Co-founder and coordinator of Perempuan Berkebaya Telly Nathalia at an event to celebrate the community's fifth anniversary in Jakarta on Saturday. (JG Photo/Diana Mariska)

Indonesian Kebaya Should Be as Famous as the Japanese Kimono or the Indian Sari


DECEMBER 08, 2019

Jakarta. Perempuan Berkebaya, or "Women in Kebaya," a community of women in Jakarta who has been preaching the gospel of the traditional Indonesian blouse in the past five years, says that wearing the kebaya every day can do wonders to the women who wear it and also to its preservation as a cultural heritage.

During an event to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the community in Jakarta on Saturday, co-founder and coordinator Telly Nathalia said if more Indonesian women wear the kebaya every day, soon it will be as famous and identifiable as the Japanese kimono or the Indian sari. 

"It's a symbol of our identity. Wearing the kebaya screams, 'We are Indonesia,'" Telly said.

The problem is, many Indonesian women think of the kebaya as a complicated and archaic costume that befits only elderly ladies, restricting its use to wedding parties or national day celebrations.

But according to Telly, "The kebaya is very versatile. In the community, we teach people the right way to wear the kebaya so it doesn't feel restrictive. Women can easily wear it every day to the office." 

Telly said you no longer have to spend all night folding wirus (pleats) into your kain batik (wraparound skirt) to go with your kebaya. You can just wear it with a pair of trousers or even jeans.

According to the kebaya activist, millennials, who love exclusivity and self-expression, should naturally gravitate to the kebaya. 

"Each kebaya is distinctive. No two kebayas are the same. Same thing with the kain. Perfect for millennials who long for exclusivity and like being unique," Telly said.

The kebaya is an attractive statement outfit that could easily form a part of the Indonesian identity, according to Telly – if only local women wear it more often.