Mongolian Traditional Clothing: The Deel
A deel is an item of traditional clothing commonly worn since centuries ago among the Mongols and other nomadic tribes of Central Asia, including various Turkic peoples, and can be made from cotton, silk, wool, or brocade. The deel is still commonly worn by both men and women outside major towns, especially by herders. In urban areas, deels are mostly only worn by elderly people, or on festive occasions. The deel appears similar to a caftan or an old European folded tunic. Deels typically reach to below the wearer's knees and fan out at the bottom and are commonly blue, olive, or burgundy, though there are deels in a variety of other colors.
The nomads' wardrobe is compact but has many variations able to serve for different purposes. "It is amazing how this nation invented clothes that can fit all seasons and needs, well thought off and used in many different ways," wrote Medieval travelers from Europe.
Sudden changes of weather with temperatures fluctuating up to 20 degrees, sudden snow or sand storms make nomads be always ready in any situation.
When a nomadic herder takes his sheep flock to pastures, he carries along everything needed to survive. However, this does not necessarily mean big bags as riding a horse and tending animals requires freedom of movements, and clothes are designed in such a way as to allow freedom.
The deel looks like a large overcoat when not worn. Instead of buttoning together in the middle, the sides are pulled against the wearer's body, the right flap close to the body with the left covering. On the right side of the wearer are typically 5 or 6 clasps to hold the top flap in place. There is one clasp below the armpit, three at the shoulder, and either one or two at the neckline.
A deel is traditionally worn with a large sash, usually made of silk or leather belts with large, ornate buckles have become more common in the modern era. The area between the flaps and above the belt creates a large pocket in which Mongolians keep many things, Mongolian men will occasionally even carry silver bowl or cup, snuff box in their deel. Though there is no major difference in material or outline between male and female deels, females tend to wear the "pocket" closer (that is, women often prefer a more snug-fitting deel), while males' may have both larger pockets, looser fit, and wider sleeves.
Besides being the main cloth, it can serve as a blanket, tent and cover against unwanted glances. Depending on weather or work needs, other pieces such as a jacket or coat can supplement the deal.
Deel protects perfectly against cold and winds. If necessary, its long sleeves are rolled down to serve as gloves. The wide sash, made of several meters long textile, serves as a corset protecting against severe shaking during a fast horse ride. It also serves as a hanger to which a knife, firestone, cup, and other accessories can be attached.
A pocket formed by deel above the sash makes an ideal place for keeping small items. In the nomadic culture, special attention was given to the quality of clothes and its tidiness since a missing button, undone seam or loose knot could have cost one's life during a sudden snowstorm or fast horse ride.