The Nyonya Kebaya is more than a traditional Malaysian costume; it is also a Peranakan form of art, regarded by many as a valued masterpiece to be treasured from one generation to the next. The traditional Kebaya is a tight fitting blouse-dress often made from silk, Swiss cotton, or robia cotton, and paired with a batik or sarong. Similarly, todays Kebaya is also figure hugging, and usually made of India or China cotton, although most still prefer the higher grade Swiss Voile. Other features of a Kebaya include a fold-back collarless neck and front opening, as well as long sleeves with embroidered patterns.
THE DISTINCTIVE ART
The distinctive art of embroidering Nyonya Kebaya was considered an important skill for Nyonyas, women who descended from the British Straits Settlements of Malaya, to master. In particular, the ability to embroider one’s own Kebaya reflected a nyonya’s domestic capabilities and a good upbringing. Today, many women adopt a more casual wear and therefore opt out of wearing the Kebaya. Moreover, modern Kebaya may be worn with slight variations, such as pairing with Jeans, instead of the traditional batik or sarong.