Friday, 10 October 2008

The Journey Continues - the tale of the blue kebaya

As she walked down the stairs to show me what she would be wearing for Hari Raya in Geneva, my heart skipped a beat. It was as if the outfit was made for her, waiting for her to choose it from amongst other kebayas in the wardrobe. The sight of Kak Di, my niece, in that kebaya brought a flood of memories rushing back. The kebaya is four years older than Kak Di, and had made the journey from Malaysia across the oceans nearly 29 years ago. It was the kebaya that I wore for my wedding.

The start of the kebaya journey with Rehana (middle) carrying on the tradition.

Kak Di continues the journey.
In fact, I had been toying with the idea of keeping the kebaya back in the old suitcase I keep under the bed. After all, none of my girls could wear them anymore. It was a favourite with them during hari rayas and weddings. But this year, the girls had outgrown it. In fact, there are still several of my old kebayas and kota bharu with matching batik sarongs, still hanging in their closet. And these too have seen several rayas and weddings since I packed them in my suitcase for what seemed to be a very long honeymoon after just two weeks of getting married.

I seem to remember very vaguely the shopping trip to buy the material. It was in old PJ town. Not much thought was given to what kind of material I wanted for our special day, but I remember that I wanted something that I could wear more than once; something that wouldn’t look out of place at a function or a simple kenduri. I didn’t relish a wedding dress that would only gather dust in the wardrobe. So I settled for the dark blue lace, while he picked a lighter blue for his baju Melayu. And as an afterthought, a white lace to wear over my hair. No perms, no long hours at the salon, but a simple rinse and blow dry at home.

I brought several other pieces to send to the tailor, so I could wear them to visit relatives before our departure to London. And even those I packed with me, ignoring warnings that the cold London weather is not the place for thin flimsy kebayas. I even wore one on the flight here regretting almost immediately upon arrival, as it was below 10 celcius!

But it would seem that I wore nothing else BUT the kebayas here in London. The first airing for the blue lacey one after the wedding was to the Buckingham Palace Garden party. 22nd July 1982 was a warm summer afternoon - a perfect day for a garden party. With Aishah Ali and Dina Fuad, all in our finest Malay traditional costumes, we took a taxi to the Palace. Aishah was in bright red, I was in dark blue and Dina was in rich green. We nearly stopped the traffic. Never mind that we couldn’t get to see the Queen; we were too short and our path was blocked by people in tall, fancy hats. But I believe it must have been one of the Queen’s officers who asked us: Are you from Thailand? What a disappointment!

Anyway, the blue kebaya made another journey to the Palace Garden party a few years later and this time I was accompanied by Rehman. Another warm summer day and we decided to end the afternoon with a short walk to Harrods in Knightsbridge, for tea.

I wore most of my kebayas to work at the BBC World Service in Bush House, where a kebaya was certainly not out of place amongst Vietnamese ao dais, Indian sarees and the Burmese longyi.

Alas, four children later, the waist is just a fond memory of the good old days and most kebayas were banished in suitcases under the bed, including the blue lace kebaya - only to be taken out and stared at longingly, wishing for the return of the waistline.

But all was not lost. As the waistline grew, so did the children. The girls took to wearing my kebayas and in them I saw me, even if it was a fraction of me that I saw.

Malaysian students organising Malaysian nights too found my collection useful.

One favourite short kebaya of mine is one that I had made in Penang, for my graduation. I remember parting with quite a hefty sum to pay the tailor for the fine kerawangs, plus the kain batik susun to go with it. I was in that short brown kebaya, and had a flower in my hair, while Fati and Ena were in their best as well, and our picture appeared in the newspaper the very next day. Fame at last!Up until last year that was also a favourite with my girls.

Several kebayas were hand me downs from my eldest sister, a kebaya queen in her heyday, and these too made their way to the children’s closet. Nona loves Kak’s green kota bharu which I think will soon make its way back to Malaysia to see who else can wear it. Like the blue lace kebaya, the end of its journey is nowhere near.

The girls in hand me downs from Kak.

53 comments:

anedra said...

Ehhh..jangan la buang! Kak Dena pun boleh pakai apa!! KAHKAHKAHKAHKAHKAHKAHHHHHHHHHH!!

