The Powerhouse acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the ancestral homelands upon which our museums are situated. We respect their Elders, past, present and future and recognise their continuous connection to Country.
2006/1/1 Headdress (shushut), womens, wool / cowrie shells / shell / beads / metal, by a Kalash woman, Chitral area, Northwest Pakistan, Pakistan, 1980-1995. Click to enlarge.

Kalash womens headdress (shushut) from Northwest Pakistan

The headdress or shushut is part of the traditional dress still worn by Kalash women in the isolated valleys of Northwest Pakistan. Kalash women still dress mainly in their traditional style although the men have mostly adopted modern Pakistani attire. The women wear a long black dress decorated with braid or embroidery, a shushut and a large number of bead necklaces. There is also a more formal, shorter type of headdress, called a kupas, which is worn over the shushut on ceremonial occasions


Object No.


Object Statement

Headdress (shushut), womens, wool / cowrie shells / shell / beads / metal, by a Kalash woman, Chitral area, Northwest Pakistan, Pakistan, 1980-1995

Physical Description

A womens headdress or shushut handwoven in brown wool with embroidered orange and lime green edges. The band of the headdress sits around the head which allows the decorated streamer to hang from the back of the head. The headdress is decorated with repeated patterns formed with cowrie shells, buttons, beads, metallic chain and small metal discs shaped like leaves. Long brown woollen tassels formed from the ends of the warp, hang from the end of the streamer.



55 mm


220 mm




The Kalash people are a non-Muslim group now confined to three valleys that lead off the main Chitral Valley of Northwest Pakistan - the Rumbur, Birir and Bumburet Valleys. Only some 3000 strong, the small Kalash communities have managed to retain their ancient traditions and religion. While the men have largely adopted modern Pakistani dress of shalwar kemeez, the women still mainly dress in traditional Kalash style, in long black woollen dresses ornamented with yellow embroidery (now more often applied braid) and beads.

All women's clothing in the Kalash area is made by the women themselves, from weaving the wool and cotton to dyeing, embroidery and applied decoration. The wool cloth they use is woven from the fleece of local sheep and dyed brown with walnuts. Beads and other ornaments for application to their clothing are acquired from Peshawar traders who exchange them for locally-grown walnuts.

The headband of the headdress is decorated with three rows of metal chain, enclosing two rows of cowrie shells. Rows of small red beads are placed on either side of each row. The lower edge is decorated with blue, red and green woollen thread in button-hole stitch.

The streamer at the back is attached to the circlet at the top edge and has eight different bands of decoration which include beads, shells, buttons and metal leaf-shaped discs all of which are edged in green and red stitching as on the headband. The tail is finished with long, dark brown tassels which are the ends of the warp and which have been twisted together.



The headdress, known as a shushut, is a band of handwoven woollen cloth that fits over the head with a wide decorative streamer hanging down the back.The shushut is normal, everyday wear for all Kalash women and girls. A more elaborate ceremonial headdress called a kupas is worn, when occasion demands, over the shushut.

This Kalash woman's headdress or shushut has been donated to the collection by a long-serving Powerhouse Museum volunteer. The donor acquired the shushut on a visit to the Bumburet Valley in Northwest Pakistan in 1995.


Credit Line

Gift of Meg Stevenson, 2006

Acquisition Date

10 January 2006

Cite this Object


Kalash womens headdress (shushut) from Northwest Pakistan 2022, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 1 December 2022, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Kalash womens headdress (shushut) from Northwest Pakistan |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=1 December 2022 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}