By Jody Hanson
Cambodian culture fashion — the Krama
“What are you doing?” demanded my small-town Canadian mother in the exasperated tone she saves for me, her oldest and most difficult child, “There are potholders in the drawer.”
“No need,” I shot back as I manipulated the casserole dish of cabbage rolls from the microwave to the table, “I have my krama that I brought with me from Cambodia.” My long suffering mother rolled her eyes and went back to cutting vegetables for the salad. Lifting the lid, a few drops of steam morphed into water. I wiped up the puddle with the corner of my scarf, slung it back around my neck and carried on.
To date I have – among other things – used my krama to mop my sweaty brow, filter out the dirt when riding in a tuk-tuk and wrapped it around my shoulders to keep warm in air-conditioned spaces.
In the house the krama has come in handy as an emergency dust cloth, a laundry hamper, a napkin and an eye shade to filter out the morning sun. Hells bells, I even wear one around my neck when I sleep to protect me against a draught from the fan.
Like earrings and a properly packed handbag, I never leave home without a krama as I would sort of feel undressed. And the few times I haven’t had it with me, I’ve needed it.
Cambodian Fashion Statement
And then there is Cambodian fashion, which is another area where the krama can take front and centre stage. Darlinggggg, can you ever be too thin, have too much money or own too many scarves? No, so that is settled. Given the fabric and colour choices you can mix and match to your wardrobe’s entire content, a krama goes with absolutely everything.
According to Princess Soma Norodom – a woman about town and a bit of a fashion icon – Cambodian fashion designers might want to look at repurposing the krama. “Some people in Cambodia think the krama is only for poor people and they would never contemplate wearing one with their designer clothes. I don’t agree. Check the market and you can find luxurious hand-woven silk scarves that can double as shoulder wraps. Although they may not be popular here, women in other countries would pay a proverbial fortune for the beautiful scarves we take for granted. Get with it, girls.”
“There is also a proud tradition of kramas that goes back centuries when the royal family wore them. Perhaps my fashion contribution to Cambodia will be to start wearing them to the events I host.”
Yes, there is nothing like the Royal Rebel taking up the cause to firmly plant the krama back on the Cambodian fashion map.
Make a Statement
If someone gives you a krama and you don’t have the imagination to figure out what else to do with it there is always a wall hanging, a table cloth or a dish towel.
Now some of the locals need to learn what the peasants and we berang (foreigners) know so well. Krama wearers of the world unite, we are onto a good thing.
About the Author:
Jody Hanson is an insufferable travel junkie who currently lives in Cambodia. To date she has visited 107 countries, lived in eight and holds passports in three. Her – some would say irresponsible – retirement plan is to keep going until she drops. At that time she wants a Muslim burial: wash the body, wrap it in a white sheet and plant it by sundown. In the meantime, Hanson continues to have more than her share of adventures and misadventures, both of which she embraces equally.