Trendsetting Classics

Time-honoured traditional wear meets mod chic … it’s time to snazz-up that wardrobe fashionistas!


The world of fashion evolves more quickly than a trip to the loo. And all manner of the human species continue to find their individuality by expressing it through these sewn together fabrics called clothes. Clothes that define us, so we can strut along the streets with the confidence of David Beckham or Zhang Ziyi.


Now, entering the last decade or so the vintage look took the fashion world by storm, with almost every home breaking out their mother’s outfits stored under piles of reeking moth balls (and we know you’re one of them). You mix and match vintage with whatever’s in your closet and et voila! You become the next modern vintage trendsetter in your hilltop village. Okay, okay. So you are a person of the world who lives in the most cosmopolitan of cities (haha).


Anyway, we actually LOVE the idea of combining styles of not only vintage, but traditional, timeless wear with in-fashion outfits. We think that the individual pieces which completes the traditional costume of the Peranakan (Straits Chinese) ethnic group from Melaka, can be gelled together with current outfits and accessories. Well, here’s our attempt at styling this theme:



Beaded Shoes/Slipper (Kasut Manik)



The Story: Handmade with love, these unique, bespoke beaded shoes or slippers have been worn by both the male and female Peranakans or commonly known as Baba and Nyonya since the early twelfth century. Nyonyas will show off their fine workmanship and intricate embroidery skills laboured into these walking pieces of art, as it is considered a refined trait and very marriageable material. Nope, we kid you not, about the marriage material part that is. As for the motifs, it ranges from floral to butterflies and changes according to the occasion. Cool, right?


Classic Ensemble: These shoes, either peep-toed or covered, were (and still very much is) worn with the Kebaya Nyonya, a sheer top bordered with delicate embroidery with an under-corset, and paired with a batik sarong skirt. Whilst the Baba’s wore it with a traditional Mandarin Jacket (Baju Lok Chuan) and loose-fitting pants. You can also pull off this look as it is still commonly seen locally during the day and at events.


Modern Twist: Slip it on with your casual #OOTD, pair it with your Little Black Dress, go boho-chic or high street with it (check out Coachella fashion for ideas) – with this chameleon footwear … the combination of styles are endless!



Kebaya Nyonya and Accessories



The Story: Okay, so let’s trace its roots back to the sixteenth century during the Javanese Majapahit Kingdom. When the kebaya top was just a dull, long, loose-fitting garb. Since we humans have a fascination for fashion, this exquisite combination evolved into similar yet different styles in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. The Peranakans have since adapted it from the locals and made it their own cultural wear. You will notice that the kebaya top has an intricate brocade that runs along the hem and front flaps. The sarong, worn like a long skirt makes it the perfect combo when paired with the elegant kebaya top.


Classic Ensemble: The sheer, sometimes semi-transparent top is worn over a corset and secured in front with a 3-layer brooch called a kerongsang. Modern versions have small buttons sewn in, so you can have an option, just in case you’re the careless, prick-yourself type. Then wear the sarong skirt and fasten it with a traditional silver or gold metal belt. Trust us when we say, this outfit will flatter EVERYONE of every shape, size and age.



Modern Twist (Kebaya Top): Wear it as a cover top on top of your spaghetti strap, corset or tube top with ripped denim shorts. Or pair it with skinny jeans for that semi-casual look. Be bold and take it up a notch by pairing it with an asymmetry skirt and calf-length boots. Yeap. This will get people looking at you for all the right reasons. It’s also a great top to wear at the beach over your bikini!


Modern Twist (Sarong): For that evening look, match it with a sequined top, corset or off-shoulder top. A short sleeved plain coloured blouse or top will make it casual or office-friendly.


Modern Twist (Silver Metal Belt): Don’t worry about looking like a WWE wrestling champion ‘coz you won’t. Just don this belt when you’re wearing your favourite pair of jeans, shorts,

playsuit or dress. It will surely add pizzazz to your entire look.


Modern Twist (Kerongsang): Pin the 3-layers across your blouse neckline to jazz it up. Line it up vertically on the left or right side of your plain top to transform your otherwise simple ensemble of the day. You can also wear it like a necklace … there are just so many ways to wear this!




So remember, when you’re in Melaka do get your hands on some of these highly fashionable items that can endure the test of trendsetting times.


About the author

Leave a Comment