Indonesia has a plethora of traditional accessories and costumes that have been well preserved thanks to communal efforts and continued production. Here are eight popular Indonesian traditional clothes you might be interested in trying.
The pattern richness of Batik and the painstaking process required to create one are two of the reasons why the cloth is Indonesia's pride and joy. The historical values and philosophical meanings behind every pattern makes Batik even more valuable. The complicated technique and the elaborate precision must be done by hand to achieve the designs are a testament to our artistic prowess. This involves drawing the design with pencil and redrawing it using hot wax melted in an instrument that mimics a pen called canting.
Batik, which originated from Java, is globally recognized as a masterpiece from the old age. In fact, in 2009, UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Kebaya is the traditional Indonesian national costume for women. This intricate blouse-dress combination is believed to have originated from the Indonesian Majapahit Kingdom era. Originally worn by aristocrats of the kingdom, Kebaya was designed to give a more modest look for Indonesians and is usually worn during formal events. The outfit hugs the upper body and combines it with a straight-lined skirt made from traditional woven garments such as Batik or Songket, floral embroidery, a brooch, and sometimes ornate head accessories. With the passage of time, there have been many contemporary interpretations of Kebaya that are still deeply rooted in the original design.
Blangkon is a traditional headdress made with Batik fabric worn by Javanese men. Nowadays, Blangkon is famous among tourists as a collectible souvenir, a signature attribute to Javanese culture. The unique thing about Blangkon is that it combines turbans from Islamic attire with Hindu culture, reflecting the influence of both Hindu and Islam in the Javanese culture. Blangkon itself has four types, depending on their origins. These include the Yogyakarta, Surakarta, Kedu, and Banyumas types, all distinguished by their shapes.
Almost every Indonesian has this Batik cloth in their possession: Jarik. A versatile cloth that's fit for almost all occasions and purpose, Jarik has become an important thing in Indonesian daily lives, especially among the Javanese. It can be used as an undergarment, baby carrier, baby sleeping base, formal attire, among other purposes. For discerning onlookers, Jarik can also indicate the wearer's status from its pattern motives.
Pretty much like Batik but still very much different, Songket is a traditional fabric local to Sumatra island. The unique handwoven fabric consists of silk or cotton embroidered with gold or silver threads that help create shimmering effects.
Songket is traditionally still considered a luxury good as it was very expensive and was only worn on special occasions, such as weddings, religious ceremonies and cultural rituals. Many fashion designers today take inspiration from Songket for their more contemporary pieces.
Suntiang is Minangkabau women’s pride — it's a golden accessory worn by Minangkabau brides as part of their ensemble for their special day. It's made with actual gold and aluminium with up to seven levels of golden flora and fauna decorations. The weight can reach up to seven kilograms, and a bride must endure this heavy but lavish accessories throughout the day. The philosophical meaning behind Suntiang's grand design is it represents the heavy responsibility of being a wife. This intricate head piece turns heads and earns the wearer applause for enduring the weight throughout the ceremony.
Another fabric that is a signature to Indonesian traditional clothing is Ulos. Originated and developed in Batak, North Sumatra, this handwoven fabric is used for ceremonial purposes. Usually worn as a shawl, Ulos have a significant cultural value, usually in familial relationships. Ulos can be a family heirloom that is passed down through generations. Like Songket, Ulos is adorned with golden or silver threads within their weaving. Today, other than ceremonial purposes, Ulos serves as a popular collectibles cultural souvenirs in forms of bags, clothes, belt, table cloth, tie, you name it.
This one might be familiar to those who frequent Bali. Udeng is a headdress worn by Balinese men on a day-to-day basis. It is a form of respect for their culture and beliefs, but also serves to keep their hair neat. The different colours and shapes of Udeng has a meaning — sometimes it represents someone’s social status, and sometimes it serves as a ceremonial attribute. You can try wearing Udeng by finding one in one of Bali’s souvenir stores.