|First time I wore a baju karung. This is |
the only baju kurung I have actually
bought myself. It is cotton, instead of
silk and has a very modern design.
Handing Over Ceremony
While in KB, we went to a mall where I bought my Celcom Broadband internet, and we bought kitchen supplies. In addition to the necessary kitchen supplies, we bought mini, cloth wardrobes/closets. My room came with a complete, wooden wardrobe with a mirror. So, why did I need to invest in another you may ask?
Well, because between Christina and I, we are now the proud owners of over twenty baju kurungs.
My American attire and style has indeed been replaced. If I am not wearing yoga pants, button down shirts or t-shirts, which I wear for after school hours, then I am in a baju kurung.
|Terengganu ETAs at a wedding in Marang. The women|
are wearing baju kurung, while the men are wearing
baju melayu. -January 2012
The baju kurung is a Malay, traditional costume. It literally translate to “enclosed dress.” The baju kurung is the national dress of Malaysia, but it can also be found in parts of Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. In the past, the costumes were just simple dresses. However, now as the times change, the attire has evolved into a sophisticated style and women buy them to match their fashion tastes. The baju kurung was actually influenced by people, style and products that came through what was then the Malay Archipelago during the 15th Century. As the people adopted Islam as their religion, the Malays slowly started to cover their bodies in order to obey the teachings and tenets of Islam.
In short, the baju kurung is a loose-fitting, full length dress that has a skirt and a blouse. The skirt has foldings on one side, and the blouse has long sleeves, extends to between the hip and knees and is colarless. Normally, the dress is made of silk. The silk is either imported from places such as Japan, South Korea, Turkey, India or from Malaysian states. Actually, my state, Terengganu, and the adjacent state, Kelantan, are most famous for their homemade silk. The culture of batik (fabric) and hand-designed fabrics is still strong and people take pride in it.
|My red, floral baju karung on Valentine's Day with my|
homemade sugar cookies. They do not recognize Valentine's
Day whatsoever, so I had to celebrate it somehow!
For instance, there are many little shops in Besut that made their own batik and designed fabrics, and students in school sometimes doing batik as art projects.
Many people probably know that my wardrobe does consist of many neutrals and solids and classic type pieces from the sales rack at Ann Taylor Loft, Gap, Banana Republic and Target. In contrast, here in Malaysia, my style now consists of the lively colors and geometric patterns that are expressed with the baju kurung.
The baju kurung is also often worn with a headscarf (tudung), especially in more conservative states such as Terengganu. In my town, all Muslim women over the age of 10 wear the tudung, and some girls as young as three wear the tudung as well. However, I do not wear the tudung, as I am not a Muslim.
When I tell friends and family back home that I wear a baju kurung everyday to school, I get a wide variety of reactions, such as “Holy cow! Isn’t that hot?!”
The truth is, yes it is hot, and it takes some getting used to. I also am not forced to wear it, but the community members, students and fellow teachers sincerely appreciate and are proud when I do. The alternative to me wearing a baju kurung everyday is wearing a long skirt down to my ankles, a long sleeve shirt to cover my elbows and a scarf to wear over a v-neck shirt.
|Four 1A students and I at Prophet Mohammad's|
Birthday Celebration. These students also bought me a
beautiful baju kurung, which I will wear in
future pictures! - February 2012
Honestly, the baju kurung is much more suitable and comfortable for hot weather, as it does not have seams hitting me in weird places, fabrics that soak in and show the sweat running down my back all day and cuts that cling to me when the hot air already makes it hard to breathe. I think the fabric, style and colors of the baju kurung make it more comfortable for teaching in hot classrooms all day. – Now, that is my interpretation of it. I know many people who would disagree with me. And for the record, would I rather just wear my sun dresses and skirts with a t-shirt or tank top? Of course, but that is not an option here. Plus, when will I ever get to wear such beautiful, colorful fabric again in my life?
Over the last three months in Malaysia, I see what a fashion statement people can make with their baju kurungs. People accessorize their baju kurung with a complimentary tudung, and jewels and pins to clip onto their dress and tudung. There are baju kurung shops everywhere, especially where I live, and there are baju kurung blogs, online stores and magazines. It’s a whole culture! In fact, everyday teachers bring in incredible batik swatches and magazines to choose and shop for new fabric for new baju kurung. It almost reminds me of the process of buying Girl Scout Cookies or Boy Scout popcorn.
|My first day of school picture!|
When teachers and students saw me wearing the baju kurung on my first day of school, they were so excited, because it is such a part of their culture. Thereafter, several teachers would bring me in bags of baju karungs, and two of my students each bought me new baju karungs. Although I do not accessorize it with a tudung, I do accessorize it with earrings.
I miss my wardrobe and style back home. However, if wearing a baju kurung everyday here allows me to gain insight into the Malay culture and allows me to connect more fully with the Malay people, while personally being more comfortable in extremely hot weather, then why not?
My cloth, blue wardrobe is currently home to my unworn, yet not forgotten American clothes. They sit there waiting for the days I take trips out of my town, so that they can be brought out again!
|My blue wardrobe housing my American clothes. The wardrobe|
is also partially broken, so if it looks like it is slanted forward, that
is because it is!