From Glamorous to Everyday Use: Kebaya as the Medium of Women's Self-Expression


  • Nita Trismaya Sekolah Tinggi Desain Interstudi




The Kebaya as a national costume of Indonesia has experienced a shift in its form, function and meaning upon entering the post-reform period. This shift has made an impact on changing the 'classic' kebaya model which follows the traditional pakem standard to a 'modern' kebaya that has more freedom in its design. One of the styles of the modern kebaya is: the 'party kebaya '. Since the 'classic' kebaya is considered impractical, outdated and anti-fashion, so the  'party kebaya ' is more preferable to be worn for various occasions such as weddings, parties, graduations and the like. However, unfortunately the design of  the 'party kebaya' tends to ignore the pakem standard, so that sometimes the outfit can no longer be considered as the traditional 'kebaya'. In observing this phenomenon, women from kebaya associations who were concerned about  preserving the tradition of wearing the kebaya have introduced the 'back to kebaya' movement as an expression of their concern. The model of the kebaya that they chose is the 'classic' kebaya that could be worn for daily activities, not the fancy 'party kebaya’. This raises the question: why do these women care about preserving the tradition of wearing the kebaya and in what way do they gain attention and raise the awareness from the public? This qualitative research applied the ethnographic method involving women who are members of various kebaya associations in Jakarta as research subjects and by observing them in their activities and their social media.  This research was analyzed with the concept of self-expression which is the author's interpretation of the theory of dress identity. This paper is aimed to present a novelty of the tradition of the kebaya from an anthropology perspective, as well as understanding it from the perspective of the women who wear the kebaya.