The beautiful cultural dresses that have been provided for this display come from women in the Palmerston North community. Their stories and the story behind these amazing dresses are below, or you can read about them in The Plaza when you visit the display.




This is a contemporary version of hieke (rain cape) was made by owner Christina Winitana.  Traditionally this kākahu (garment) provided protection against the rain and cold. They were often worn over the top of more prestigious kākahu (cloak, clothing). Today they are worn for special occasions such as graduations.

This version of hieke was made by Christina specifically to match the piupiu made for their son; hence the inclusion of piupiu tags and the similarity in colours. Blue represents the ocean, yellow the sand, and green for flora.

As this is a contemporary version of hieke, the chosen colours and some of the materials used (jute, string and Teri-Dye) are quite different to traditional materials and dyeing techniques.


This beautiful silk, hand embroidered gown in a soft pink is from Sai Gon in Southern Vietnam and is the wedding gown of Cindy Nuong Nguyen. The gown is known as ‘Áo Dài’.

“Áo Dài” is a proud Vietnamese traditional custom which is honoured from generation to generation. It symbolises the elegant beauty of Vietnamese women as well as the perfect “S” shape of the Vietnamese map.

Áo Dài is usually customised for each person to fit their body perfectly. Vietnamese prefer to have at least one Áo Dài in their wardrobe for important and formal occasions such as new year celebrations, national and local events, festivals, important meetings and weddings.

Popular materials for Áo Dài are chiffon, taffeta, velvet and brocade fabric. They are designed in many different colours and some in floral with sparkling beads.

Nowadays, there are some commercial Áo Dài which are made in popular sizes (S.M.L) to purchase or hire. There is also Áo Dài for men with a simpler design.


A vibrant red and gold Iranian wedding gown is a sign of special happiness and joy in a wedding. This gowns’ owner, Ellie Shokri adds “wedding gowns are always a glittering fabric over a bright base colour such as red, blue, green and yellow.”

The tradition is from Iran’s nomadic Qashqai, part of the Turkic peoples from Central Asia who settled in Iran during the 11th and 12th Centuries and have roamed the harsh deserts of southwest Iran for hundreds of years. Each year, they travel with their flocks of goats and sheep from summer highland pastures north of Shiraz to winter pastures on lower (and warmer) lands near the Persian Gulf, roughly 480km to the south.


This beautiful cotton Sari from Kandy in Sri Lanka is a traditional dress worn at celebrations and parties. Kanchana Seneviratne, owner of this Sari, tells us that the dress is also worn as office wear by women who work as teachers or in government workplaces, and some older women will wear this at home. Saris like this come in many different fabric choices such as cotton, silk, and handlooms.

Sri Lankan women wear saris in many styles. The traditional Kandyan (Osariya) style consists of a full blouse which covers the midriff completely and is partially tucked in at the front. However, the modern intermingling of styles has led to most wearers baring the midriff. The final tail of the sari is neatly pleated rather than free flowing.

The Kandyan style is considered the national dress of Sinhalese women and is the uniform of the air hostesses of Sri Lankan Airlines.


This stunning black and pink dress is from JinLin in the Northeast of China and is called Qipao, also known as Cheongsam. It was popular in China from the 1920s to 1940s, overlapping the Republican era, and was popularized by Chinese socialites and high society women in Shanghai.

Owner Jia Yi Lu explains “Qipaos are a popular choice of outfit for festive seasons like Chinese New Year. In countries with significant Chinese populations such as Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, it is common for women to have new cheongsams tailored in preparation for the New Year. Qipao are also a popular choice of outfit for older women on formal occasions or family reunions.

In Western weddings, Chinese brides or brides marrying into a Chinese family, will often wear cheongsam for a portion of the wedding day.” Qipaos are traditionally made of silk and decorated with embroidery on top.


This is a modernized version of a Qipao decorated with exquisite embroidery of a peacock.  Owner of the dress Jia Yi Lu tells us “This dress is a less formal and can be worn at multicultural parties and festival celebrations such as Moon Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and Chinese New Year celebrations.


The Hezi (诃子) dress is a style of hanfu, a set of traditional Chinese attire worn by Han Chinese. It is a corset-like garment that is attributed to Yang Guifei.

The hezi is tied from the back to the front, and the lower part has a rope so the waist of the skirt can be tied at the same time. This accessory bears resemblance to the Qing Dynasty Dudou (肚兜).

Hezi has been worn in the Tang dynasty, Song dynasty and Ming dynasty. Hezi can be seen in ancient Chinese frescoes and cultural relics, for example, the famous Dunhuang (敦煌) Mural.

This Hezi is owned by Jiajia Huang, and she explains “in modern times, with the increasing popularity of hanfu and driven by the hanfu movement, the Hezi dress has gained high popularity among young women. They wear them at cultural celebrations and events, and they are primarily made from silk.”


This exquisite gown is called a Filipiniana and is from the Sultan Kudarat, Socccsksargen province in Mindanao, Philippines.

