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A ‘Kebaya’ is a beautiful, gure-hugging traditional embroidered blouse (or dress) usually worn with a batik sarong that is usually hand drawn, stamped or printed dyed with various motifs and in bright colors.

Peranakan’ means ‘Child of local descent’. This refer to the children of the early settlers (Chinese, Indians, and Portuguese) who were likely to have taken local Malay wives.

The word ‘Peranakan’ is automatically refer to the Chinese Peranakans, known as ‘Baba & Nyonya’ since it is the largest community of Peranakans. Their common trait is that their womenfolk are traditionally all dressed in the ‘Baju Panjang’ and Sarong.

Now, the Peranakan Kebaya is mainly associated with the women of Peranakan community who are commonly known as ‘Nyonya’. It is mostly known as the ‘Kebaya Encim, or Kebaya Nyonya’. It originated from Indonesia. Today, the ‘Kebaya Peranakan’ is worn by the Nyonya throughout the Malay Archipelago – in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Birma, Singapore and Thailand.

The ‘Peranakan Kebaya’ is made from a sheer material, cotton voile or silk adored with embroideries. The Kebaya embroideries are sewn with combination cutwork. The intricate embroidery work usually takes weeks even months to complete it. These Kebaya embroideries are usually worn with sarong or batik.

Although the Kebaya has Javanese origins, it has evolved into distinctive out of the Nyonya and is considered part of the cultural identity of the Peranakan community in general. Mr Peter Wee, who owns a Kathong Antique house in Singapore and has beautiful collection of embroidered Kebaya, has inspired greatly and supported me to broaden my knowledge of these Kebaya embroideries.

I hope these traditional handmade product of Kebaya Peranakan (Kebaya Encim or Kebaya Nyonya) which each have been designed differently and made with loving care, as well as with creativity and uniqueness will be cherished forever and continually be preserved by today’s generations as well as the generations to come.


Nyonya Baba

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