Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Malay Dress (2)

What do Malay females wear? LOL. Baju! What is baju? Baju was a word that I learned when I was a small girl. Pakai baju is instructing to put on one's clothes. Mana baju? is asking where are your clothes? Tu baju is pointing to a set of clothes for one to wear. Ni baju is saying these are the clothes I want to wear. Alright then, let's find out what Malay females like to wear ...

Malay females are the most clothed persons on Earth! They wear some of the most colourful and very fancy dresses that the world has yet to see and admire. They don't wear drab garments but they wear beautiful well-sewn clothes. Malaysian females always wear beautiful clothes, most are tailor made or custom made, not franchised pieces at retail stores. You don't find them at Coles, Woolworth or Calvin Klein stores. Their clothes are unique pieces and some are masterpieces. Let's see ...

How many clothes do Malay females own? Plenty! At least 3 cupboards-full! LOL. They love to shop for clothes. Malay females spend a lot of money on clothes! I have no clue how much Malay females actually spend on clothes, maybe RM500 over 3 months? Not done a good study on female spending patterns.


Kain baju means clothes, both top and bottom pieces.


The Malay female wears a top called baju. Baju can be of any style and shape, without or without buttons, colourful or monotone. There is baju Kedah, baju kurung, baju kebaya, baju kebaya pendik, baju kebaya panjang or baju kebaya labuh, baju kaftan (caftan), baju shirt, baju T-shirt, baju tangan panjang (long sleeves), baju tangan pendek (short sleeves), baju jersey, baju ko-ku (top for co-curricular activities at school), baju sekolah (school uniform), baju tidur (pyjamas or sleeping dress), baju mandi (bathing suit or swimsuit), baju kerja (work shirt or dress), baju sukan (sport shirt), ... (the list is endless). Most ladies prefer baju Kedah made with printed floral cotton materials, and the neckline is machine-embroided.


The Malay female wears a bottom piece called kain sarong. The usual kain sarong is a floral printed batik cotton cloth. This material is good for Malaysian weather which is rather hot and very humid, and the profuse sweat sticks to the thighs and body folds. The cotton absorbs excess sweat before it becomes moist and then soggy and turns smelly after a day's use. So the kain sarong needs to be washed daily and often is not worn for 2 straight days - it can't because it will be smelly from so much sweat! How many kain sarong does a Malay lady need? I would say many own a stack of kain sarong, maybe about 7 to 10 pieces. A good kain sarong may cost approximately RM18.00 each, and less if bought in stacks of 12; a dozen (satu kodi) or 2 dozens (dua kodi). When 4 metres of material is provided, a pair of baju kurung sews for RM20 in Kelantan. It takes approximately 2 weeks to get a pair of baju kurung made. For festivities, tailors take baju kurung orders 3-6 months ahead of its intended use. For special functions, festivities or a wedding, it takes a lot of planning to make matched sets of baju kurung for a family of 10. A few retails shops carry matched sets of baju kurung for family use. Some bridal shops rent out matched sets of baju kurung.


Some Malay ladies don't wear kain sarong and they prefer seluar (pants). Modern Malay ladies like to wear pants even though elderly Malay males may jeer at such preference. The stout torso of the average middle-age Malay ladies make it unsuitable for them to wear pants. Many Malay ladies have a problem with weight - are overweight or obese. It is impossible to slip into a pair of pants unless they are tailor made. Malay ladies prefer to wear dark coloured pants - black, brown, dark purple, maroon, dark green, etc. Some women like to wear cream or white pants, being careful that these do attract a lot of roving male eyes. Malay females are often shy and they tend to wear their tops over their pants, covering the entire buttock with their top, rather than tuck in their tops. It is rare that they will tuck in their tops and expose their bulges, front and back. Lately, Malay ladies have been seen wearing tights and leggings along with a loose top. Though this may well be suited for dance routines and workouts in air-conditioned rooms, it is not so good for outside use and they do seem out of place (tak kena tempat).


