September 6, 2022  •  7min read

6 Types of Kebayas for Weddings in Indonesia

wedding kebayas

Kebaya has become one of Indonesia’s traditional garments that are popular for women. It’s been around since the colonial era and has become the symbol of Indonesia’s beauty.

What is Kebaya?

Kebaya is a traditional women’s blouse made of silk, cotton or brocade with long sleeves and openings on the front. It’s usually worn during formal occasions and paired with batik sarong, songket or other textiles from Indonesia. However, in recent years, simple kebaya designs have been worn in casual events, including in Jakarta’s government offices every week. Today, Indonesian brides usually wear kebayas during their wedding receptions.

During its early days, only the royal family and female aristocrats were allowed to wear kebaya in the ancient Javanese Kingdom of Majapahit court. The kebayas are mixed with kamben – a textile that wraps around the torso for extra cover. Later on, the commoners started to adopt the kebaya.

Types of Kebayas for Wedding

As a popular piece in the time of Javanese kingdoms, the Javanese kebaya style had made its debut in other kingdoms around Indonesia. The royals in Aceh, Johor and Riau Kingdoms and Northern Sumatran Kingdoms have adopted the blouse to represent their social status.

After centuries have passed, kebaya has been adopted by almost every region with its own type of garment. Every region also uses these kebayas for special events like a wedding ceremony where brides and guests must all wear kebaya on a special day. Here are the types of kebaya we can find around the archipelago today. 

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Kebaya Kartini

This is a famous kind of kebaya among aristocrats in Java during the 19th century, especially during the lifetime of Raden Ajeng Kartini, Indonesia’s national heroine. Kebaya Kartini is usually associated with the term “Javanese kebaya”, even though the two have some differences.

Kebaya Kartini is generally made from delicate, opaque fabrics and white is a popular color, as seen in some of lady Kartini’s pictures. The kebaya covers the hips with minor adornments like stitching or applied laces. The garment also features a V-shaped collar which resembles the Peranakan Encim kebaya. The unique thing about Kebaya Kartini is the fold on the front that creates a tall and slender impression of whoever is wearing it. 

The wearers of the Kartini kebaya can sometimes add a kerongsang, a metal brooch worn on their chest.

Kebaya Jawa or Javanese Kebaya

The classic Kebaya Jawa is an elegant piece with a simple design and a V-neck adorned. It’s usually made from opaque or semi-transparent fabrics that are plain or full of patterns with stitching adornment.

This kebaya type also comes in many materials like cotton, silk, brocade and velvet. The transparent one is usually worn with a matching undergarment like kamben, bodice or camisole.

Kebaya Bali or Balinese Kebaya

Like the Javanese kebaya, Balinese kebaya also features the signature V-neckline with folded collar. It’s a tight-fitting blouse made from semi-transparent fabrics, including brocade or cotton, with additional embroidery or lace. The fabrics are sometimes already adorned with stitching. The kerongsang brooch isn’t used too often and the Balinese wear a shawl or sash wrapped around the waist.

Balinese women wear white kebaya as a traditional dress paired with a sarong during traditional rituals and ceremonies. For their daily activities, they may wear shorter-sleeved kebayas. Balinese women wear a higher-end version made from high-quality materials and are free to choose the colors to wear for weddings.

Kebaya Sunda or Sundanese Kebaya

The Sundanese kebaya usually consists of brocade in multiple colors and is turned into modern kebaya for weddings. It’s a tight-fitting kebaya adorned with embroidery with a U-collar neckline and sometimes shows broad curves to show more skin.

The contemporary Sundanese kebaya has long lower back parts covering the hips and thighs. The wedding Sundanese kebaya even has a long sweeping train which is believed to influence European wedding dress.

Kebaya Peranakanan

The Peranakan or Encim kebaya was usually worn only by the Chinese-Indonesian women who lived in Chinese settlements in various coastal areas in Java. This includes Tuban, Lasem, Surabaya, Pekalongan, Cirebon and Semarang. Kebaya Encim differs from the traditional Javanese kebaya for its higher quality embroidery and offers a lighter and more colorful fabric made from imported materials like silk or linen. Kebaya Encim works well with batik pesisiran sarong, which comes in brighter colors and more eye-catching patterns.

Kebaya Encim is also famous in other Chinese ancestries in Malayan countries like Malaysia and Singapore, known as “Kebaya Nyonya“.

Kebaya Indo

Kebaya Indo, or Eurasian kebaya, were popular for European ladies during Indonesia’s Dutch-colonial era. Dutch women and Indos, descendants of European-Asians of high status, used these kebayas as a formal social dress and added signature lacy fabrics to the traditional garments.

During their time in the Dutch East Indies, the heat from the tropical region forced them to abandon their tight corset and made them wear comfy undergarments under their kebaya. These kebayas are likely adopted from the Nyai clothing, which are Indonesian natives who worked as housekeepers in colonial households.

Kebaya Indo differs slightly from the Javanese kebaya. It has shorter sleeves and lace adornments. The colonials usually wore white kebaya that were made of light fabrics and wore black ones made of silk during the evening. The Dutch women sometimes imported delicate laces from the Netherlands or Bruges for their kebaya embellishments.

Conclusion for Kebayas in Indonesia

When choosing a kebaya for a wedding in Indonesia, it usually depends on the region you’re staying in. For example, a wedding in Bali will only offer Balinese kebaya and the other kebaya types are hardly available. Ordering a kebaya for a wedding usually follows several processes where you must choose the color you want and then get your body measured before they sew the perfect garment for you.

Guntur author at Bali Wedding
Guntur has been writing tips and tricks for weddings in Bali since 2020. He has written everything from preparing a pre-wedding in Bali to the best wedding dress and makeup you should choose for a wedding in paradise.

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