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2002/147/4 Womens dress (kushuthara kira), hand-woven, cotton / silk, maker unknown, Bhutan, 1975-1985. Click to enlarge.

Woman’s dress (kira)

Made in Bhutan, 1975-1985.

The kira is the traditional garment of Bhutanese women, and is worn wrapped around the body and pinned on each shoulder with a koma (brooch). A wide woven belt (kera) secures the kira at the waist. There are several different varieties of kira, the kushuthara type being the most highly regarded as it was traditionally worn only by royalty and on special occasions. The kushuthara kira was lavishly decorated with brocade-work, finely executed on a white background, with a high proportion of silk t...


Object No.


Object Statement

Womens dress (kushuthara kira), hand-woven, cotton / silk, maker unknown, Bhutan, 1975-1985

Physical Description

This white ground, or kushuthara type of kira (Bhutanese woman's dress) comprises a rectangular piece of material, woven in three long strips hand stitched together. The overall design is composed of three broad lengthways bands filled with geometric motifs in pink, yellow, green, orange, red, blue and black, with a fine straight lengthways black line marking the centre. These broad bands are separated by two narrow bands outlined in brown, between which is a white band with small geometric motifs.

The long (warpways) edges have wide borders made up of dark brown and black stripes with two bright yellow stripes in between. Small pink, red, grey and black medallions are sprinkled on these borders. The short ends are self fringed.


No marks



2760 mm


1350 mm



Although this kushuthara was probably made in the late 1970s, the geometrical designs used are traditional motifs, many of which have a deeply religious Bhuddist significance. According to the literature, 'kushu designs, based on about a dozen basic patterns are so varied that they are impossible to classify.' The Bhutanese give evocative descriptions to many of the designs such as 'pigeon's eye' and 'rooster's comb'.

The traditional Bhutanese loom is the backstrap, so called because the user leans back against a wide leather strap to keep the tension on the warp threads. The use of the backstrap produces long narrow strips of weaving which are joined together (three at a time for a kira) to form a piece of material wide enough for a dress. (Nowadays, some Bhutanese women also use a treadle loom which is a recent introduction from Tibet.)

The Bhutanese have perfected 'a single-faced supplementary weft brocade', an extremely complicated and intricate weaving technique. For the kushuthara, 'some patterning (sapma) is composed with supplementary wefts that appear to lie on the finished face of the cloth; when not floating, they are laid in with wefts of the ground weave. More intricate motifs are created by a group of four supplementary wefts that are interworked with warp elements and each other by twining and wrapping (thrima)'.


Bhutan 1975-1985



Traditionally the dress of Bhutanese royal women, the kushuthara kira is nowadays worn by women other than royalty, for example, by girls in dance troupes. Purchased in Bhutan by the donor, Sue Tuckwell, in October 1982.


Credit Line

Donated through the Australian Government Cultural Gifts Program by Susan Tuckwell, 2002

Acquisition Date

19 December 2002

Cite this Object


Woman's dress (kira) 2016, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 March 2019, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Woman's dress (kira) |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=24 March 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.

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