Making and Wearing of the Baju Kurong

Category: Social Practices, Rituals and Festive EventsTraditional Craftsmanship

The traditional Malay costume is called baju kurong, which is loosely translated to mean "concealing dress" in Malay. It consists of a loose-fitting knee-length blouse, worn over a pair of pants (for men) or a long skirt (for women).

Baju Kurong at Geylang SeraiBaju Kurungs on sale at a Hari Raya bazaar in Geylang Serai, Singapore, 2005. Courtesy of Yeo Kirk Siang.

In Singapore, there are two versions of this costume. One version is known as baju kurong telok belanga which gets its name from Telok Blangah in Singapore due to the area's links to the Johor Sultanate. The other version is known as baju kurong cekak musang which is the more modern, common form worn by Malays in Singapore and Malaysia. The main difference between the two versions is that the former is collarless while the latter has a standing collar with holes for five buttons, including two for the collar.

The traditional Malay costume is worn both for formal occasions such as weddings and as informal day-to-day attire. However, the baju kurong worn on formal occasions is usually made from silk or brocade, while the baju kurong worn on a daily basis is usually made from cotton or polyester. During Hari Raya Puasa, it is common to see Malay families wearing baju kurong in matching styles when visiting their relatives and friends.

In the past, baju kurongs came in softer, muted colours with floral designs, but today, bright colours and patterns are favoured. Ready-made baju kurongs are available for sale at major fashion stores and departmental stores while tailors offering customised designs and options can be found throughout Singapore. Many of these tailors have turned to the Internet and social media platforms to promote their products and services. 

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