The Timeless, Universal, and Iconic Papuan Tassel Skirt

The Timeless, Universal, and Iconic Papuan Tassel Skirt

People in West Papua live very close to nature. These lifestyles are reflected in many aspects of their culture. The natural wealth around them plays a big role, one of which is in the manufacturing process of one of their traditional clothes, a Papuan tassel skirt.

You must have been familiar with the appearance of the Papuan tassel skirt in many portraits of indigenous people. Notably, the tassel skirt is an important part of Papua’s traditional clothes in general. For this reason, it is very interesting to dig deeper into this iconic item of West Papua culture.

The Crafting Process

The Crafting Process - Papuan Tassel Skirt

Given how eye-catching the Papuan tassel skirt is, it is not very easy to craft one. Usually, they are made from the leaves of the sago plant, also known as sago palm (Metroxylon sagu). To simplify, the fiber of the sago leaves is dried until it becomes straw-like.

But for the details, there are several things to note. First, the best sago leaves to make the traditional tassel skirt is the young leaves that grow only in the center of the tree’s crown. Second, to make the fiber, the crafter needs to peel the membrane of the leaf as soon as possible after harvesting.

It is also possible that certain difficulties happen in the process of harvesting the leaves. Because sago palms have long, sharp vines. In addition, it needs the young leaves from approximately 25 sago trees in total to make only one skirt.

Crafting a tassel skirt also includes drying the leaves until they become brown. After the drying process, the leaves are woven into a long line of a tassel. Finally, consider it done. Just need to wrap the long tassel around the body and tie it into a knot to make it wearable.

Be that as it may, the process mentioned above is the traditional way of crafting a tassel skirt in Papua. As time goes by, probably the local people have already found a more effective way to make this one of West Papua’s traditional clothes.

Some studies show that local people have found alternative materials to make Papuan tassel skirts—for example, Nypa palm leaves, pandanus leaves, and even plastic fibers.

Both Men and Women Can Wear Tassel Skirt

traditional tassel skirt

Unlike some other traditional Papuan clothes with several limitations, the tassel skirt can be worn by everyone in society. However, there are indeed some differences in how men and women wear these skirts.

Formerly, tassel skirts are meant for women. By that time, women only wear these skirts from the waist down. While the men only wear Koteka or Holim. But nowadays, there have been some changes with the development of the civilization of the people.

Presently, men often wear tassel skirts on special occasions and ceremonies. They usually wear it waist down, with no addition to the top.

But together with it, they disguised the upper body with body painting, mostly homemade from natural materials. The painting’s patterns are usually traditional motifs or motifs that represent Papua’s flora and fauna.

Meanwhile, there are two most common ways for women to use the Papuan tassel skirt. First, waist down like the usual skirt, with baju kurung – other Papuan traditional clothes – as a top. The second way, women can wear a Papuan tassel skirt from the chest down – like a tube dress.

Another key point, either worn by men or women, is the use of the tassel skirt, always complimented by traditional Papuan accessories—for example, a crown decorated with feathers, necklaces, and bracelets.

Final Words

Until today, the Papuan tassel skirt has become a valuable item in West Papua culture. People from many regions and tribes still use it as a mandatory outfit for traditional dance and ceremonies. That is why you will see tassel skirts whenever you visit West Papua