The royal wardrobe boasts nearly 140 pieces of attire once worn by saophas.
The royal clothing of Yawnghwe prince and Burma’s first President Sao Shwe Thaik was returned to southern Shan State on Monday after undergoing a six-month cleaning process as part of the restoration and maintenance of the collection.
The royal house in Yawnghwe is home to 138 pieces of attire once worn by saophas—the hereditary rulers who governed the Shan states. Some of the items are thought to be 100 years old. In the first week of March, 69 of these outfits were brought to the National Museum in Yangon for the first time for a specialized cleaning to preserve the fabric.
“This is the first time we have done maintenance on the royal clothing,” Nang Lao Nguen, the National Museum director, told SHAN, explaining that they divided the clothing items into two batches, taking only half for cleaning at one time. “Most of the remaining dresses have cloth embroidered with gold, so the cleaning process [for the second batch] will take a bit longer than the first batch. We expect this project will take one year,” she explained.
Sao Haymar Thaik, daughter of Sao Shwe Thaik, told SHAN that maintaining relics like the royal wardrobe has been difficult for the family.
“There are only six staff in the royal house. Experts already told us that we need to carry out systematic maintenance of these royal dresses. We need manpower for this process,” she said.
There are 270 royal items on display as historic artifacts in the Yawnghwe royal house.
Sao Shwe Thaik was Yawnghwe’s last saopha and also served as Burma’s head of state after the country received its independence from Britain in 1948. He was arrested during Gen Ne Win’s military coup in 1962, and died in prison that same year.