Malay ladies own some of the most fancy handbags and some of the branded and expensive ones. They mostly match their handbags with the clothes that they wear. Some official functions require them to carry a matching B/W handbag, or specify a colour for the handbags. A black suit will require a shiny black handbag. Many prefer big handbags but often there is nothing inside - just a handphone, some tissues, a lipstick, some cash and a credit card. It is not worth stealing a Malay woman's handbag.


Malay ladies have fancy footwear to match the clothes and occasion. They wear Japanese slippers and some young ones colour their toe nails. The younger ladies prefer high heels or high platform shoes and they don't mind showing them off when they try to painsfully do the casual catwalk. The older ladies prefer low heel open shoes or sandals and they walk well. Malay ladies have short legs, with short femur and tibia, so they tend to wear long dress to cover their legs and you can't see their shoes. But when they sit, and the dress pulls up a bit, you can see their shoes. You can also see their shoes when they climb stairs or when they take the elevator. You can see their shoes at the surau (prayer place) or mosque.


Many Malay females wear something for head cover. This can be a kain tudung or selendang (scarf). These come in many shapes, sizes and brands. In the 1960s, scarves were translucent but colourful light artificial pieces. They were small and meant for children to wear when they go to learn the Quran at the kampung, often a little hut by the paddy fields. In the 1970s, scarves were thick dull black pieces that hung down to below the breasts. They were worn by some college and university students. Some ladies from religious groups also wore them. In the 1980s, there was a trend towards more colourful long scarves, some plain, some with beads and gemstones, and some with embrodery. The old scarf was the rectangular embroided muslin called tudung bawal. Tudung bawal was RM15 each and became RM10. There are less of them today. In the 1990s. ladies wore more colourful scarves, more fancy and sophisticated. In 2000s, ladies were still experimenting with fabrics, styles and colours for their scarves. Today, in 2013, ladies have come up with even stranger and some prettier headgears. Many of the scarf styles have names. The more recent branded scarves are tudung Fareeda and some other. The genuine tudung Fareeda are RM200+ each, and customers have to queue up and only one customer is allowed into the shop at a time, and for 15 minutes only. The fake tudung Fareeda sells for RM65-RM70 and has 2-3 layers of colourful printed or plain silk material. These pieces sit on the breasts and are quite revealing, especially for busty women.


There are so many types of brooches and you can buy them anywhere in Malaysia. Some are cheap and some are very expensive. Most Korean brooches sell for RM30-RM60 each. The cheap fake ones sell for RM10 for 3 small pieces at pasar malam (night market). They are usually worn on the scarf, baju kebaya or baju kurung. The fake ones do not last long and are often broken and thrown out, and need frequent replacement. In the long run, it is more expensive to keep having fake brooches. Most Malay ladies will have at least 10 fake brooches and 1-2 genuine good brooches. The fake ones are the ones we often see on dressing tables in Malay homes. When male thieves steal from Malay homes, they tend to take the fake ones because the genuine ones are very carefully hidden.


Malay ladies like bangles and adorn their arms with all sorts of bangles. Some are just glass beads, others are real gemstones or gold/golden items, and some are magnetic or metallic pieces. Most are fakes. The real gold ones are worn to special official functions at the palace. Kelantanese ladies wear the most number of ornate gold bangles on both arms. They often start their gold bangle collection soon after puberty, when they are old enough to understand that "gold means everything to a woman". Their mothers are often gold bangle collectors too and this indirectly instills interest in gold bangles in their daughters from very early on in a Malay girl's life. The knowledge about gold and gold ornaments is passed down from grandmothers to mothers, and in turn from mothers to their daughters. The Malay women know more about gold, better than others! You cannot cheat the Kelantanese Malay women when it comes to gold - they know better! Outside Kelantan, the ladies don't deal with gold ornaments so much.


