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Baju Kurung for Exotic Looks 


A little history on this outfit-The Malacca Empire was enjoying its height during the 15th to early 16th Century until the Portuguese conquered Malacca in 1511. It was the strongest empire in the region then stretching from Sumatra in the south to Thailand in the north, and was a center of sea trade, with traders from India, China, Middle East and Europe coming and sailing to trade there. With the influx of foreigners to Malacca, they also brought with them their own fashion styles. These eventually influenced the Malay attire, which combined the flowing loose robes of the Arabs and Indians; trousers and pants of the Mongols and Turks, with the simplicity and elegance of the Europeans.


In Malaysia, traditional clothing was a lower body covering, the sarong, worn by both sexes. Men’s sarongs traditionally were plaid, women’s in floral patterns. The upper body covering for men is a shirt referred to as a baju. For women, it used to be a sheer blouse, the kebaya . Since sheerness is less acceptable, today the more accepted form of dress for women, the Baju Kurung, an ensemble of a long-sleeved tunic  like a men’s shirt and floor-length skirt accompanied by a head scarf.


The traditional Baju Kurung for women is worn with the hemline well below the knee. Styles slightly above and at the knee are seen in larger cities. The neckline is round with a vertical six inch slit at the front. This neckline is finished in herringbone stitching. The neckline is worn with a special single Baju Kurung button which is held in place by two loops. The baju has one patch pocket placed at the right hand side of the front panel of the baju.   In addition, women generally have a selendang,  a long scarf, which  is draped over the shoulders or around the head.


Indonesia is still a source of complex textiles, and the designs for these fabrics carry many symbolic meanings. Luckily, this traditional art is still practiced even in the face of westernization. Indonesia and Malaysia are known for textiles made with complex resist-dyed techniques; these include batik and ikat. Similarly, both Malaysia and Indonesia produce songket , a lovely complicated fabric with a supplementary weft of gold, silver and other metallic threads which can used in the Baju Kurung.   Accessories like piping and fancy buttons can also be added.  


The Baju Kurung may be the next version of the Shalwar Kameez which has been popularized on the subcontinent and in Europe, since the 1980s. With the eye catching fabrics, unusual detailing and flowing line the Baju Kurung is a striking outfit.  It makes the plus size woman a center of positive attention.

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