Cultural expressions come in many different forms. It could be through their culinary arts, ancient art forms and performances such as cultural dances, or even through architectural design. Yet one of the most enduring forms of cultural expression is fashion, as evident in our baju tradisional Melayu. Even with modern interpretations, the traditional Malay attire has retained some of its iconic identity within its ever-evolving style. Let’s take a look at the different types of baju tradisional Melayu that are emblematic of our wonderful nation.
1. Baju Melayu
There are two types of baju Melayu which are the traditional garments for Malay men. Identified by their different collars, the Teluk Belanga baju Melayu features a simple single button round collar and is more popular in the south as it is historically worn in Johor and was even said to be designed by a former Johor sultan, while the Cekak Musang baju Melayu is designed with a hard, round collar and uses gemstone buttons, more commonly used in the central and northern regions of Peninsula Malaysia. The two variants of baju Melayu can be accessorized with kain sampin which comes in either the brocade design of songket or the checkered patterns of the kain pelikat. Men would complete this baju tradisional Melayu ensemble with a pair of open-toed sandals called capal.
2. Baju Kebaya
The classic Baju Kebaya comes in many different forms. There is the Baju Kebaya Nyonya typically featuring embroidered floral patterns and is influenced by Indonesian design, the Baju Belah Kebaya Panjang with its iconic brocade or songket pattern that was historically reserved for royal families due to the gold and silver threads used in its weaving, the Baju Kebaya Kota Bharu that comes with a shorter kebaya top and mermaid-cut sarong, Baju Kebaya Riau-Pahang with the Cekak Musang hard round-collar and last but not least, the Baju Kebarung which is a longer, flowy fusion of the form-fitting Baju Kebaya and the Baju Kurung.
3. Baju Kurung
After the more conservative Islamic influence reached Malaysia, Malay women became more moderate in their fashion. The Baju Kurung is a modest form of baju tradisional Melayu as it is loose-fitting and covers the body from neck to toe with a straight-cut silhouette. There are many types of Baju Kurung as well, such as the Baju Kurung Kedah with a shorter top and often paired with a batik sarong and is more popular in the north. Just like their male counterparts, the Teluk Belanga and Cekak Musang collars are also found in Baju Kurung designs. Finally, we have the Baju Kurung Pahang that is designed without a buttoned collar and historically also uses the songket brocade pattern.
While the baju tradisional Melayu has evolved through time while incorporating influences from other cultures around the world, such as the Middle-East evident in our Baju Kurung Jubah, or Japan in the Baju Kebaya Kimono, one thing is for sure – our cultural identity lives on through traditional attire, and we should all proudly wear our baju tradisional Melayu.