Kak Teh said...

kakakakakah!!! Mak teh gelak lagi kuat! which part of the word 'tak muat' dont you understand? I can lend you my kaftan.

AuntyN said...

Kak Teh & Dena

Kalau dulu kita pakai kebaya, la ni kita pakai kebarong lah. Tak payah dok risau pasai waistline tu... AN pun boleh tumpang sekaki hehehehe

The Inner refugee said...

Waaa Kak Teh u were so hot looking (eish, still hot also lah, hehe)!

Kak Teh said...

auntyN, ish kebarong tu lagi lah bermakna kita boleh makan sesuka hati tanpa bimbang dan was was!

the inner refuge, hehe - so hot that I am wilting! Thanks for the visit.

Pi Bani said...

Hmmmm... tang bahagian mana yang dah tak muat tu Kak Teh? ;)

Never wore a kebaya my whole life, and now is definitely not the time to start wearing one. Kalau body shape macam guitar boleh lah... tapi kalau dah bertukar shape looking more like a labu sayong, tak payahlah kan...

Pak Tuo said...

wadoi....!!!!!

mengancam Kak Teh!!!!

Wassalam

Madam Tai Tai said...

Kak Teh,

I love wearing kebaya too. However, these days it is a challenge to wear one as the perut has gotten bigger than the boobs!

Anonymous said...

Komen Pak Malim, kucing ray yang alim.

Sungguh cantik Kak Teh memakai baju kebaya, kata kucing ray sambil menyapu kaya. Saya pasti ramai orang terpikat, kata Pak Malim sambil memakai kain pelekat.

D said...

I'm sure you'd agree with me that young ladies in those days were much slimmer than ladies today? were you older than your girls when you wore those tiny kebayas? just wondering because i think I wore what my late mom wore when she was probably 12 years older than i was when i wore hers!(er.. is this confusing?)

Count Byron said...

You girls look resplendent KakTeh. I always love the kebayas, and the waistlines, too once upon a time.

I should have tried it when I was on stage he he, alas it would not match my mustache

Salam KT and family
CB

Royal Jester said...

Amboi, cantik betul the kebayas...i love the green kebaya kota baru,used to have a lot of my materials made into Kebaya Kota Baru, i think next year I will make one.memang lovely kebayas you have, I have hand me downs from my mum which i can still wear, albeit tangan pendek sikit coz I have extra long hands like a monkey, if I may add..heheh but the kebayas from way back then do have very intricate sulams which now would really cost a bomb.
Memang Nona manis la kak teh ni.hehehehhehe

chopstick said...

kak teh..
saya selalu tanya mak,kenapa tak simpan baju-baju kebaya dia waktu muda2 dulu.dan mak saya cakap,memang dia menyesal sangat sebab tak terfikir nak simpan baju2 dia yg vogue tu huhuhu...now,sangat jeless membaca entry ini...

wanshana said...

Kak Teh,

Waaaaa! So mengancam in your kebayas! You looked really lovely in them.

I have a wardrobe full of my old kebayas, waiting for me to go back to my "pre-anak 1" body. I've only worn most of them once or twice. But, wishful thinking, by the look of it. Body dah so disproportionate now. How?

And I don't think my eldest daugthter will be able to wear them when the time comes for her to want to wear them. As it is, at the age of twelve, she's taller than me! Hopefully, my second girl will want to (and can) wear them nanti. Kalau tak pun, boleh bagi kat menantu :)

Kak Teh said...

pi bani, rasanya tang bahagian pinggang tu celuih kat tangan saja kut.
We have always been a kebaya wearing family. Kak used to have loads and I think from her, the younger girls took to wearing kebayas. Lepas tu kebaronglah jadinya! But i think the kebarong is not much of a success, at least with me.

Pak Tuo, i left you a message regarding malay class - in the last entry. Do send me an email.

Madam Tai tai - keep them for your girls - jangan buang or bagi kat sapa-sapa.

Puteri Kama said...

Kak Teh - you look absolutely memikat in your kebaya and batik wiron. I remember 'this' you btw, since we last met just before you left for London almost 30 years ago. How time flies. and the girls, they look soo attractive macam nona-nona zaman 50/60s, era our mums and aunties.

