As Eid or ‘Raya’, as we call it in Malaysia, comes closer, I succumb to the pressures of capitalist agenda – in other words, Raya Sales. Albeit not being Muslim, I’ve always enjoyed this festive season more than the majority of which we celebrate in Malaysia, Chinese New Year included.
Out with the old and in with the new, modernising the traditional baju kurung is something common. Too common, in fact. If you’ve gone through enough Raya Collections you’d know by now that most of the collections are just a selection of peplums, mermaid-style skirts and fitted silhouettes in different colourways. With dwelling in the past as a hobby of mine, I’m slightly sceptical when it comes to the modernisation of traditional clothing. Hence, my love for Malay traditional costumes.
A derivative of the Malay traditional Baju Panjang, the Nyonya Kebaya comes from that of the Peranakans or Straits-born Chinese. Though not directly linked to Malay culture, it is not odd to find a Nyonya Kebaya being worn during Raya. Essentially a sheer embroidered top paired with a batik-printed skirt, the traditional costume showcases both oriental influence and that of the Malay Archipelago.
In appreciation of its intricacy and detail, the decision to style Sasha in three variations of the Nyonya Kebaya was one that I did without hesitation. The first, a traditional Kebaya top in green with a Javanese-style batik skirt. The second, a slightly modern take on the Kebaya with a bright-coloured lace top – and the last is just something I put together for those who can’t afford a Kebaya top but have a batik sarong lying around the house.
Written and photographed by Jane-Menn Cheong
Model: Sasha Amira