Thursday, November 26, 2009

Traditional wear - Baju Melayu / Songkok

Getting to Wisma Yakin, in Masjid India I had to wend through the busy crowds. It was noon when I made a beeline there to seek out the tailors of the Baju Melayu, a traditional Malay outfit for men and the songkok, headdress for men too. Wisma Yakin, by repute, is the popular place to get these clothings, especially during the month of Ramadhan.

It was a pleasant visit as I strolled into the shops. The shopkeepers gladly satisfied my curiosity as I asked questions pertaining to the Baju Melayu and the songkok.

I popped into Omar Ali shop, a family run business since 1948. Today, the business is in the capable hands of Omar Ali's daughter. There, Encik Abdul Rahman was busy cutting material for a Baju Melayu outfit. I found out he started as an apprentice at Omar Ali but today after 20 years of loyal service, he's done well.In fact, he's now the chief cutter. He says he only takes clients' measurements and cuts the materials. The sewing is passed on to another person. At a leisurely pace, he completes 7 -8 orders per day. Come big occasions like Hari Raya or Awal Muharram, the orders rocket to over 1000 and more !! I commented that business is good and he smiled in agreement.

The Baju Melayu is a Malay shirt with long sleeves, a standing collar and a pair of matching trousers. The samping (skirt) of the kain songket is worn at the waist to complete the dressing.

I learned there are 3 types of collars : teluk belanga, cheong sam and cekak musang. 'It was our Tunku who popularised the 'cheong sam' collar which has 3 button holes,'said Encik Abdul Rahman. However, the cekak musang collar, with 5 button holes is the most popular. The teluk belanga is collarless and it does not need any buttons. Customers can choose from a big variety of buttons - plain gold stubs, gem -like stones of various colours too.

In the shop are samples of the Baju Melayu shirts which are paired with different colours of the kain songket. This is to help the customer make their choices.Indeed, when the men stride out in their outfits, they look handsomely dressed.

There is a wide range of kain songket ( brocaded cloth) to choose from for the samping(' skirt'). Encik Abdul Rahman showed me the richly woven kain songket and he picked the most expensive. It costs a bomb! Did I hear RM 9,000.00? Well, it's hand woven and the gold threads make the intricate design so dazzingly beautiful. Hence the price.

He assured me the artisans from Trengganu, on the East coast of Malaysia make the best kain songket. Other kain songket are imported from Pakistan and India. Prices of course vary according to the materials and the intricacy of pattern of the gold threads.

For the young ones, there is the smaller version of the Baju Melayu and samping though the latter is already stitched like a skirt to make wearing easier.

There's no lack of songkok in Wisma Yakin. Shelves and table tops are stacked with songkoks, the traditional male headress. Black is the colour of songkoks worn, be it for weddings or funerals. The adult songkok size starts at 21 inches and the largest size measures 23inches ,the increment is one quarter of an inch for another size. It is made of cotton, velvet and some sport a satin border or varied colours of the kain songket.

The songkok is equally an important part of the dressing up for the men. Encik Abdul Rahman says business is brisk during the different important religious dates in the calendar year.

Skt. Ali Omar Ynus
17 Wisma Yakin
Jalan Masjid India, 50100 Kuala Lumpur


  1. i've been wearing baju melayu all my life , first time i ever heard a cheong sam collar.

  2. Comprehensive review of Baju Melayu. Thanks.

  3. Hi
    xplorer, I was surprised myself though I'm no authority on baju melayu at all. I clarified with en.abdul rahman - he called it the cheong sam' collar to distinguish the 3 button holes from the 5. Do correct me if I'm wrong. Hope that explains.

    Wan Hashim, thank you for dropping in .

  4. Its a lovely girls post today
    all fashion
    and so different like ours :-)
    Thanks for the information
    Have a wonderful day
    Anya :)

  5. Very colourful and beautiful fabrics. Nice introduction of the baju.

  6. Hi
    Anya, thanks for visiting all my posts, dear friend:)

    alicsg, I thought I'd blog on something that I have not tackled before to highlight the clothings to others too. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  7. Love the fashion post here and is the songkok also for women? the aeta on my photo was taken on a river cruise in one of the islands here, they perfom a dance for visitors.

  8. You've outdone yourself again, Keats!!!

  9. Hi Keats! Lovely pictures, interesting post!!

    Bilbao is at Blogtrotter for your joy. Have a great time!!

  10. HI
    Pacey, the songkok is only for men. today is another important day in the Muslim calendar. it is Hari Raya Haji and it marks the conclusion of the period of the holy pilgrimage to Mecca. I can hear prayers in the mosque nearby as I''m typing this. There is also a slaughter of goats to distribute to the poor etc .

    Veronica Lee, thank you very much:))

    GMG,am so glad to hear from you. thanks and enjoy yourself.

  11. Hi Keats! Wisma Yakin brings back memories. I used to work in the area. Such a festive air each time Raya approaches! And all those colourful baju! I love how Malay men are not afraid to wear pink, red, maroon or purple baju Melayu! They look even more handsome in bright colours!

  12. Hi ~Covert_Operations'78~, yes, the men can sport any colours and they look so handsome and smart! I love to see that swathe of kain songket for it makes it just so special.

  13. lagi pengen cuci mata tapi ga punya waktu, or yang lagi mau cari kado or hadiah buat orang tersayang...

    Hmmmm... mampir duuuuuooonkkk ke

    di sana kamu bakal dapetin BARANG BRANDED dengan Harga MURAH...

    Ada tas Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hermes, Gucci, Dior dll...

    So, ga nyesel deh...

    Rasakan sensasi belanja On line yang terasik jaman ini ;)

    CU There..


  14. hi keats.. nak tanye.. ade lg stok x untuk baju melayu dewasa warna kelabu size L,M dan kanak2.. kalau boleh pls bg ctc number..


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