When Queen Sirikit makes public and official appearances, guests are always reminded of parts of Thai art and culture that may well have died out if it were not for her unceasing efforts. Wearing beautiful ancient mundee silk designs or silk Prae-wa and silver and gold jewellery, the queen becomes a model for a Thai arts and crafts revival that she initiated. Her fashion trends are being created by students and teachers who work from the SUPPORT Foundation training centre at the royal palace in Bangkok, a programme the queen set up in 1979. The students, children of landless farmers, are being taught ancient handicraft skills that may well have been lost forever if not for the efforts of the queen. She wears these products to promote the centre, and the beauty and finery of Thai traditional fashion. Apart from designing a number of traditional Thai costumes for various official occasions, her staunch support for Thai clothing and textiles has inspired designers to take a new approach and weave traditional Thai grace into their modern garments. These are garments that overflow with a richness of Thai patterns, cloth and adornments. Thailand had no national dress before the queen decided to create one for the sake of identity. She researched traditional costumes that Thai women had worn at different times in the country's history, from the Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and Rattanakosin periods, and then set out to adapt and modify these different styles into a national dress. At the start, there were five designs, all worn with a long skirt. They were named Thai Ruan Ton, Thai Chitralada, Thai Amarin, Thai Chakri and Thai Borom Phiman. More designs were later added, including Thai Dusit and Thai Prayuk. Queen Sirikit gradually launched these styles during state visits or on her international travels until they became internationally recognised as Thai national dress. The designs were all suited to hand-woven silk - plain, brocade, patterned or tie-dyed. This return to Thai fashion came after nearly 150 years of 'clothing Westernisation'. In the mid-19th century, Thai women dressed very much like men, with chong kraben (a trouser- like wrapping tucked between their legs). Men went bare-chested and women wore only loose sabai (the flowing piece of cloth that covered their breasts). Victorian-era Westerners saw this 'minimalist' approach as a sign of backwardness. It was essentially a political move to stem Western designs of colonisation on the grounds of this perceived backwardness that King Chulalongkorn, the monarch of the time, ordered the usually topless noblemen and aristocrats to wear the ratchapatan - a long-sleeved, Nehru-style shirt - to show that Siam was a civilised country. And so it began. For women, the multi-coloured sabais were replaced by European lace blouses. White silk stockings and shoes blanketed a tradition of bare feet. During the reign of King Vajiravuth (Rama VI), women were encouraged to attend social gatherings which the West considered the proper thing for 'decent' women to do and an indicator of a civilised society. King Vajiravuth also wanted to distinguish women from men. That meant discouraging women from wearing the chong kraben - perceived as a male garment by Westerners. The pha sin, a traditional long, skirt-like cloth worn in the north and northeast, consequently became popular among women. After Thailand adopted democracy in 1938, Siamese dress among the upper and middle classes all but disappeared under the 'nation-building' propaganda of the government of Prime Minister Field Marshall P. Pibulsongkram. Being 'civilised' was determined by how people dressed. Now, it seems, it has come the full circle. As the upper classes and professionals began travelling to neighbouring countries and saw other Asian women still wearing their traditional dress, it evoked a nostalgia for traditional Thai clothing and a search for cultural identification.