The nyonya kebaya has made its way back to the forefront of Malaysian fashion, thanks to the efforts of the Prime Minister’s late wife Datin Paduka Seri Endon Mahmood to promote the garment.
Fittingly, part of her collection forms one of the highlights of a kebaya exhibition now being held at the Textile Museum in Kuching.
Comprising eight exquisite pieces of white kebaya with various styles of embroidery, they take pride of place in the exhibition, jointly organised by Society Atelier Sarawak, Yayasan Budi Penyayang Malaysia and the Sarawak Museum.
Society Atelier patron Datuk Laila Taib, who opened the exhibition, said Endon’s contribution to the promotion of kebaya and batik, both in Malaysia and internationally, was exemplary.
“I have always been impressed by her dedication and drive for these projects which are now carried out by Yayasan Budi Penyayang.”
She also noted that the kebaya was not only fashion but a work of art.
“The intricate embroidery work on fine cotton, voile and rubia are executed with such imaginative compositions of floral patterns, birds, scenery and abstracts,” she said.
Yayasan Budi Penyayang chief executive Leela Mohd Ali said Endon’s white kebayas, which are being shown in Kuching for the first time, were very much in vogue among the Straits Chinese at one time.
She also said Endon’s collection would be exhibited in Melbourne, Australia, from May 3 to Sept 16.
The exhibition, which is on until April 15, features over 100 pieces of kebaya from the collections of 42 individuals, many of which are heirloom pieces.
Flowers and birds are the most common motifs used to decorate the kebayas, but there are several with unusual designs.
One shows children playing with firecrackers while two other pieces are respectively embroidered with prawns and grasshoppers.
In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, a fashion show was held which featured vintage and contemporary kebaya designs by local boutiques and designers.