A jainsem

  • A jainsem is made out of a piece of cloth that is typically 2.75 m or 3 m in length, and which is cut into two equal pieces to create a garment that Khasi women wear with a blouse and skirt. The length of the jainsem depends on either the height of the woman wearing it, or on her choice of whether to keep it down to her ankles or just below her knees.
  • For the Khasi women who wear it, the jainsem is not a ceremonial dress; rather, it is regular, everyday wear. “It is simple to make, easy to wear and not very costly in comparison to the traditional ceremonial dresses,” said Agnes Kharshiing, a Shillong-based social activist.
  • A jainsem can be made of silk, polyester or other fabric, and almost all jainsems have intricate embroidery along their lower edge. Hundreds of women find employment in sewing and embroidering them.
  • Like the two-piece mekhela-chador for the Assamese woman, the jainsem is a part of the identity of the enterprising women of the matrilineal Khasi society. On special occasions, jainsems made of muga and paat, the two silks of Assam, are also worn. However, the dress that Khasi women wear more commonly during festivals, weddings and other ceremonies is the dhara, which, unlike the jainsem, is a one-piece garment.
  • The costume worn at traditional Khasi dances comprises ka jingpim shad, a cloth draped from waist to ankle; ka sopti mukmor, a full-sleeve blouse with lacework at the neck; and ka dhara rong ksiar, two rectangular pieces of cloth embroidered with gold thread, pinned crosswise at the shoulders, overlapping each other.


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