Malay ladies wear earrings. They have their ears pieced at age 12. The grandmothers do the ear piercing for them. This is done using a heated metal needle, the same one that is used for sewing clothes. The ear piercing process is called bertindik or tindik telinga. Girls do get intimidated when they reach age 12 and when it is their turn to be pierced. The Malay females wear their earrings throughout their lives, changing earrings whenever they get new ones from their fathers (before marriage) or husbands (after marriage). The pierced ears do suffer from irritation and inflammation, some resulting in painful episodes, often with pus. Most pierced ear problems go away with antibiotics application. Some stop wearing earrings altogether for health reasons and when they don't want ear problems. The pierced ear hole heal and close up, sometimes obliterating the hole, making it difficult to fit an earring again after long disuse. Application of some cooking oil will help to re-open the ear hole, with little pain, and the earring fitted once again. Intricate golden earrings easily accummulate dirt (scum, daki) and will need to be removed for cleaning. The earrings are washed with soap and water, and then air dried. It is best for schoolgirls who already wear earrings to continue to wear simple earrings so the ear holes don't close up and give them problems later. They can then wear more elaborate earrings after they finish school and start working. There are many types of earrings to choose from, from simple ear studs to elaborate mobile earrings. The simple ear stud is the subang. It is meant for children (young girls) and schoolgirls can wear them too. They are safe enough for daily wear and do not get tugged during rough play as in sports or field games. The elaborate intricate ones are worn by more senior ladies who are already working. They are also worn to special functions. Elderly ladies prefer the big but light ear studs (subang besar) as their ears are already sagging.

I'm standing 3rd from right, in blue-white baju kebaya labuh, high heels and blue scarf.
The Campus Director's secretary is in brown baju kurung and light grey scarf
I'm in black baju kebaya labuh and brown scarf
I'm on the left in black kebaya labuh and my blue scarf
I'm in pink baju kebaya labuh and light cream-grey scarf
My daughter (far right) and her school friends in their secondary school uniform at an outside function - stadium in Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Here, female school children wear blue baju kurung with matching kain baju kurung (sarung).

Diplomatic Corp Service

I have not made any of my posts to be of any use to fill the void for the diplomatic corp service (DCS) and medical missions overseas. I have just noticed that last night when my son Ibrahim got an offer for the DCS exam (to be held on 13 April 2013 at Ahmad Maher School in Kota Bharu, Kelantan). Affandi went frantic trying to recall whom we can obtain help from, for Ibrahim's sake.

Many of you may have sibs, relatives and friends in the DCS and medical missions overseas. Please respond (under Comments) so I can tailor some of my posts to help others in the DCS and medical missions overseas.

I can only recall when my own father was to be Malaysia's Ambassador to Germany in the 1970s, I was instructed by my mother to privately study German in Penang. It was quite difficult to adapt to her wish and I refused to learn a new foreign language, and my mother was very disappointed. Our schools don't offer or teach foreign languages and these will need to be learned outside of school hours from private institutions. Most schools overseas offer languages - French, Spanish and German. Many Malaysian universities offer languages but I don't know how useful these programmes are. Reading, comprehending, writing and translating a foreign language is hard if not tackled at a young age.

Administrative skills is something picked up from handling problems at the workplace. A fresh graduate will need at least a few months to be settled and happily working. Overcoming the initial obstacles at the workplace is a big stumbling block and most first timers find it intimidating and will often want to back out. They don't realise that a lot of problems crop up at the workplace because we have an artificial workplace created by unthinking people before us. Newcomers may need to slightly modify the old workplace and realign the work procedure before they will get to enjoy working with others.

Learning the cultures of other nations and fitting in at a new place overseas can be comforting, discomforting or intimidating for some. But there is the Internet and so many travel books we can buy and read about other countries. I'm sure kids love reading about other countries and want to visit them. Our school system may have this bit built-in or not, I'm uncertain. But I have heard of student exchange programmes, so these are already in place for kids who are keen on international exposure.

We can always fall back on the idea of 'Hijrah' and take the challenges at any workplace, be it local or foreign. It is actually up to us, to make good of any workplace and under any work condition. The world is a large working place. I almost forgot 'Katak di bawah tempurung' is something of old and we can do away with it. Now, we can safely say, "I wanna be myself and working for the world, at my place, at my rate". That way, we will always be able to adapt and adopt and fit in well, just about anywhere, for any job, at any time. I think that is the best attitude to take when faced with a new and challenging job offer.