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What is Nyonya Kebaya?

9/30/2013 12:46:34 PM | by Anonymous

Clothing: Nonya Kebaya

The term Nyonya refers to the women of Peranakan Chinese and Baba-Nyonya whom are the descendants of the late 15th to 16th century Chinese immigrants to the British Malaya and Indonesian archipelago which is now the Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia. Nyonya is a Javanese loan honorific word that comes from the Italian nona (Grandma) means that foreign married Madam. It is because Javanese at that time had a tendency of addressing all foreign women and perhaps those who appeared to be foreign as nyonya hence they used that term for the Straits-Chinese women too.


Back then, the similar garment called the “nyonya kebaya” was first created by the people of Peranakan from Malacca and they wore it with a sarong and a pair of beautiful beaded shoes called the “kasut manek”. Nowadays, the nyonya kebaya is going into a period of revival and is becoming more popular among the non-Asian peoples.


The Nyonya Kebaya is the national costume of Indonesia but it is more accurately endemic to Sudanese, Balinese and Javanese people. A nyonya kebaya is a traditional blouse and or dress combination that is originated from Indonesia and were worn by the women in Brunei, Malaysia, Burma, Indonesia, southern Thailand and Singapore. Often it is made from sheer material such as the semi-transparent polyester or nylon, silk or thin cotton that is adorned with brocade or floral pattern embroidery. The Kebaya is usually worn with a batik kain panjang or sarong and or other traditional woven garment such as songket with a color motif or ikat.


The Nyonya Kebaya is part of the Malaysia’s Peranakan cultural heritage and it is a piece of art that has got it deserves appreciation and recognition equal to the Van Gogh’s or Da Vinci masterpieces.


Nyonya Kebaya is a figure-hugging, beautiful and translucent embroidered blouse worn with the batik sarong by the Peranakan ladies. It is a work of art, a heritage, labour of love and a traditional costume that is timeless. The attire can be worn for all occasions and it is alluring, sensual, glamorous, elegant and fashionable for all ages. However, the authentic nyonya kebaya is often comes with a price tag that is not within the budget of many people.


The kebayas are such a hot commodity among fashion designers but the sense of tradition is missing in many of the new fusion design and or it has hefty price tags of over US$263. In order to be properly dressed, a Nyonya will have her hair tied or clip in a “sanggul” (chigon) with flowers and gold pins. They are held together with a set of three “kerosang” which is the brooches while the sarong is folded and secured with a silver or gold chain-link belt.


On the other hand, a sarong is a large sheet of fabric that is wrapped around the waist and worn as a skirt for the women and men throughout the Southeast Asia which include Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. The fabric is seen as brightly colored or printed with intricate patterns and it is often depicting of plants or animals, geometric or checked patterns that can resemble the results of tie dyeing. The dyeing technique of the batik is usually associated with the sarong production. The sarongs can also be used as wall hangings and or other forms of clothing such as baby carriers, shawls, upper body clothing and complete dresses.


In other countries the nyonya kebaya is worn with other traditional knitted garment or batik such as songket with a colorful motif. The term Batik is an Indonesia Malay word that refers to a generic wax-resist of dyeing technique that is used on fabric. This word is originated from a Malay word for point or dot “titik” and the Javanese word “amba” which means to write. This is found in several countries such is Iran, Thailand and India, Sri Lanka however it is most popular among in the Indonesia and Malaysia in the states of Terengganu and Kelantan that are well known for its batik.

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