In Indonesia personal appearance is guided by a number of factors. The most notable is cleanliness and modest dress which forms the hallmark of individual’s appearance. Appearance refers to all the things that individuals do to their bodies that have some potential to be recognized by others. Most people have the habit to take bathe at least twice per day. For instance, during the evening hours, when the weather is characterized by cool temperatures and most of the daily chores are done, most people bathe ate dress in the traditional attire (Ziyi, 2011). At this time, most people choose to relax or visit Designer fashions. This is a habit that is common among the urban youth. Moreover, most business men prefer wearing T-shirts and a tie. Others, such as, teachers and store workers put on uniforms. In the villages, most people like wearing T-shirts and shorts, or long cloths, which are wrapped around them. The urban women like to put on western dress for their daily chores while reserving their traditional dress for festive occasions such as religious festivals or weddings. Traditional attire is made of  fabric, which is printed by wax coating the areas which are not dyed. The authentic batik is made by hand, and batik produced in large quantity is even cheaper.

Men usually wore hats, which are usually a black felt cap, which were initially associated by Muslims. However, these have acquired a more secular national meaning. On the other hand, men usually put on sarongs on informal occasions ar when they are relaxing at home. On the other hand, women wore sarongs during formal occasions with  a long-sleeved blouse. In addition, women tie their hair with a bun or use a false hair piece which is attached on the hair. The women may also put on a long piece of cloth, which is usually draped over the shoulder. On less formal occasions, these long stretches of clothes are used to carry babies or objects (Ziyi, 2011).

Dress and dress making in Indonesia

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In most cultures, dress is worn to provide a visual attraction about an individual’s age, social class, social roles, as well as gender. Furthermore, people dressed in some manner to indicate some level of protection from much physical, environmental, or psychological influence. The mode of dressing also demonstrates some values and relationships or to indicate some symbols or meaning. In Indonesia, Kebaya is considered as a national heritage. However, there is a lot of speculation that regard to the origin of the kebaya (Chavalit & Maneepin, 2000). Some people argue that the kebaya originated from China, whereas others argue that it originated from the Middle East.  There are many people who believe that the Kebaya was a garment that was introduced in Indonesia due to the Chinese influence. This kind of dress was worn by women from the Ming Dynasty. The introduction of the modern kebaya was attributed to the emerging influence off the Muslim culture and the arrival of the Europeans. The kebaya became a formal dress for the European women in Indonesia, where it was made majorly from the mori fabric, but due to modifications, the designers later introduced the use of silk combined with embroidery to make it more appealing by adding design and color. The traditional kebaya required the torso of women to be wrapped with a long piece of clothing which is popularly known as a stagen (Chavalit & Maneepin, 2000).

Today, the most recognized kebaya is a tight fitting blouse, which enhances the torso of the woman, with some fold-back collarless neck and a front opening, having long sleeves with some type of semi structured fabric. This was the type of kebaya in the last century. The women from high classes would use the garment to wrap torso with the tagen, but the less fortunate women could use the end of the stagen and literally use it to wrap themselves. The women also used the semi-transparent kebaya blouse to be worn overtop the tagen, with the blouse being fastened with a brooch. A kain is wrapped around the body with pleats being placed in front of the body. Currently, the kebaya has remained entirely unchanged since it has become to be a symbol of emancipation of women, in Indonesia. Among the Javanese royal class, the kebaya were made of silk, brocade and velvet (Craik, 1994).

The Kebaya

In Bali, the Kebaya is much more recent history. However, the kebaya has been worn by women to define the social structure of the owner. Today, the kebaya is associated to the Indonesian nationalism (Ziyi, 2011). It is worn by a wide range of women from young to old and right across the main highlands of Bali and Java the women are wearing kebaya. Most kebaya fabric is made of floral motif, which is either printed or woven into the textile and the length range from somewhere to above the waist to below the knee. However, it always has long sleeves. The traditional dress among the Indonesian also includes a silk robe with a metallic thread that woven into the material (Forshee, 2006). This attire was used by the Minangkabau ethnic group, which hails in the highlands of West Sumatra. The Minangkabau people also put on headdress which is usually having buffalo horns shape. The other group which is the Toraja people, who hails in the mountainous regions of South West Sulawesi are usually putting traditional costume features that have elaborate beadwork and tassels.

