Malaysian National Costume
Although the collective name for the Malaysian national costume is Baju Kurung the costume worn by the men is actually known as the Baju Melayu as well. Originally the costume was quite simple in design but over the centuries because those wearing it have become a little more discerning so it has become a lot more sophisticated.
If you were to look back in history you will be surprised to find how the national costume of today differs from what was worn some 800 years ago. In one document from China dating from the 13th Century it is noted that the costume worn by the people of Malaysia in fact only covered the bottom half of the body. Then of course with influences from other countries coming in so the wearing of a tunic occurred.
In fact things changed and by the 15th Century when Islam was the country’s main religion it was important that all Malayans dressed accordingly. It was at this time that the traditional Baju Melayu came into being. Then later on the Baju Kurung was introduced however initially women preferred not to wear it because they did not feel it suited their figures. But by the latter part of the 19th Century it became popular because Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor chose to dress in it.
It is important to note that there are in fact two versions of the Malaysian national costume known as the Teluk Belanga and the Cekak Musang. There is one difference to note between these two versions of this costume relate to the way in which the neck of it has been cut.
When it comes to the first version mentioned above this particular Malaysian national costume has no collar whatsoever and the neckline has been stitched in a style called “tulang belut”. This particular style of the costume actually originates from the Island of Teluk Belanga, which use to be the capital of the State of Johor. As for the collar on the Cekak Musang this is a standing one and comes with holes for five buttons and includes two buttons for the collar.
Also the style of these costumes differs from the men’s to the women’s. For the men the Cekak Musang shirt generally comes with three pockets. One on the upper left breast and two at the bottom, whilst on the Teluk Belanga shirt you will find it only comes with two pockets, both located at the bottom. Also the mens shirts have long sleeves and with both of these costumes they will wear a pair of long pants and around the middle of the body is wrapped a “samping” which reaches down to the knees or lower. As for the “Sampin” which looks similar to a sarong this is normally made from cloth known as tenun Pahang diraja or kain songlet.
As for the women’s Malaysian national costume generally it is made up of a loose fitting skirt and blouse. The skirt usually reaches down to the floor and will have folds down one side. As for the blouse just like the men’s shirts this has long sleeves but does not have a collar and will be of a length that sits somewhere between a woman’s hips and her knees.