Pahang Traditional Malay Costumes

traditional Chinese costumes phototraditional Chinese costumes
picture of traditional Malay costumestraditional Malay costumes
traditional Indian costumes picturetraditional Indian costumes

Beauty and Elegance of Malay Attire

Pahang traditional Malay costumes as worn by the Malays today have been in existence for several centuries, and yet, while evolving rather slowly, they still maintain their elegance and popularity in the current ever-changing fashion conscious world.

However, in the beginning and in the old days, like most of the people of the tropical world, the Pahang traditional Malay costumes or attire of the people were simple -- they "are clad with a single piece of cloth". 

This was the description by Fei Hsin, a Chinese Moslem and an Arabic scholar who wrote in the "Hsing-ch'a Sheng-lan" in 1436.

He wrote an interesting account of Pahang and its people, extract of the text of which are as follows:-

"Men and women have their hair in a knot, and are clad with a single piece of cloth. Girls of rich families wear four or five golden circles on their foreheads, and the daughters of the common people use strings of colored glass beads instead."

P.S. - The "knot" above actually refers to the "sanggul" in Malay. There are various ways of tying the hair in a knot or locks, and one of the hairstyles of the Pahang women is called distinctively as the "sanggul Pahang" or "Pahang knot". 


It is said that costumes of the ordinary Malays in the olden days are simple dresses, but as time progresses, the attire evolved and became more sophisticated, while the wearers became more discerning in their fashion tastes.

malay baju kebayamalay blue-colored baju kebaya

For instance, Chinese chronicles described the attire of the Malays in the 13th century for both male and female as covering only the bottom part of the body, with no cloth to cover the upper body.

Later, tunics, which are simple cover-alls that are either short-sleeve or sleeveless, were said to be the main attire of the Malays.

And the pants or trousers worn were mostly in the "gunting Aceh" (Aceh cut) fashion, ending just below the knee.

The women folks, on the other hand, normally wear sarongs in the "berkemban" style, that is, by wrapping a piece of sarong around the body covering the chest.


However, with the growth of trade, and the importance of the Silk Route in China, traders crossed the Malay Archipelago from the Arabian archipelago and India to China by ships to sell their products

pahang traditional dresses picturetraditional dresses

And these ships stopped at the ports and villages along the coasts of the Malay Archipelago, that later bloomed into trading posts in south-east Asia. Goods from China, India, Middle East (Arab) and European countries were traded here.

And the foreign traders not only brought with them goods for sale and barter, but also their unique dressing and fashion styles.

The Malays were therefore influenced and exposed to various fashions and costumes from various countries early in their civilized state, and these foreigners have influenced greatly the evolution of the traditional Malay costumes and dress.

And when the Malacca Empire was at its height in the 1400’s, with Islam as the main religion, the Malay traditional costume, the Baju Melayu, was born, as clearly described in the "Sejarah Melayu" or "Malay Annals".

When they became more civilized with the adoption of Islam as their religion, the Malays slowly covered their bodies according to the tenets and teachings of Islam.

In Islam, when in public (in private anything goes), for the male, the body must be covered at least from the navel to the knee, while the female must cover fully her body except the face and hands.


baju melayu cekak musangbaju melayu cekak musang

In general, the male Malays basically wear traditional costume that is known simply as "Baju Kurung", or loosely translated as "Enclosed Dress".

Although Baju Kurung is the name for the attire for both male and female, in ordinary language, the female dress is referred to as "Baju Kurung", while the male dress is referred to as "Baju Melayu".

Two versions of the Baju Melayu styles are popular and commonly worn in Pahang and Malaysia.

One is the Baju Kurung Teluk Belanga and the other is the Baju Kurung Cekak Musang.

The main difference between this two fashion styles is the cutting style at the neck, where the Teluk Belanga style has no collar and the neckline is stitched in the style known as "tulang belut" ("eel's spines or bones").

baju melayu teluk belangabaju melayu teluk belanga

The Baju Kurung Teluk Belanga originated, as its name implies, from Teluk Belanga, in the island of Singapore, which was previously the capital of the state of Johor.

On the other hand, the Cekak Musang style has a standing collar with holes for five buttons including two buttons for the collar.

The Cekak Musang shirt also normally has three pockets – two at the bottom, and one at the upper left breast. The Teluk Belanga shirt normally has only two pockets both at the bottom.

The Baju Melayu is a loosely fitting shirt with long sleeves, worn with long pants with a "sampin" or "samping" which is wrapped around the middle of the body from the stomach to the knee and sometimes lower.

This sampin is usually a three-quarter length or full sarong-style cloth made of kain songket, tenun Pahang Diraja or other woven materials with traditional patterns.

red kebaya dressred kebaya dress
white baju kebayawhite baju kebaya dress


For the female, the Pahang traditional Malay costume and dress is the Baju Kurung, both of the Cekak Musang and Teluk Belanga styles.

It is therefore also loose fitting, and the long blouse with long sleeves is worn with a matching sarong. The sarong is normally of batik, Tenun Pahang Diraja or songket, but other fabrics and designs are also frequently used. 

kebaya dresses of female malaysmalay kebaya and kurung dresses

As Malays are predominantly Muslims, the head of the female is usually covered with a "selendang", "cindai", or "kelubung" - a piece of cloth or sarong to cover the head and neck.

Another Pahang traditional costume or dress for the Malay lady, besides the Baju Kurung, is the Baju Kebaya.

There are variations to this dress. But this costume is more "modern" and is more body hugging and worn either short - up to the waist - or longer down above the knee.

And it is worn or complemented with a sarong, usually of batik or songket, although other fabrics with plain and colorful designs are also popular.

But the distinctive Pahang Malay traditional costume or dress for the women is the Baju Riau-Pahang, sometimes called Baju Turki. This is a long gown styled dress, cut at the front with seven or more buttons and worn with a sarong.

traditional malay wedding costumestraditional malay wedding costumes worn by Zam and Etty

Well, I hope that you've learnt a bit on the delightful Pahang traditional Malay costumes and attires.

These traditional Malay costumes add elegance to the wearer whether he or she be a Malay or other races.

The Pahang traditional Malay costumes, like the Baju Melayu and the Baju Kurung, are normally worn during Malay weddings, traditional events and formal occasions.

And of course, these Pahang traditional Malay costumes or attires are worn with their accessories and matching complements, of which I will describe in another webpage.

Search For Hotels and Resorts in Pahang Here!

Visit the following webpages if you wish to learn and know more about Pahang traditional Malay costumes, particularly on: -

Or read here on Pahang batik, the traditional fabrics and dress of the Malays on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

Until then, as always...


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