The deel is a loose, claf-length tunic made from one piece of material. It has long sleeves, a high collar and buttons on the right shoulder. The deel buttons, if they are not commercially produced from decorative stones or silver, are narrow strips of cloth tied into intricate knots.
Each ethnic group living in Mongolia has its own individual deel distinguishable by its cut, colour and timming. These distinctions go unnoticed by foreigners but obvious to Mongolians.
Before the revolution, all the social strata in Mongolia had their own manner of dressing. Livestock breeders, for instance, wore plain deels which served them both summer and winter. The priests wore a yellow deel with a cape (orhimj in Mongolia) thrown over it.
There are basically three types of deel, each worn during a particular season. The “dan deel” is made of light, thin, bright materials and is worn by women. Male deels are just wider and in more sombre colours. The deel for everyday wear is grey, brown or some other dark colour, while the holiday deel is bright blue, green or claret silk with a silk sash of a constrasting colour several metres long. The sash is not simple an adornment; it also serves as a soft corset facilitating long rides on horse back.
The deel has wide, cup-shaped sleeve nicknamed “hooves”. There is legend that the Manchu introduced this style to make the Mongols the same as their horses. But it is a highly useful feature of the deel, protecting the hands from the cold and from injuries while doing hard work.