Malaysia- Culture and Costumes!!

Malaysia, being a multi-cultural country is a true example of how different cultures can live and thrive together in harmony. The many cultural groups present in this country complement and influence each other to create a unique Malaysian culture. Each cultural group has their own traditional food, costumes and festivals that distinguish them from each other.

During the few days I was in Malaysia I got to experience and learn about the Malaysian culture as a whole and also about the different cultural groups that live in Malaysia. Being a fashion addict my main focus was to understand and get inspired by the traditional costumes and related art. I must say other than what I got to learn from interacting with the locals I found a lot of information about this topic from the National Museum (Malaysia) in Kuala Lumpur, the Malacca Sultanate palace Museum and also from the National Textile museum in Kuala Lumpur. So if you want to learn about traditional costumes and art definitely visit them and you will be surprised as to how much this country has to offer.

As the first in a series of articles (Hopefully!!) about Malaysian culture, this article will give you an idea about the different ethnic groups and their traditional costumes.


  • Orang Asli

Orang Asli is a term used to refer to the indigenous people of Malaysia. Their traditional costume is made out of natural materials such as the bark of the tree Ipoh and Terap and grass. They also adorn accessories such as head dresses and shoulder sash made from the same materials.


  • The India Community

The traditional attire commonly worn by the ladies is the Saree and they are usually heavily adorned with jewelry. Also Punjabi suit, zalwar kameez and cholis are popular among them. The men wear a Dohti with a shirt and shawl or kurti with pants.


  • The Chitty Community

The Chitty community commonly found in Malacca and Singapore are known as Hindu Peranakan community and also as Melakan chitty. The Chitty women usually wear the Kebaya Panjung or the Kebaya Pendek with a sarong and Men wear dohti with shirt or sarong or kain pelekat with a head turban.


  • The Serani Community

This community is of Asian and European parentage. According to the information given at the National Museum (Malaysia) the older women of this community wears the long Kebaya and batik sarong and the men wear Kain pelekat at home. During festivals such as San Pedro men wear jackets and trousers with waist band and ladies wear front layered skirts. The traditional clothes of this community are dominated by the colors red and black.


  • The Sikh Community

The ladies of the Sikh community wears the Punjabi dress or Salwar kamees and the men wear Kurti with pants and a mandatory head turban.


  • The Siamese Community

Malaysian Siamese community is of partial of full Thai descent. The traditional attire worn by both women and men are of Thai origin.


  • The Baba Nyonya Community

This community is of Straits born Chinese descent. The women of this community wears a elegant, vibrant and colorful Kebaya with intricate embroidery. The Kebaya is long sleeved blouse with bottoms in the front and is decorated with three broaches. They pair this blouse with a batik sarong and wear the traditional beaded slippers called Kasot Manek.


  • The Malay Community

Originally the Malay women used to wear attire called Kemban where a piece of cloth is wrapped above the chest. Then it got modified in to the Baju Kurung which is a knee length blouse worn over a long skirt which is paired with a head scarf or a shawl. For men it is Baju melayu which is a loose tunic worn over trousers. A short sarong known as sampan is wrapped around the hip and also a songkok is worn on the head.


The Kemban


The Baju Kurung

  • The Chinese Community

Women wear the popular Cheongsam, a long high collared dress with buttons near the  shoulder. These dresses are made of shimmering fabrics such as Silk in mostly bright colors.

So this is what I was able to find out about the Malaysian culture and their traditional costumes. Hope you enjoyed this article and if there is anything you want to add to this article feel free to comment!! 🙂






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