The baju kurung is being reinvented with new silhouettes, cuts and patterns, writes Sushma Veera
THERE is something evergreen about the humble baju kurung. Traditionally worn by Malays, the baju kurung is now often worn by women of other races, mainly for its comfort and grace. It delivers that extra elegance with a dash of understated beauty and modest style.
The baju kurung has evolved with time, and what used to be a loose tunic matched with long skirt, now comes with various designs such as shorter hemlines and puffy sleeves.
The skirt also comes in different styles — wrapped, pleated, with or without slit. The slit can either be in front, at the side or the back.
Designer Leslie Variyan says the popular silhouette for baju kurung now is one that is cut closer to the body.
“With baju kurung, you can be totally minimal with no embellishment whatsoever and still look classy. Or you can be sophisticated with a heavily-embellished pair,” he says.
“Women appreciate that the baju kurung can be worn from work to a reception after. Giving the traditional baju kurung a modern twist allows this flexibility without looking outdated,” says Leslie who adds that the jersey baju kurung moden is also easy to care and is perfect for travelling.
The modern baju kurung incorporates techniques such as twisting, draping and ruching. He says new fabrics like jersey and chiffon are also used.
“Jersey is used because it is easy to care for. When you pack it in your luggage, you don’t have to worry about creases. A lot of techniques can be applied to a jersey fabric. “As for chiffon, its colours are very rich and the fabric can drape well, gathered and pleated elegantly. It looks great when cut on a bias,” explains Leslie.
In terms of colour, Leslie says the rich hues of ruby reds, emeralds, turquoise and such work best. “My choice of colours are vibrant and rich with prints ranging from floral to animal motifs.”
Echoing Leslie’s views is boutique owner Adilah Poya Ahmad Khairudin, who says more people prefer baju kurung moden as it is more fitting and in vibrant hues.
“Some are also trying to colour block, choosing different colours for the top and skirt. Everyone wants to stand out from the crowd. So they look for something that is different, versatile and that can be worn to different functions at any time.
“They just need to change accessories according to the occasion,” she says.
“Unlike baju kurung pesak, baju kurung moden is trendy and comes with different designs. The top will not have pesak but instead, it will have zip and darts while the bottom may be an A-line skirt, pareo style or mermaid skirt,” says Adilah of Poya Boutique.
This is what customers who walk into her boutiques in Empire Shopping Gallery in Selangor and Bangsar Shopping Centre in Kuala Lumpur will find.
“We have baju kurung for different functions like wedding and formal other functions. We also stock baju kurung for plus-sized women, up to 3XL.”
Adilah says the boutique keeps up with the market demand by bringing in the latest range. “We travel to Indonesia, India, Pakistan and China to source for different types of material and also ideas. We then tailor them according to local tastes and preference.”
READY TO SHOP
For those who have no time to shop and with tailors having stopped taking orders now, buying an outfit is just a click away.
Zalora Malaysia, for example, stocks Ethnic Chic, Rayhanah, Jovian by Jovian Mandagie, Mimpikita, Tom Abang Saufi, Jendela KL and Zaza.
“The great thing about being an e-commerce site is that we can feature a huge selection with different price range. Therefore we offer baju kurung from as low as RM69, in sizes from extra small to extra large,” says merchandiser Shasha Ahmad.
“We see a lot of interest in very elaborate baju kurung with heavy beadwork and fancy print. On the opposite spectrum, there’s also demand for minimalist baju kurung where the wearer is free to dress it up or down.”
She says the current trend is polka dot that comes in many variations, from micro to macro polka or mixed with graphics and floral prints.
But no matter how modern the baju kurung gets, its grace and modesty remain constant, making it a favourite now and for years to come.