Owner Meriam Findlay tells us that Filipiniana are worn as formal attire for very formal occasions.  Miriam wore this gown representing her country when she met with a government official ambassador.

The fabric is georgette and was handmade in Meriam’s hometown by a well-known dress maker who makes gowns that are sent to Filipino globally.


This outstanding Musa Filipiniana dress is made of Musa fabric, handwoven by the Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL) in the jail institutions and Indigenous Communities of Davao del Norte, Philippines.

The ensemble is a modern Filipiniana inspired costume that signifies love for the Philippines. The fabric is made of waste banana fibre, combined with colourful threads intricately and manually woven using a hand weaving loom.

The waste banana fibre is turned into a 100% reusable fabric, providing a sustainable livelihood for the prisoners, Lumads (indigenous people in the southern Philippines) and local seamstresses of Davao del Norte, Philippines.

Owner of this outstanding dress, Carmela Evora-Laylo will be wearing the gown at a New York Fashion Show this September.


This beautiful Sari is from Andraprdesh, South India. It belongs to Rama Lakshmi Gorle. Rama wore it on her wedding. This saree was offered to her before the wedding by her in-laws and is only worn now on very special occasions.

Rama said, “it is tradition that I can gift this saree to my children when they get married, passing the blessings from all my family down to them for their new life.”

It is made up of kanchi pattu, an old tradition of silk weaving, and called kanjivaran Sari. The fabric is Mulberry Silk with gold colored threads. The length of this Sari is six meters and is worn with a fitted bodice commonly called a choli and a petticoat called ghagra.

There are more than 80 recorded ways to wear a sari. The most common style is for the sari to be wrapped around the waist, with the loose end of the drape to be worn over the shoulder, baring the midriff.

Sari is also worn in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.


This Kaftan (Koftan in Arabic) belongs to Atika Dikna. Atika is originally from Libya and has a different traditional Libyan dress, but she loves this Koftan from Morocco that was given to her by her friend to wear at a wedding.

Koftan is largely worn in all the North African countries as they share a lot of traditional clothes and food.  Moroccan kaftans are often representative of the diverse cultural identities and cultural heritage influences.

More elegant kaftan styles are reserved for special occasions and wedding celebrations and are worn with great pride by all classes of society.

Mostly Koftans are hand-made, beaded and decorated by women at home and then sent to a tailor to finish the look.

This is a two layered Koftan that can be worn separately. The outer gown looks gorgeous over a pair of trousers and singlet. Atka wears a matching headscarf with this Koftan.


This dark green tilla embodied Pheran belongs to Sadaf Naqash. Sadaf is from Kashmir. Sadaf tells us that this dress is a contemporary design of a traditional Kashmiri Pheran. Pheran is a loose garment worn by Kashmiris it is a traditional dress of Kashmir, “We wear this proudly as a part of our cultural identity”, says Sadaf.

Pheran is worn as daily casual wear and are usually made from cotton or wool. Pheran is worn by both men and women with some variation in the style for each gender.

This Pheran is made of Makhmal or velvet fabric. It has traditional embroidery called Tilla work. Tilla is a special silver thread. Silver is spun with threads of different colours to give it a distinct hue.


This green Pathani dress belongs to Sarah Behramand Hussain. Sarah is from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, province of Pakistan or KPK as it is also known.

This province is in the northwest region of the country, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and close to Tajikistan border. It has some of the most picturesque lakes, ski resorts, passes and valleys in the world.

This traditional dress is worn in both Afghanistan and in KPK. In KPK it is worn as a traditional dress for celebrations or to showcase your tradition and culture.

The fabric of this dress is polyester silk. The embroidery is a combination of hand stitched and machine, and it has silver jewellery stitched into it.

This dress was made 28 years ago in Pakistan. Sarah bought it with her to New Zealand and has worn it to several cultural events here.


Pakistani wedding dress for Barat or Rukhsati

Pakistani Bridal Dress is the epitome of tradition and heritage. The dress comes in various designs and colors. Bridal Lehenga, Lehenga-Kurti, Saree, Sharara-Kurti, Bridal Shalwar Kameez, and Bridal Gowns are the most common and preferable choices to wear on different wedding events.

Bridal dresses in Pakistan are heavily decorated with Zari, a gold and silver wire woven directly into the fabric, and Zardozi, which is another variant of typical embroidery. Many other bright colors may be incorporated into this bridal attire, but it completely depends upon the bride’s choosing. No matter what color scheme is chosen, the Pakistani wedding gowns and outfits worn on this day include a large amount of gold jewellery.

A Pakistani wedding is the ultimate celebration of love in this rich and ancient culture. Traditionally, a typical wedding includes four different ceremonies on different days. In each, the bride wears something different, providing a wide array of Pakistani wedding dresses for guests to admire. Below is a short description of each aspect of every day included in Pakistan’s wedding traditions, as well as details in regards to the bride’s attire.