Fashion blog that talks about the relationship between fashion and three distinct cultures - Chinese, Malay, and Mexican. In this blog you will see how current fashion trends have kept the traditional ways of dressing alive in their pieces
For this post, I'd like to share a more visual transition of the Baju Kurung and illustrate how current trends of the garment are inspired by Western/American fashion.
1. The Classic
If you're still wondering how a traditional Baju Kurung looks like, this classic look is your answer. Observe the cutting, the fabric and the pattern of the dress. One would say it's very modest and conservative, the loose-fitted blouse hides the shape of the woman's body and the length of the blouse hangs right above the knee. This is because Eid is an Islamic celebration, thus as a Muslim you need to dress appropriately and modestly to show decency. As for the fabric and patterns, cotton, satin and songket were most popular used to make the garments and usually the patterns are rather simple. Floral designs were quite common however, the colours of the flowers would usually blend in with the fabric.
2. The Colour Blocking
The classic design was in demand till late 90s and early 2000s, however lately there has been a gradual change in the aesthetics. We started to explore with more colours by matching two colours together or using bold and bright colours. Whether in subtle pastels or bold shades, this much-loved trend works perfectly on traditional two-pieces, flattering proportions and providing a festive splash of colour.
I would imagine they picked up the inspiration from Hollywood trendy celebrities, no?
3. The Peplum Inspired
Soon after, we enter into the Peplum fever! Peplum here, peplum there, peplum everywhere. I think it is safe to say that we were OBSESSED!! As you can see, the style was yet again picked up from well-known designers such as Dior, Armani and even the one and only Vera Wang. Although peplums were often sleeveless, Malaysian fashion designer, Jovian Mandagie made adjustment and created long sleeve peplums that comes with matching maxi skirt that exudes both flair and poise. This fresh new look became such a hit that every other baju kurung store were making knock-offs and inspired dresses to profit from the high demand. And while peplums are a fairly recent addition to the baju raya, they have since become a common feature on floor-length dresses and contemporary baju kurung alike. These decidedly feminine additions vary in drama - from longer, lightly pleated chiffon cascading atop mermaid skirts to voluminous structures that majorly accentuate the waistline.
4. The Mermaid Inspired
And just last year, mermaid skirt was the major trend in Singapore and Malaysia. Every Malay girl wanted to own a mermaid kurung of their own. There are two styles to love - mermaid skirt with a blouse or a long maxi dress with mermaid cut at the bottom. This was and still is a major hit because it accentuates the flattering hour glass body figure and gives the impression of being tall and slim. This new found elegance in the baju kurung brings out the classy chick in every Malay girl and it is definitely a to-die-for dress for Eid and even special occasions.
5. The New, The Bold and The Beauty
Today, these are the new baju kurung you'll find when Eid is just around the corner. You can find baju kurungs in all kinds of style, designs, patterns and colours that it's really a tough job to pick the perfect one. While traditional baju kurung are still available for purchase, the younger generation highly prefers these modern, chic dresses they consider as the baju melayu. The designs of the baju kurung has evolved so much with the influenced of Western fashion that while it has successfully refined elegance, class and poise, it lost the traditional essence of the original Baju kurung along the way.
For instance, such readjustments to the traditional garment has resulted in a far shorter blouse for the kurung. Instead of the knee-length, it now drops at the hips, exposing the thighs and occasionally the back. In my opinion, while the new designs are loved by the masses, such a change may also reflect the lost of purpose of the traditional garment to dress modest as rather than hiding a woman's figure, it accentuates further with the tight-fitting and body-hugging cutting.
While working on my research, I stumbled upon this cute illustration which perfectly highlights the changes the baju kurung has undergone through time.
So back in the 70s and 90s, baju kurung only had one common design as shown below. There's no fancy collar or fabric and the length of the blouse was knee-length long. It was simple and very modest. I would say the most popular fabric used then was songket and satin and although it remains as an all time favourite till today, new fabrics are being experimented to make the traditional garment. Since it's simple and rather plain, typically this classic design is known as the basic.
Also if you're wondering why is the right-most dress so different than the others its because that's a Kebaya. It's also a well known traditional garment worn during festivities such as Eid but it does not share the same category as a baju kurung. So we'll leave that out and look at it another time.
As time passed by, our grandmothers and mothers are introduced to new things and new cultures which then breeds the inspiration to improvise the designs of the garment. They were more adventurous at playing with new colours, new fabrics and new patterns on the dresses. Thus, today we see the use of two fabrics in one outfit such as lace and chiffon or even borrowing the design of the cheongsam collar and infusing it into the modern baju kurung as seen in the first outfit. Since we are constantly improving and creating better and beautiful modern designs, there's so much more styles to choose from now.
As of today, I think I have at least 10 baju kurung each with its own unique sophistication yet I don't think I'll ever have plenty. I mean just like our normal clothes, one can also never have enough baju kurung!
The baju kurong (or kurung) is a distinctive
Malay dress worn by both men and women. The term baju kurong is loosely
translated as “concealing dress” in Malay. It is a loose-fitting outfit that
covers the body without showing its form, consisting of a loose shirt or blouse
with a rounded neckline. The outfit is usually worn as a top over a sarong (for
women) or a pair of pants (for men). History dates back at least 200 years when
the first baju kurung was created by the Johor Sultanate and has prospered in
modern Malaysia, pointing to its popularity during the Islamisation of Malaysia
in the 1970s and 1980s. Over the years new designs have emerged however with a
tinge of Western taste to it.
For decades, baju kurung is worn during special occasions such as
wedding and Eid celebrations. One exciting aspect to planning for Eid is
selecting one’s outfit to ring in the festive celebrations. For some, the Eid
outfit is often planned several months in advance; custom designs and specially
chosen fabrics are sent to the tailor before Ramadan even comes around. While
some women still opt for this traditional version of the baju kurung, others
are starting to look for different designs to suit their personal styles and
preferences, and designers and retailers have been taking notice. Hence, we see
new and different combinations of fit, colours, motifs, embellishments and cuts
to the baju kurung today.