Traditional and Trendy fashion in Malaysia
Fashion of Malaysia can be described as a clash and mixture of traditional Malay garments, conservative Muslim clothing and western influences. Malaysia is an ethnic fusion of Malays, Chinese and Indian minorities.
You will see Muslim modesty, interspersed with the occasional Indian Sari and Malay patterned garments, but mostly, globalisation brings familiar, casual outfits into the streets. The influences of western styles is pervasive and part of fashion’s foothold.
TRADITIONAL MALAY FASHION
MEN wear the Baju Melayu, which is basically a loose shirt worn with a pair of long trousers. A Sarung or Sampin is wrapped around the waist and left hanging half-way down over the pants. For the head there is a dark coloured fez-like cap, the Songkok. Frankly, I have rarely seen Sarung and Songkok outside museums or tourist souvenir shops.
Traditional WOMEN wear Baju Kurung, an Islamic compatible dress, which consists of a long tube-like skirt and a loose-fitting, knee-length, long sleeved blouse. There is also the Kebaya, a blouse, heavily adorned with brocade or floral pattern embroidery. I have also not seen that many of those traditional costumes on women here.
I presume they are worn more, when participating in national or cultural occasions. There is a trend to retailor the heavy Kebaya by avant-garde fashion designers, who focus on the beauty that lies in the décolletée and female waistline, so far neglected in Muslim fashion.
The result is stunning.
SCHOOL KIDS are wearing the obligatory school uniform. Male students are required to wear a collared shirt with a pair of shorts or long pants. Female students wear a knee-length skirt and a collared shirt, or the Baju Kurung with the hijab for Muslim girls.
Ethnic fashion fusion.
The Malay Muslima has to do without earrings and necklaces in public. Instead, girls often add a popular dangling hijab accessory.
How to wear watches and headphones Muslima style.
Muslima fashion couture at Suria KLCC, one of many cool malls in Kuala Lumpur. Make-up can make it up.
Modern Malays on the TV studio set and at the mall. The young and prosper have it all: golden watches, shiny handbags… as long as the headscarf is on, no one minds tight leggings.
The modern Muslima in Malaysia’s glossy magazines.
Arabic influx of tourists and niqab ‘fashion‘. Malaysia cashes in on Arab tourists.
After 9/11, Malaysia, the disputed Islamic state, has been successfully luring thousands of rich Arab holidaymakers to invest in the tourist industry.
BATIK is a traditional Malay craft and can look pretty horrible on garments, catapulting fashion more than 20 years back in time. I remember my green batik top with blue circles that I wore in the early nineties and thankfully not past that time frame.
Malay batik is mostly large leaves and flowers so as to avoid the interpretation of human and animal images as idolatry, in accordance to local Islamic doctrine. Malay batik is veeeery vibrant in colouring.
Malay ladies dressed up.
And their pink sisters.
Souvenir shops with all the patterns and colours you can imagine. In ONE place.
Batik meets Halloween.
This stuff is on sale for a reason. Only catwalk models look acceptable in batik. Maybe.
Buses full of tourists arrive all the time, to pay for traditional crafts at the MUZIUM KRAF, which in this case translates to SOUVENIR SHOP. Although I came here voluntarily on foot, one can avoid Muzium Kraf altogether, unless you are looking for something to freak out friends and family.
MUZIUM KRAF. Inviting on the outside, unexpectedly spectacular on the inside.
Welcome to the fashion horror show.
Some precious items are stored in glass cabinets. Maybe it is a ‘muzium’ after all. The ironing board could be part of the home economics exhibition.
Is this something you would want your kid to wear? I am thinking military and bath towel. One neat thing at the craft centre was the souvenir vending machine. Vending machine nostalgia is what Japan, the land of vending machine convenience, does to you.
The vending machine just made me think of Japanese style Tokyo Street at Pavilion mall and this sweet couple we met. Sugar dandy dress.
The craft design centre had an exhibition on Malay WEDDING DRESSES.
All the reasons not to get married.
Wife has no mouth.
Modesty is key. Outfit covers hands, so that attention is fully on outstanding breast detail. The right in contrast, challenges with balloon hips, bare half arms and a butterfly bathing cap.
TRENDY MALAY FASHION
Whenever we are in a country we stock up on our suitcase-wardrobe by taking on a mission. The catch (and a lot of fun) is to shop at local designers and fashion companies that produce and manufacture at ‘home’.
Our quest in Malaysia was to find ‘Made in Malaysia‘ couture. That’s just half the deal. To spice things up, we are the picky kind of trend conscious urbanites. We shall not buy terrifying souvenir-fashion, nor hide in traditional wear and about the batik alternatives… no way.
At first, it seemed like an impossible task with super malls and shopping arcades that provide well known western companies or alternatively feature the full range of Muslim wrapping.
KL Sentral Train Station is a huge bazaar with cheap but awful clothing.
‘Fashion’ advertisement. It is true that you have to get your calves sore to get past the Goodwill collections in Malaysia.
It wasn’t until we arrived in MALACCA CITY and made our way through a maze of three connected malls, that we came across two very neat Malaysian brands: NICHII and RADIOACTIVE.
At Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall shopping complex. What a name. I didn’t make that up.
You have to walk past many fashion fails at the Megamall to get to Malaysia’s coolest brands.
COOL MALAYSIAN BRANDS
Affordable fashion following latest styles and trends. It began in 1985 with just three boutiques in Kuala Lumpur and is now a chain, the equivalent to high street shops in Europe.
Quick screen snapshot, so you get the idea.
At Nichii I found the long sought after pleated hi-low skirt to show off some (finally) tan legs. The hi-low trend is the way to go for summer! I went with the whole pale pink palette.
Best buy for males really.
Established in 1997, Radioactive is a fast growing urban wear label in Malaysia. I am wondering about the name. Kuala Lumpur has got some elevated radioactivity levels – maybe a cry-out for public awareness?
Tomek expanded on his shirt collection.
‘This is not a toy‘ is written on all their shirt labels.
Shopping at the round gallery at Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall was fun. They had a great sale going and the stuff was really cheap but good quality.
When you buy something, a shop assistant will put all items down on a hand written receipt, which you present at the cash register to get another receipt and then your stuff, tape sealed.
Last but a tiny bit off the topic, I would like to post this picture for MW, who is a great fan of Ed Hardy. This shop can be found at Suria KLCC in Kuala Lumpur. MW and I like Hardy for his numerous books about alternative art, his dedication to Japanese style tattooing and non-tattoo based art forms, of course, such as printmaking and drawing, which have been applied to Ed Hardy fashion collections. People who wear Ed Hardy are special indeed.
I hope that now you do know what to wear in Malaysia!