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.