Photo *Heart* Friday: Kebaya tales

Friday, 7 December 2012

When I got married, I suppose the hubs and I came as close as we could to preserving our individual heritage. I am of Dutch-Indonesian Chinese descent, while my mother-in-law is pure Peranakan, and father-in-law is Chinese Indonesian. 

Most Peranakans are of Hoklo (Hokkien) ancestry, although a sizable number are of Teochew or Cantonese descent. Originally, the Peranakan were mixed-race descendants, part Chinese, part Malay/Indonesian.

I am so fortunate to still be able to enjoy the dishes which I grew up with right now, because my mother-in-law cooks the most awesome Peranakan dishes, with each dish bearing the familiar memories of childhood. Our two extended families are able to understand distinctive practices and norms, because there are common threads which bind us. 

The Indonesian kebaya and Peranakan kebaya have been worn for centuries, and bear striking similarities apart from a few variants. A kebaya is used for semi-formal to formal functions, and a casual vs. a formal kebaya is distinguished by its embroidery, brocade, and the richness of the sarong which is worn with it.

"...The quintessential kebaya is the Javanese kebaya as known today is essentially unchanged as noted by Raffles in 1817.It consists of the blouse (kebaya) of cotton, silk, lace, brocade or velvet, with the central opening of the blouse fastened by a central brooch (kerongsang) where the flaps of the blouse meet.  
The blouse is commonly semi-transparent and worn over the torso wrap or kemben. The skirt or kain is an unstitched fabric wrap around three metres long. The term sarong in English is erroneous, the sarung (Malaysian accent: sarong) is actually stitched together to form a tube, like a Western dress- the kain is unstitched, requires a helper to dress (literally wrap) the wearer and is held in place with a string (tali), then folded this string at the waist, then held with a belt (sabuk or ikat pinggang), which may hold a decorative pocket. 
... In Java, Bali and Sunda, the kain is commonly batik which may be from plain stamped cotton to elaborately hand-painted batik tulis embroidered silk with gold thread.
In the Malacca region, a different variety of kebaya is called "nyonya kebaya" worn by those of Chinese ancestry: the Peranakan people. The Nyonya kebaya is different in its famously intricately hand-beaded shoes (kasut manek) and use of kain with Chinese motive batik or imported printed or hand-painted Chinese silks." - source: Kebaya

An Indonesian kebaya was part of my wedding trousseau, and worn during the tea ceremony.

Indonesian wedding kebaya
Indonesian kebaya
Now that I'm married to a Peranakan descendant, I am indeed fortunate to also be able to don the rich hues of the Nonya version 'legitimately', especially since it has taken the modern fashion world by storm, and is worn with jeans, denim skirts, and whatever variation that fashion designers can incorporate into its traditional design.

Sarong Kebaya and Kasut Manek
Hand embroidered kebaya and sarong (left)
Intricate hand-made bead slippers (kasut manek).
My mother-in-law and I in the traditional Nonya Kebaya.
I'm in love with the current 'heritage trend'. Suddenly it's so 'in' to be seen wearing traditional clothes. It’s cool without making me look like I've tried to hard to be sexy; it’s feminine, and it's easy to wear. Best of all... it hides all those post-baby bulge(s)!

22 comments :

  1. Nice nice! Both my grandmothers are Peranakans too! Does that make me Peranakan as well? :p I wore the Nonya Kebaya to my JC prom - coz my maternal grandma passed away that year. Should go see if I still have pix of that night!

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    1. Yes it does! Once a Nonya, always a Nonya ;)

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  2. Fwah! HAWT HAWT HAWT! I love the Peranakan culture - the food (of course) and the clothe. Love the Indon lacy version but I love the bottom pic with the bright cobalt blue. The mix of colours is very nice!

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    1. Alicia!!

      Thanks ah... you look Hawt-er without clothes as in your pic leh ;)

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  3. Wolf whistle! You look really good in that kebaya! :)

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  4. Looking gorgeous in both outfits! I love the Nonya Kebaya too.

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  5. You look great in the kebabya! Very feminine and elegant :)

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    1. Thanks Angeline, I'm hardly feminine... but I try lah! Hehehe

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  6. Looking lovely as usual, Regina! I wish I could fit in one of those without looking, erm...like bak chang!

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    1. June... WON'T look like Bak Chang lah! I assure you :) Just have to get the right cut and colour! I never knew there were different kebaya cutting also!

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  7. I love love love this post! I'm a very watered down nonya and this is my first time hearing the term HOKLO! I used to wear kebaya tops with jeans to work! :) one of my grand aunts conducts kasut manek classes but i think I have no patience to make a pair! Hehe

    The itsy bitsy sets are the cutest thinngs!
    Poppy had her first set at about 2 plus years old; I hope she will pass it on to her daughter!

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    1. I know!! Your profile pic on the slide with Poppy had you wearing the top with jeans! Image stays firmly stuck in my mind, cos that was when we got to know each other, remember?

      That's the good thing about kebayas... they are heirloom stuff. Most of my MIL's ones were all handed down 3 generations also. So intricate, nothing like the ones we see sold a dime a dozen now!

      I need me a girl. Hahaha! Somehow the baju lok chuan just doesn't look as cute as a mini kebaya does! Hahaha!

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  8. Not even 1% peranakan, never worn a kebaya before! Perhaps I shd try it for fun and pretend? Lol

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    1. Made, can! They actually are fun to wear, plus I think you can carry off the colours! Suits your personality leh!

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  9. I popped into j Manik yesterday at Jonker but couldn't afford a thing! Not even the kiddy sized ones...

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    1. Lyndis, I got these from my Godma... who incidentally runs a Kebaya store. If you are interested, I can direct you to her :) Not too expensive, plus they are all from her store in Malacca! Let me know, ya?

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  10. You ladies are so beautiful! Even aside from the beautiful traditional clothes. Thank you for sharing this!

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    1. Thanks Auntie Em!!

      For putting a smile on my face and for dropping by :)

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