Malaysian cultural outfits
Baju is the term for clothing in the Malay language. Since Malaysia comprises three major cultures: Malay, Chinese and Indian, each culture has its own traditional and religious articles of clothing all of which are gender specific and may be adapted to local influences and conditions.
Traditional Malay attire for men is the baju melayu, a loose tunic which is worn over trousers and usually accompanied with a sarong called a sampin which is wrapped around the hips. It is also often accompanied with a songkok or cap.
Malay women wear the baju kurung, a knee-length blouse worn over a long skirt. The blouse is long-sleeved and collarless, while the skirt, called a kain, has pleats on one side. A headscarf is sometimes worn with this. Another popular traditional costume is the kebaya, a more tight-fitting two-piece dress. This is often considered less formal. It is worn by the female flight attendants of Malaysia Airlines.
Prior to the wide embrace of Islam, Malay women wore "kemban", which were sarongs which were tied just above the chest.
The classical everyday clothing for men in Malaysia is a short sleeved shirt worn outside the trousers, light-weight trousers and informally, sandals for comfort.
The Chinese women wear the cheongsam, a one-piece dress with a high collar, diagonally closed with small clips or toggles (fabric clasps). It sometimes can have slits at the side, as is made with a soft fabric such as silk. The cheongsam is especially popular around the time of the Chinese New Year and other formal gatherings (the fourth and fifth women from the right in the picture above). Older well-respected women wear a samfoo, which looks like pajamas with a separate loose fitting top fastened by toggles and ankle length, or above the ankle, pants.
Indians in Malaysia as with elsewhere in the world wear sarees, a cloth of 5-6 yards which is usually worn with a petticoat of a similar shade. It is wrapped around the body so that the embroidered end hangs over the shoulder, while the petticoat is worn above the bellybutton to support the saree, which can be made from a wide variety of materials. The Punjabi Salwar kameez is popular with women from northern India, and is a long tunic worn over trousers with a matching shawl. The fabric imported from India, made of the best quality silk is used in making saris. There are two layers to a sari: a long bright coloured "dress" decorated with colourful beads sewn on it to make it look more attractive, and a wrap, a piece of straight fabric draped around one shoulder which ties across the body around the waist area. Women with a high standing will have their clothing made from gold and silver thread with elaborate beading.
In formal occasions Indian men wear the "kurta", a knee-length shirt usually made from cotton or linen. The Indian men wear Sherwani, Lungi, Dhoti and Kurta-Pajama.The Sherwani: a coat like garment fitted close to the body, of knee-length or longer and opening in front with button-fastenings. Below the men wear a garment for the lower part of the body, baggy and wide at the top tied with a string at the waist, and tight around the legs and ankles.
The Lungi: The traditional lungi originated in the south and today it is worn by men and women alike. It is simply a short length of material worn around the thighs rather like a sarong.
The Dhoti: The most ancient recorded Indian drape is a dhoti. They require a piece of cloth which seems longer and larger than what was worn in the past, but their pleating is often simpler, and they are not adorned with belts any more. All dhotis begin with the same basic closing. It is the only drape that doesn't start from one pallav but from the centre of the upper border. The middle of the cloth is tied around the hips. Each end of the cloth is then draped around the leg on its side.
The Kurta-Pyjama: The Kurta or the top is a knee length colarless shirt which is adorned inmostly white or pastel colours. But today you will find Kurtas made out of the most wonderful and colourful of fabrics. Pyjama-are like loose trousers with a string tie at the waist. Traditionally white in colour.
Before the creation of ancient kingdoms, most aboriginal people wore bark costumes decorated with beads. In the times of early kingdoms hand-crafted textiles were used, and trade from other areas brought other outfits such as silk costumes, pulicats and sarongs, and jubbahs. The Orang Asli still wear clothing of natural materials, often out of treebark and skirt. Leaf fronds are sometimes crafted into headbands or other ornaments.
In East Malaysia similar clothes are worn. The Orang Ulu wear hand-loomed cloths as well as tree bark fabrics. Beads and feathers are used for decoration. The Iban are known for their woven "pua kumbu". Another well known clothing item is the "songket" of the Sarawak Malay. In Sabah the clothing of different tribes differs with different amounts, with tribes in close proximity having similar clothing. Notable ones are the Kadazan-Dusun straw hats for ladies, the "dastar" of the Bajau. Men from the Lotud tribe wear a headdress which has a number of fold points equal to the number of his wives.
Old Chinese immigrants who married Malays and adopted some of their culture are known as the Baba Nyonya or Peranakan Chinese. They wear "kebaya", which are hard-made lace-like trimmed clothing, often with intricate embroidery.
Those descended from the Portuguese often wear Portuguese-style outfits. Men often wear jackets and trousers with waist sashes, while women wear broad front-layered skirts. The dominant colours are black and red.
Baju Kurung Kedah – worn only by Malay women as a daily dress for married women. it is a shorter dress with three-quarter sleeves, so the wearer can move around easily.
Baju Batik – worn by men and women on a formal occasion. Usually colourful cotton printed in the batik or wax resist method of dyeing.
Baju Melayu – worn by Malay men, it does not have any buttons but has a special kind of button called a butang. The fabric used to make a baju melayu is made from either nylon, satin, or silk. Along with this is a songkok or kopiah, worn on the head. Songkok are generally a dark natural colour, and the kopiah is a white colour and represents purity.
Baju Kurung – a baju kurung is worn by women for occasions such as school (as a uniform) or to a wedding. It too is brightly coloured and can come in a variety of different printed designs. It is a knee length dress with a full length sleeves.
Baju Kebarung – is a combination of the baju kebaya and the baju kurung. It is loose and almost reaches the ankles; it is not one of the traditional clothes of the Malay, but an adaptation.
"Customs & Traditions." Fabric Online. 6 April 2007 <http://library.thinkquest.org/C004179/customs.htm>.
"MALAYSIA." Seameo RSIP07. 6 April 2007 <http://www.relc.org.sg/RSIP/rsip04/Malaysia/malaysia.htm>.