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Traditional Costume - The Kebaya
The kebaya is the national costume of Indonesia, although it is more accurately endemic to Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese people.
The quintessential kebaya is the Javanese kebaya as known today which 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. Traditional kebaya had no buttons down the front. A typical three-piece kerongsang is composed of a kerongsang ibu (mother piece) that is larger and heavier than the other two kerongsang anak (child piece). The Kerongsang brooch is often made from gold and considered as the sign of social status of aristocracy, wealth and nobility, however for commoners and peasant women, simple and plain kebaya often only fastened with modest safety pin (peniti).
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.
A different variety of kebaya is called "nyonya kebaya" and worn by those of mixed Malay/Chinese ancestry : the Baba/Nonya or Peranakan people. The Nyonya kebaya is different, worn with its intricately hand-beaded shoes (kasut manek) and use of kain with Chinese motive batik or imported printed or hand-painted Chinese silks.
In Malaysia the Kebaya is rarely seen although the above pictures were all taken in Ipoh in the two or three years.