Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles is only made possible by Thailand’s own colorful history of local fabrics. The supply and demand of Thai silk and other types of regional textiles within Indochina was centuries in the making, with local population wearing them in their villages or cities through various eras. Up until early 20th century, most Thais were still wearing traditional Thai clothing. With the arrival of European powers, Thai governing powers began to push for Western fashion in a bid to be perceived as modern and inadvertently causing a decline in demand for Thai textiles. This downward trajectory of the industry continued until two key figures revived interest in local cloths and fashion in the 1950s. One of them was Jim Thompson, and the other is the nation’s very own Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.
Since her coronation, Queen Sirikit’s contributions to the Thai people have been staggering, one of which was using her status as a catalyst for Thai fabrics’ international reputation. In 1960, King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit went on a world tour to establish and enhance state relationships for Thailand. Their trip would mostly take them to 40 cities in Europe and the United States of America. Queen Sirikit, understanding her role as Thailand’s representation, began meticulously preparing how she would present herself. This led her to sourcing local Thai textiles, in particular mudmee silk, and transforming them into high fashion pieces. She employed celebrated fashion designer Pierre Balmain to design many haute couture dresses. The result was a wardrobe of day dresses and evening gowns and the creation of eight distinct styles of Thai formal wear. When her tour and dressing style made news, both Thai and international communities sat up and took great interest once more in the uniqueness and quality of Thai textiles.
The queen’s role as a Thai textile champion did not stop there. She continued to push for the industry’s development up until recent years. In 2003, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit requested permission to use the Ratsadakorn-Bhibhathana Building on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Rattanakosin Island to house a new museum of textiles. It is now home to the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. The museum not only preserves the history of Thai and Asian textiles, but also acts as a conservatory and laboratory for their safe keeping and further development. Today, one can see the queen’s iconic world tour dress collection on display and use the museum’s many facilities as a textile research center.