The kebaya is a hip length blouse usually with elaborate embroidery on the front lapels and the joinings to the back of the Kebaya around the hems. It has a v-shaped neckline and the front is fastened by three ‘kerosangs’ or brooches. The origin of the Nonya kebaya is open to speculation. It may have been derived from the Portuguese ‘kobaya’, a lace trimmed blouse or also possibly from the Arabic ‘abaya’, a type of tunic that opened from the front. Repeating patterns are embroidered on the piece as decoration. These include a European woman dressed in either purple or green holding a dove. These are further surrounded by lines of floral patterns and the piece is coloured in shades of green, purple and yellow. Floral patterns are further embroidered down the front hems of the piece as well as along the bottom. The kebaya was usually worn with the sarong, a length of cloth sewn together to form a tube, which was then folded into a skirt.

Early 20th century
Straits Settlements
Gross measurement: 72.3 x 129.2 cm
Accession No.
Collection of
Peranakan Museum
Garments and Accessories

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