duties, Queen Sirikit decided to tackle the clothing issue and design an official national outfit for women. Returning to Bangkok, she began researching Thai traditional clothing and what members of royalty had worn to official functions in the past. Overseeing a team of researchers and designers, the Queen then created eight outfits for official functions. Many outfits shared similarities, incorporating styles and fabrics that were already representative of the nation, but they varied in their degree of formality.

The Queen ensured there was attire to suit diverse functions, from semi-casual daytime events to the most formal of meetings and evening affairs. One outfit, known as dusit, draws on European fashion, combining Western and Thai styles. The sleeveless silk dress was almost likely a result of the Queen’s time spent socialising abroad.

Women wearing Thai national dresses at the Songkran Festival, Thailand

The birth of Thai national dress

In 1964, the Thai national costume came into existence. It is known as chut Thai phra ratcha niyom, which means “Thai dress that has been royally endorsed”. The name is often shortened to chut Thai (Thai outfit) for simplicity.

The Queen and her design team then worked hard to promote the outfits, making them appeal to the public as well as to royalty. The Queen was, from that point on, always seen wearing chut Thai at important functions, including political and diplomatic meetings overseas and at home, royal parties, and public engagements.

Now, chut Thai is not only the official clothing of the female members of the Thai Royal Family, but it is also worn by performers in cultural shows and by members of the public for special events, including weddings and celebrations. Despite being a relatively new creation, tune into the popular Thai period drama called Love Destiny and you’ll see attractive Thai national dresses in all their glory.

Members of the public wearing chut Thai to celebrate the late King’s birthday

Through her knowledge of Thai society and international relations, public exposure, position of power and respect, education, and love for Thai culture, Queen Sirikit gave Thailand beautiful and timeless fashion to be proud of.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.