Pak Tuo said...

Thanks Kak Teh,

I tak ada email address you.

Wassalam

Anonymous said...

kak teh,

cuba teka la ni siapa yang dok menerai kebaya2 turun temurun yang dok ada kat rumah kami la ni....
Siapa lagi kalau bukan Iman Najwa...raya ni dia dok try kebaya kota baru pink yang kak chik pass kat dia masa bulan posa tu hari and guess what? Setahun lagi dia boleh pakai dah!!!

Nisa

Manal said...

Even my mum, the egyptian lady was fascinated with kebaya back in the 70s when she 1st came to msia and it was what those ladies in their 20s wearing. So she got herself some few lacy ones thats not too transparent unlike kebaya nyonya. Towards the end of 90s and esp in 2000 and onward saw kebaya gracing everywhere and to those who doesnt want to show too much curves wud opt for kebarong, the looser version of kebaya. These days too, ppl including myself wud get those readymade kerawang and sequin kebaya cloth from jakarta or bandung. Cheaper and pretty crafy, halus buatannya. Kalau tempah sndiri very costly.

Anyways.....pheeeewwiiiiittt to that younger kakteh! Boleh nyanyi lagu: Siapa bilang gadis melayu tak menawan....

a malaysian in riyadh said...

Kak teh
I ni selalu potong stim kan. Belum masanya lagi nak cerita pasal kebaya atau baju pengantin turun temurun tapi kami pun praktis apa yang Kak Teh amalkan.

Kesian, anak bongsu kami yang baru 18 bulan kerana tak banyak dapat baju baru. Asyik dok pakai baju abang atau kakaknya berjenama Next, Adams, Mothercare, etc yang walau pun berusia 8-11 tahun tapi masih tidak pudar, tidak luntur dan tidak koyak.

Nona looks more like you, while her elder sister looks more like AG, kan? Our three children all look alike when they were babies. In their baby photos, it's difficult to differentiate them especially when they wore the same baby outfit.

aMiR

atiza said...

weeeewwwwiiiitttt...kak teh you looked so cung melecung in both pics...

Kak Teh said...

Pak Malim,

Terima kasih kerana puji, kak teh makan kueh sugee, tapi jangan puji banyak-banyak, kata tabby yang tidur nyenyak!

D, - they started wearing atthe age of 17/18 and now in their early 20's dah ketat sikit. When i was their age, I wore my sister's.

Count, hahaha, perhaps you shd have tried a kebaya or two. That might set a trend!

Kak Teh said...

royal jester, the kebaya will never be out of fashion, it is the evergreen of fashion. Only the price keeps going up!

chopstick, alahai, sayangnya! Dia bagi kat orang ka? Kalau yang ada kerawang2 tu memang mahal. My daughter is going back to search for some more. I have a friend who collects old kebayas.

wanshana, keep them! Bukannya kena bayar and you never know - mungkin anak menantu boleh pakai.

Kak Teh said...

puteri, was that how long ago? Gosh we have grown old, havent we?

pak tuo - zwan_uk@yahoo.co.uk

nisa, kak teh dah boleh agak daaah. sapa lagi dok menerai - nanti kak teh simpan untuk dia. Lepas tu pass kat Yaya pulak!

Kak Teh said...

Manal, during the malaysia week, ada orang datang jual kebaya yang berkerawang tu - memang mahal! tak mampulah nak beli - lagipun pinggang dah tak ada! hehe!

aMiR, our children too look verymuch alike whenthey were babies - tengok gambar tak kenal. I have another travelling shirt story - a batik shirt once owned by my nephew whenhe was five - handed down to my son when he was that age - then passed on to friend's son who camehere for three years - adik kepada Joe of Too Phat. When they left London, they returned the kemeja batik and by that time my Taufiq was born. He wore it when he was four or five. I will return the shirt to my nephew who is now a diplomat in geneva, when he has a son of his own.

atizam hahaha! I dont kow abt cung melcung, but thanks anyway!

Salt N Turmeric said...

cun betul tengok gambar Kak Teh pakai kebaya pendek. Farina pun suka pakai the old kebayas. I used to ransack my mom's old kebaya and managed to get a few of my grandma's too.
Nasib baik im the only girl so tak risau bergaduh. lol. Problem now is baru 6-7 years dah tak muat. How lah like this Kak Teh? I wish i have body shape like your daughters.

