Exquisite Vintage Kebayas - the costume of the Peranakan culture

Peranakan, Baba-Nyonya and Straits Chinese are terms used for descendants of the very early Chinese immigrants to the Nusantara region of British controlled Malaya and the Dutch controlled Java among other places, who have partailly adopted Malay customs. A small group of Indian Peranakans (Chitty) and another group of Eurasian Peranakan (Kristang) also exist. Over the centuries, a unique Peranakan culture evolved integrating Chinese traditions with the customs of the host country - Malaysia as well the cultures of the ruler from Europe. There are traces of Portugese, Dutch, British, Malay and Indonesian influences found in the lifestyle of the Peranakans that is particularly visible in the food, furniture, home interiors and clothing. Malacca and Penang are cities in which this disappearing culture is still visible. The Peranakan Musuem of Singapore is exhibiting exquisitie antique Kebayas and Sarongs. The following images provide a glimpse of that exhibition. Purple Kebaya with embroidery and cutwork created to match the bird and floral motifs of the print on the sarong. Mid 20th Century.

The floral print of the sarong that has been "translated" into the alternate art form  of embroidery & cutwork.

The feature that lends grace to the Kebaya - the V-shaped tapering front

The fragile feature that adds to the character of the Kebaya - the stiff stand-up embroidered collar that adds a third dimension to the dress.

Fragile Green Kebaya

Flamenco Dancer Kebaya

The motifs of flamenco dancers and matadors on this Kebaya are considered to be flamboyant!

The use of an inverted musical note in the embroidery might affirm  the importance of symmetry in creating Kebayas.


Dark Blue Kebaya with unusual figure motifs, mid 20th century

Simple Kebaya with Antelope motifs, mid 20th century

Sky Blue Kebaya with chicks, mid 20th century

Two Kebayas with cutwork, mid 20th century

White Lace Kebayas - all mid 20th century

Images presented here are all of  photographs and Kebayas exhibited at ACM, Singapore.


April 2011

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.