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The Exotic Charm of Balinese Clothing for Praying also Ceremonies

Traditional Balinese clothing are colorful, extravagant and aesthetically pleasing. They are used for religious ceremonies and daily use. The clothing is different for males and females.

Years ago, the Balinese did not wear any clothing for their upper body. These days, women wear kebaya and men wear collared shirts. This is what the traditional clothing is today:

  • Male : shirt, kamen, saput, selendang & udeng
    • Female : kebaya, kamen & selendang

The look of Balinese attire has evolved but its value as a symbol of honor to Ida Sang Hyang Widhi, has been preserved. These traditional clothes are easy to wear and there are many shops in which to buy traditional Balinese attire; from traditional markets to modern concept stores.

In Bali there is no day going by without a ceremony somewhere.

It can be a temple ceremony, a ceremony in a house, a wedding, a cremation or another life cycle ceremony. Every ceremony goes with many colorful offerings and decorations in either the temple or the house.

Balinese are also dressed in their traditional clothing when going to a ceremony, whether it is attending one, helping in the preparations or just coming as a visitor. As you probably have seen around Bali, Balinese are dressed very beautifully when going to a ceremony. Women wear a very colorful kebaya (a traditional blouse-dress often made from lace), a sarong (a length of fabric wrapped around the waist) and a selendang (a scarf to put around the waist). These three items are always color matched and women follow the recent trends and fashion regarding color and model.

The staff of Volunteer Programs Bali are also often attending ceremonies. As community is of utmost importance for the organization, it is more than often that the staff is invited to a ceremony. This can be a temple ceremony in the village of one of the programs, a wedding ceremony of one of the student families or a bigger temple festival in the area of the schools or office. The staff usually goes to these ceremonies together, as a team.

Volunteer Programs Bali decided that it would be nice if the girls are dressed in the same colors when going to a ceremony. Therefore we went shopping! Going to a kebaya and sarong shop is always exciting for Balinese women. If you ask an average woman in Bali how many different kebaya they have, they probably can’t answer that as it will be so many!

Same as in modern fashion, trends are changing very quickly and it is of course important that women are wearing an up to date color and model.

While holidaying in Bali, you would have seen the local Balinese in their beautiful traditional clothing. The women wear white or colourful kebaya paired with a batik kamben which is very similar to a sarong, a sash tied around their waist and flowers in their hair.
The men wear white shirts, batik or songket kamben with an overlay called the saput. It comes with a decorative border and is usually white or patterned, a sash and a traditional headdress called the Udeng.

The kamben is wrapped differently for both men and women – men would wrap the kamben around their waist with a fold in the front while women will wrap it tightly around them to ensure that no folds or drapes could be seen.

While the kebaya can be made from any kind of materials, lace is the more popular choice these days. The kebaya is worn with a corset underneath, especially by the older women. White kebayas are more suited for religious ceremonies while activities and events taking place at the banjar. The village or family houses let the women express their colourful sides and wear any coloured or themed kebaya of their choosing. During village or town events, the Balinese ladies would sometimes wear matching kebaya and sarong provided by the banjar.

Balinese traditional clothing, especially kebaya did not previously exist in Bali. It came about during the era of Dutch colonialism of Indonesia and Bali. In the past, women would leave their breasts exposed while working around the house, going to the market, planting paddy and tending to the children. Of course, more modesty would be required for women attending prayers at a temple.

While the kebaya and white shirts would suffice for prayers, a more elaborate Balinese costume is required during more important events like weddings, potong gigi or teeth-cutting where those participating will don gold-plated headdresses and accessories.

For Women

The kebaya, worn by women for all religious ceremonies and weddings, comprises a long, fitted blouse made either of semi-transparent lace with a corset worn underneath, or of a sheer cotton decoratively embroidered. This is worn over an ankle-length kain (a long, wide rectangular length of fabric, tied at the waist) or a sarong (a rectangle of fabric with the ends sewn together to form a tube), often with high-heeled sandals.

Hair is sleekly pulled back, flowers are worn in the hair, and the finishing touch is a sash that’s fixed around the waist. Different traditions dictate how the sarong and sash should be tied.

For Men

Like the women, men also wear a kain or sarong – often in browns and blacks or muted tones – with a sash, tied to create folds at the front, along with a shirt (normally plain in colour) and a head-dress called an ‘udeng’.

Different kinds of fabric indicate the wealth and status of the wearer. Batik is the most popular for sarongs for both men and women, but ikat is also worn. Sometimes the men also wear a ‘keris’ or specially crafted silver dagger, as part of their ceremonial dress – the keris is believed to be sacred, having magical powers.

Different kinds of fabric indicate the wealth and status of the wearer. Batik is the most popular for sarongs for both men and women, but ikat is also worn. Sometimes the men also wear a ‘keris’ or specially crafted silver dagger, as part of their ceremonial dress – the keris is believed to be sacred, having magical powers

  1. The sarong visitors are required to wear prior to entering temples. Kamben is a cloth worn to cover the lower part of our bodies; it is tied around the waist and falls just right below the knees. For men, it is customary for the kamben to be wrapped from left to right, representing the good (dharma). Their kambens cover the legs down to the ankle, which suggests that men should cover more ground in supporting their family. As for women, the kamben is worn from right to left, a sign that the women are saktis, keeping the men balanced.
  2. When attending a ceremony, both locals and visitors are required to put on a white kebaya(for women) and a white shirt (for men). While other colors may be acceptable, the white that is typically seen in such events is meant to represent clarity and peace. It has become the color of traditional ceremonies, with ngaben— the Balinese cremation ceremony — being an exception, as participants typically switch the white for a black attire instead.
  3. Over a kamben, men are required to put on what is called a saputan. It’s a three-quarter-long sarongthat extends from the waist to the thigh, encouraging men to properly cover their private area.


Balinese Traditional Clothing for men

A number of clothing accessories are needed by men in customary dress procedures such as; headband commonly called udeng / destar, cloth cloth, camben cloth (wastra), scarf (umpal), belts, kris (for great clothing) and a number of ornaments that beautify the appearance.

When wearing the kamben cloth, worn in a circle from left to right, the height of an inch from the sole of the foot, in the front end of the fabric is formed folds cone down or called this fishing as a symbol of respect for the Mother Earth. Furthermore, wearing a cloth with a high height of the tip of the fabric recurrences, then tied using a shawl (umpal), which is meaningful to control bad things in humans, especially emotions.

Balinese Traditional Clothing for women

Of course there are several tools and procedures for different dress for women, equipment such as; literary cloth, senteng, bun / bun, prada belt (stagen) which is used wrapped around the hips to the chest, songket shawls, cloth tapih (sinjang) as well as a number of ornaments to enhance your appearance.

Sometimes some equipment is replaced by using a kebaya. The procedure for using a literary cloth stretching from right to left (as opposed to men), this is according to the magic concept of a wife to keep men from deviating from the teachings of dharma, the height of a literary cloth a palm of the hand from the ankle, then wearing a shawl tied with a knot of life is interpreted as magic and also can live menyamabraya (social).

The point is that whatever custom clothing is worn is neat, clean and polite. If you happen to be a tourist who is on a tour to a tourist attraction in Bali, tuck in your tour agenda to get an experience during a traditional photo of Bali.