Wearing her grandma’s 100-year-old baju kurung with care

Precious heritage: Juita, seen here at Mahligai Salikin Sidek, owns a 100-year-old traditional baju kurung that once belonged to her grandmother. — Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: Among former model Juita Jalil’s most treasured possessions is a 100-year-old traditional baju kurung that belonged to her grandmother.

Considering it a precious heritage, Juita has been keeping it for over five decades and even wore it several times when attending functions despite its outdated appearance.

According to Juita, her grandmother’s baju kurung has a classic look, featuring a scoop neckline, fishbone stitching and a front pocket, and its fabric boasts a satiny sheen with a golden checkered pattern.

“I have in my possession four pairs of my late grandmother’s clothes, two of which I still wear. They are really beautiful.

“Whatever it is we wear, it will not be considered outmoded if we know how to style it,” the grandmother-of-three said in an interview with Bernama.

Juita, who is TVET Malaysia’s bureau of development and skills training (teaching staff) principal, said her interest in classic fashion started when she was in her teens.

She was then staying with her grandmother who loved dressing up in traditional clothes and accessories such as brooches, hairpins and flowers.

“At my grandmother’s house, she had a special cupboard for storing her traditional clothes, jewellery and various types of selendang and songket fabrics, which she had classified when and where to use,” reminisced Juita.She added that she has her own way of taking care of her “aged” clothes to ensure they remain beautiful and undamaged.

Not all old fabrics can be dry-cleaned, she said, adding that some of the “heritage” clothes in her collection cannot be washed at all.

“For clothes that cannot be washed, I will wear an inner garment first before wearing them so that the fabric does not come into direct contact with my skin and sweat.

“After I have worn them, I will gently wipe them with a damp cloth before airing them out for a few days in a shaded area,” she added.

Juita also said that as they know her love of heritage items, her collection also includes selendang and songket given by her friends, which she styles with antique accessories like earrings and rings with classic designs.

She said antique accessories are now hard to find in the market and that they need special care to maintain their lustre.

“People don’t make these old items anymore, which is why I love them. It’s not something you can go to the supermarket and buy because it is very valuable.

“Even if I don’t wear them, I will take them out, wipe them and then store them in pouches.

“When we wear any traditional dress, whether it’s a baju kurung, kebaya, cheongsam or saree, together with all the accessories, we will feel like a princess.

“It shows we have class even if the accessories are small like earrings and rings,” she said, adding that she plans to pass her accessories down to her daughters.

Juita also loves the works of designer Salikin Sidek whose creations, she says, retain the traditional characteristics of yesteryear fashion.

“I always collaborate with Salikin and have been showcasing his designs since I got involved in modelling.

“Salikin has been championing traditional fashion for the past 40 years,” she said, expressing her hope that young fashion designers will continue his efforts in maintaining the appeal of traditional Malay fashion.

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