The del is the Mongols' traditional garment worn on both workdays and special days. It is a long, loose gown cut in one piece with the sleeves; it has a high collar and widely overlaps at the front. The del is girdled with a sash. Each ethnic group living in Mongolia has its own del distinguished by cut, colour and trimming. The distinctions go unnoticed by foreigners, yet for the Mongols they are obvious. Before the revolution, all social strata in Mongolia had their own manner of dressing. Livestock-breeders, for example, wore plain dels, which served them both summer and winter. The priests wore yellow dels with a cape or khimj, thrown over it. Secular feudal lords put on smart hats and silk waistcoats.
Today, townspeople tend to wear European-style clothes. In the countryside, however, the modern attire is inconvenient and impractical. The del has several uses - as a coat, as a blanket, and as means of concealing yourself when going to the toilet on the open steppe. In the cities, as people start aging, especially the women, begin to appreciate the advantages of the del and wear it, trying to excel each other in the choice of fabric, as well as in the elegance of the cut and originality of the trimmings. Commonly there are three varieties of del, each for a particular season. The first, the dan del, is very much like a dress, a frock cut in one piece from plain cloth without padding. Rural women wear dan dels all year around. In cold weather they put on warm clothes over them. Terleg is a slightly padded del. And finally the winter del is padded with sheepskin or cotton wool.
Dels for men and women are of the same cut. The difference is that male dels are wider and of more demure colours. The pattern is simple enough. The sleeves are cut together with the gown and there are only a few minor details. Moreover the tailor does not have to worry about the precise length and width. Measurements are usually made using the hand rather than a tape measure. The 'too' is the distance between the thumb and the middle finger, the 'soom' the distance between the thumb and the forefinger and the 'khuruu' the length of the forefinger.
The del for everyday wear is grey, brown or some other dark colour, while the holiday del is a bright blue, green or claret silk with a silk sash of contrasting colour several metres long. The sash is not simply an adornment. It also serves as a soft corset facilitating long rides on horseback. In days gone by, men would attach a sheathed knife, a tobacco pouch, a flint and a pipe-cleaning hook to the belt. Characteristically, the Mongol always hid his pipe in his boots. The del collar, breasts and sleeves are trimmed with leather and colour brocade tape, which can be wide or narrow depending on the wearer's taste. The del buttons, if they are not commercially produced from decorative stones or silver, are narrow strips of cloth tied into intricate knots.
Traditional dels are normally seen now only at concerts or official occasions. In addition to the del is the jacket known as a khurim. In cold weather it is put on over the del. The gutal is the high boot made from unbending leather and lined with fine and thin felt. They are decorated with different designs. Both the left and right are traditionally the same shape and were worn with thick socks made from quilted cloth. Traditional boots are without heels and have turned up toes. Mongolian hats are still very much the normal attire in the countryside. The traditional hat is a hat for all seasons trimmed with fur, fox fur in most cases. The sides of the hat can be tied down to keep the ears warm or tied on top in the warmer periods. The hats are worn by both men and by women. In the past, headgear was worn to show social status. The design is also symbolic. The pointed top of the hat represents Mount Sumber, the legendary land of the Mongol forefathers. The knot on the top represents the unity of the nation, red ribbons are the sun's rays and the broad brim represents the country's inaccessibility.
Because of the different ethnic groups residing in Mongolia, there are distinctions in the way they all dress. Therefore it is estimated that between them all, there are about 400 different types of garments, 20 boots, 10 sashes and 20 types of hats.