Many cultures around the world have traditional clothes – from lederhosen in Bavaria to the kimono in Japan. Mongolia is no different. Their traditional clothes are called a deel. It’s pronounced “dell” like the-farmer-in-the, but it doesn’t mean a clearing.
The deel is a really practical bit of clothing. It’s almost like a tunic – there are arm holes and it buttons up cozily. It’s worn by both genders and comes in many different colors. There are some more majestic deels made from fine silks, and woolen deels that can keep you warm. They come either as a shirt length, to the knees or to the ankles for women. The original ones have multiple layers inside to keep you from freezing during the subzero Mongolian winters. Also, since it’s designed in Mongolia, it’s well suited for riding a horse and a camel .
Herders still regularly wear deels, and most people will wear them on cultural days or for special occasions. You can definitely see a lot during the Lunar New Year celebrations (Tsagaan Tsar), and for weddings and graduations. Tour guides and even students sometimes wear them when they feel the urge.
The deel isn’t the only bit of traditional clothing in Mongolia though. Mongolians traditionally wear shoes with a point on them that curves upwards. They are meant to prevent the toe of the boot from breaking the ground. The boots are often painted fun colors, and are made of leather. There are some religious reasons why people wear the shoes: the boots won’t pierce the sacred ground as people walk. They also leave the soil undisturbed so their herds will still have food.
If you want to see more deels, the National Museum of Mongolia has a great collection of deels from centuries back. They also have traditional jewelry and clothing used in religious ceremonies like the Tsam dance.
If you find that you like them, you can purchase one off the rack at the Black Market or the State Department store. If you have a really important occasion, you can get a deel tailored for you out of a fabric you choose. It would definitely be a great souvenir of your time in Mongolia, and Mongolians love to see foreigners wear them!