A deel is an item of traditional clothing commonly worn since centuries ago among the Mongols and other nomadic tribes of Central Asia, including various Turkic peoples, and can be made from cotton, silk, wool, or brocade. The deel is still commonly worn by both men and women outside major towns, especially by herders. In urban areas, deels are mostly only worn by elderly people, or on festive occasions.
The deel looks like a large overcoat when not worn. Instead of buttoning together in the middle, the sides are pulled against the wearer’s body, the right flap close to the body with the left covering. On the right side of the wearer are typically 5 or 6 clasps to hold the top flap in place. There is one clasp below the armpit, three at the shoulder, and either one or two at the neckline.
A deel is traditionally worn with a large sash, usually made of silk or leather belts with large, ornate buckles have become more common in the modern era. The area between the flaps and above the belt creates a large pocket in which Mongolians keep many things, Mongolian men will occasionally even carry a silver bowl or cup, or even a snuff box in their deel. Though there is no major difference in material or outline between male and female deels, females tend to wear the “pocket” closer (that is, women often prefer a more snug-fitting deel), while males’ may have both larger pockets, looser fit, and wider sleeves.
In Mongolia, the usage of the word deel has been extended to cover other long winter coats as well. For example, fur and leather overcoats of western design are referred to as “nekhii deel” and “sawkhin deel,” respectively, meaning “fur deel”, “leather deel” and “cashmere deel,” which is made of the luxurious material cashmere. Nevertheless, other Mongol regions, such as Bortala in Xinjiang retain the specific meaning of the word “deel” as the traditional garment, and refer to other overcoats as “olondoi.”
Deel design varies among cultures, ethnic groups and time periods to a certain degree. There are even distinct variations among different Mongol tribes mostly on the design of the upper chest opening edges. For instance the Khalkha Mongol deel opening edges are round while a Buryat deel’s is square. It can also vary among other tribes such as Chakhar, Torguud, and Uzemchin. Deels are designed for different occasions and environments. The design also varies due to function. There are deels for ceremonies like weddings and holidays and deels for daily wear.