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Cultural movement seeks Indonesian women to wear, preserve kebaya

Masajeng Rahmiasri
Masajeng Rahmiasri

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sat, March 4, 2017  /  08:59 pm
Cultural movement seeks Indonesian women to wear, preserve kebaya

Model Ira Duati (center) shows her kebaya collection during the 1,000 Perempuan Berkebaya event in South Jakarta on March 3. (JP/Masajeng Rahmiasri)

Hundreds of kebaya (Javanese long-sleeved blouses and dresses for women) enthusiasts have gathered at the "1,000 Perempuan Berkebaya" (1,000 Women in Kebayas) event held at the Education and Culture Ministry building in South Jakarta on Friday.

Relevant community members and individuals with particular interests in traditional clothes were seen dressed in colorful kebayas for the second event of the Women in Kebaya Community (KPB).

Among them was Ann Julianti, a Jakarta resident in her thirties who came to the event as a representative of her community, Wajah Bunda Indonesia (Indonesian Mothers). "I want to show my support for kebaya preservation. I think we need to preserve this outfit because the current generation is leaning toward foreign culture more and more," she said, adding that she had always been fond of the attire since she was little, when she saw her grandmother wearing a kebaya daily to work in rice paddy fields.

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Kebaya enthusiasts gather at the 1,000 Perempuan Berkebaya event in South Jakarta on March 3.(JP/Masajeng Rahmiasri)

Ann also said that she was happy because she could confidently wear her kebaya to the event. "I am still not confident enough to be the center of attention if I wear kebaya daily," she said.

Ministry staff members, Lien D. Ratnawati and Watty Yusman, decided to attend the event together because they love wearing kebayas. “We wanted to see what the event was about. They said there would be a discussion about kebayas,” Lien said. Both collect many types of Indonesian fabrics and clothes. They also regularly wear kebayas as the ministry requires its workers to wear traditional clothes on Tuesdays.

At the Friday event, which aims to encourage more Indonesian women to wear traditional clothes, participants were welcomed to join a talk show about kebayas with historian Edi Sedyawati, designer Musa Widyatmodjo and practitioner Siska Sarwono. The panelists shared their knowledge about kebayas, such as the history of kebayas in Indonesia, types of kebayas and kebayas in daily life. There was also a mini fashion show initiated by community members and sponsors.

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"We want kebayas to be recognized as one of Indonesia’s national icons,” Kristin Samah, KPB co-initiator said, adding that such a move needed to be taken before it was too late.

Kristin also said that the community was currently trying to make suggestions to establish national Kebaya Day.

KPB was founded on Dec. 4, 2014, by female journalists and ex-journalists who love to wear kebayas. Although it does not have a solid structure, KPB has attracted more than a hundred members from Jakarta, Bogor, Banten, Yogyakarta and Semarang. (kes)