My First Baju Kurung

left: A group of Malay ladies wearing various traditional dresses on the first day of Hari Raya in 1960 (credit: http://vintage-kl.tumblr.com) right: A Malay lady in her traditional baju kurung. (credit: http://memori-kedah.com/)

left: A group of Malay ladies wearing various traditional dresses on the first day of Hari Raya in 1960 (credit: http://vintage-kl.tumblr.com)

right: A Malay lady in her traditional baju kurung. (credit: http://memori-kedah.com/)


Baju Kurung [bad͡ʒu ku-rung]

The baju kurung is a traditional Malay costume which loosely translated as "enclosed dress". It is a loose-fitting full length dress, consisting of a blouse, and a long skirt. The blouse is collarless, has long sleeves, and usually fall below the knees. The skirt has overlapped pleats on one side. 


Since living abroad for almost 6 years, I seldom wear my baju kurung. For some reason, donning the traditional dress is only limited to special religious occasions such as Hari Raya (commonly known as Eid here in the States). I still remember when I was in college, my attire for the first few years were almost exclusively baju kurung. Even during my working years,  traditional dresses were still one of my top choices. So what is it that has changed that stop me from wearing one regularly? For one, I'm a stay-at-home mom instead of a working mom. I don't go out as often as I did back in Malaysia. There are hardly any kenduri (feasts) to attend. I guess I could still wear it when I go for grocery shopping, but feeling self-conscious drives me to rather wear jeans and t-shirts: clothes that enable me to blend in with the rest. Hence, those dresses stay in my closet for the most part of the year. I haven't had a new one, made or bought, since I moved here. The old ones are still in good shape, and I can still fit in them. 

Yet, my take is different when it comes to the kids. Now that Sarah is older, and beginning to understand what's going on in her life, I would like for her to experience the tradition and culture that I grew up with. A simple thing like wearing a baju kurung is a start. I want her to be familiar, and comfortable in the dress. She has three baju kurung so far, and two of them are way to small for her now. She likes to wear them, and asks me to put them on her even when it's just a normal day where we stay at home. 

I've wanted to make a new baju kurung for Sarah since last year. I just didn't feel confident enough to sew one because there was no actual pattern that I could use. There are many tutorials online though, but most of their instructions are not clear to me. I did find a few which are comprehensible. The links are as below:-

Apart from the above links, I also used Sarah's existing baju kurung as a reference. The comparison that I made between the instructions in the links, and the actual dress helped me a lot in drawing patterns for the dress, as well as sewing it. 

This year's Hari Raya was the best so far since I got here in the States. There is a big Malay community here in Chicago, and our house is not too far from the place where the Hari Raya gathering was held by the Malaysian Students Department. It was a bummer that my husband had to work that day, but the rest of us spent almost the entire day visiting our friends who held open houses, eating our Malay traditional food, and catching up with each other. Here's Sarah in her baju kurung on the first day of Syawal. 

Wearing her baju kurung didn't restrain her from having a great time playing at the park next to the lodge where the gathering was held. 

It was a hot and humid day that day. Sarah's hair just went wild, so unruly, and frizzy. I asked my friend to braid her hair to keep it neat. She did a really good job, and Sarah didn't fuss at all about taking it down until we got home. 

And here's a picture of me and both of my grandfathers on Eid. I was probably the same age as Sarah, or perhaps a little bit younger. I need  to confirm with my mom about this one. 

NOTE: 

  • Type: Dress
  • Pattern: Self-drafted
  • Size: 3T
  • Date Started: July 11, 2015
  • Date Completed: Jul 14, 2015
  • Fabric: Jo-Ann Fabrics