Generally, the Indonesian is supposed to dress conservatively. Thus, in spite of the warm climate. Most people are required to wear long clothing, as opposed to the short sleeved shirts and T-shirts. In addition, the women would not receive warm welcome if they do not dress properly and conservatively (Forshee, 2006). On the other hand, when visiting a temple, individuals are required to dress in a manner that covers their bodies as much as possible. In fact, entering the mosque could be restricted is an individual turns up with the shoulders and the legs exposed. Therefore, the culture of the people of Indonesia is particularly crucial in shaping the meanings of dress and the choices made by individuals when choosing forms of dress. It is the wearer who assigns the meaning of the dress since the meanings are created, maintained and modified as individual’s deals with dress. Thus, it is up to an individual to assign meaning to the form of dress inorder to develop a consensus of the type of dress to be worn. Dressing is an essential part of people’s interactions, which is highly significant in defining oneself in communication and identity with other people. Over the last decade, the Indonesian women have increasingly chosen to adapt to the Muslim way of life by adopting a form of Islamic dress known as busana Muslimah. This is form of transition that could be seen as an index of contradicting or mutually exclusive phenomena. Thus, it has been observed to mean a rise in the Muslim tradition as well as consumerism (Craik, 1994).

In a wider perspective, the Islam fashion has been considered as a commodity of fetish of the Islam mode of dressing, which is more evident among urban dwellers. These are versions of long-sleeved and floor length attires worn with loosely fitted head coverings. This mode of dressing has become so common, demonstrating a tendency of trendy transformation of a sub-genre of dress as well as personal appearance (Hansen, 2004). The proliferation of the Islam dress, which is associated with the Islamic material culture, most in the urban areas of Indonesia is as a consequence of intersection of political, economic, as well as, cultural changes, which are tending to indicate some religious radicalism among the urban middle classes, in Indonesia. It also depicts some fewer social freedoms among the Indian women. Therefore, it is vital to understand the Islamic dress within the contexts of modernity and piety. Thus, dressing in the traditional culture has been changing as a result of cultural interactions, which has changed how Indonesians used to dress, over time (Forshee, 2006).

The Indonesian Buddhists

Among the Indonesian Buddhists of Indonesia, there is the tendency to wear yellow or white color, which conforms to the style of the modern dress (Tarlo, 1996). However, some like to put on the modern dress of their culture, but which has the colors of the Buddhist flag. Among the Buddhists, fashion is considered as an art and an attachment. Thus, fashion is seen as an acceptable interest in the arts and also gaining skillful interest in Buddhism. The lay people are seen to put on what they like, whereas the Buddhists who wear modern attire, particularly those who put on fashionable clothing indicate that Buddha adapt to their local cultures (Hansen, 2004).


The forms of dressing in Indonesia can be notices in the daily trends and occupation of individuals. This in turn indicates the practice as well as performance, which is considered the dressed body, which implies to the dressed body as both the subject and also describes the on the object of dress in practice. The people of Indonesia are tied to the turn of consumption as a site, which is demonstrated by the meaning and evident also in dress and dress making research. However, in the current dressing mode in Indonesia resembles the western style, with the traditional clothing only recognized during special or formal occasions. As observed previously, the Indonesian men generally put on sarongs. These attires usually have the checkered pattern, and mostly put on when at home or during informal meetings. In addition, these are sometimes put on in public. Moreover, men wore the sarongs when attending the mosques for the Friday prayers. However, for the formal national occasions, the attire that is put on by men is the batik shirts, or T-shirts, or a telup besklap. This form of dress is a combination of the sarong, when put on together with a jacket (Tarlo, 1996).

Women usually put on the kebaya, which is a beautiful attire, which is figure hanging . It is usually having floral motifs in bright colors. These attires were put on by the women on formal occasions while their hair tied into a burn. The women would also put on a selendang,  which were place hanging on one shoulder. The stretch of cloth was sometimes used as a head shawl or on less formal occasions, the selendang also served other purposes, such as carrying babies or other items. Finally, there have been little work conducted on dress and dress making though some researchers have examined the significance of dress in the context of the entire economic aspect with the unequal relationships between the actors.

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