What is a Kebaya (Ker-bay-ya)?
A kebaya is a traditional cotton top worn with a batik sarong. Originating in Indonesia, travel and trade saw this piece of clothing spread to surrounding neighbours, including Singapore.
The kebaya is tailored perfectly to fit a women’s body. Traditionally it was reserved for royalty or nobility however in an era quite devoid of colour it became popular with its bright colours and detail. The kebaya became the outfit of choice for many a Nyonya (ladies).
The embroidery on a kebaya is delicate and intricate and feature flowers, birds and butterflies. The kebaya was also known to be, dare we say, elegantly sexy for its time, as the tops were so fitted, precisely contouring to a woman’s curves.
The kebaya was so chic in this region that in 1968 Pierre Balmain, a French couturier, designed the Singapore Airlines kebaya for what was Malaysian- Singapore Airlines (MAS). When the airline split up in 1972, Singapore chose to keep the elegant kebaya as their uniform. To this day the kebaya is still worn by the cabin crew of Singapore Airlines and we say it’s just as striking as when it first came out.
How many times have you turned your head to look at the Singapore Airlines flight attendants as they make their way through the airport?
You can try wearing a kebaya top – just leave the batik sarong behind and try it out with a pair of jeans and a white tank under. You might turn some heads yourself.