Kak Teh said...

Farina, I too cant believe that I used to have waist that small. And how on earth did I let it go? It must all the chocolates that I am addicted to! Haha - but I told my children, if it is any indication at all - they will be like me when they get to my age.

kay_leeda said...

Kak Teh,

Wahh...so cantikkk one you in the blue kebaya!! I like kebayas but didn't get to wear much of them. You knowlah, nak cepat to work, send kids to baby sitter lah back then, rushing here and rushing there. Kebaya didn't quite fit into the routines.

And now when life is not so rushed, the kebaya definitely doesn't fit well anymore. Ala-ala bluehyppo rupa nya nanti.

Guess they will hang in the closet waiting to be handed down to whom ever yang statistics nyer kebaya friendly...

Such beauties your two girls...must take after the Moms yah :)

Kak Teh said...

kay_leeda, when i started working at the BBC world service tu, i truly loved to dress up in kebaya because tempat tu macam mini UN - semua orang nak pakai baju kebangsaan masing2. and of course dari kecik tengok kakak pakai baju kebaya - bila dah besar, we all pun terikut2. hahaha -s ekarang baju kebaya and waistline menjadi barang yang lepas dalam kenangan!

ilene said...

Kak Teh, I wore a kebaya to my company's annual dinner and all eyes were fixed on me! My Malay boss had full of praise as I carried it well, if I should say so myself! And you know what, I could even do a twist in that outfit! Nasib baik sarong tak koyak! hahaha

Found some kebayas and sarongs in mum's wardrobe and my sister and I decided to keep them. The embroidery is too beautiful to be given away!

Kak Teh said...

Ilene, I wosh I can see you in the kebaya and am sure you looked swell at the company function. and you know what? your mum's kebayas, she'd want you to keep them. When you miss her, hold them close to you and smell her.
Take care, my dear Ilene.

IBU said...

Alamak... 'bergetah' sungguh lah Kak Teh! These days they have a different word for bergetah. Mengancam!!!

Half of my wardrobe is filled with baju yg tak muat, yg perasan sooner or later can muat. Looks like more of the latter. Terancam! LOL!!!

Cheers!

Kak Teh said...

Ibu, I think you still have a chance - masih boleh slim lagi . I dah putus harapan - no way I can regain thse waistline.
See you soon.

Kak Elle said...

Lain dulu lain skg kan kakteh?slim melim dulu waduh padan awang goneng terpikat:)

wah bagus kan bolih turun menurun baju2 tu ... sayang I never keep any of my mak's kebaya:(

Kak Teh said...

kak elle, i kept all those kebayas for sentimental reasons - the wedding, the days after the wedding, the graduation etc. These kebayas have takenme places.
Sayangnya kak elle tak simpan kebaya lama2 - mesti cantik.

Mama Rock said...

kak teh, funny that my mother in law mentioned to me why I never wear kebaya anymore while i was ironing my baju kurung on raya eve. kebayas seem to shrink in my closet and it will take a few more years before nadia can fit into them. hehehe, i like your picture with the flower in your hair :)

Life for Beginners said...

Those aren't hand-me-downs, Kak Teh... They are vintage couture or evergreen classics or a bit of the past destined to tell stories long into the future... :)

Kak Teh said...

mama rock, hahaha! I never though of that. So, it is the closet that tends to shrink our kebayas - especially around the waist! It has nothing to do with us at all! Good one.
Jahat betul closet ni.

Kak Teh said...

aaah kenny my dear, in your hands, hand me downs are gems with stories of their own to tell. I tell you, you can start off a yarn with almost anything. So how about a short story on: That's not a typo!

MrsNordin said...

Those are lovely kebayas you have there. Lucky you, your children could still wear them.

I always dream of my girls wearing my finest outfit/kebaya, unfortunately, the size don't fit them. Or, they think it's to makcik2 or datin to be wearing my kind of baju.

Oh well... when they're older, they'll now how to appreciate beautiful things.

p/s My kebaya pun are all stored in the cupboard/suitcases ~ I look at them once in a while, dreaming of the day when I could fit into them again.. sigh... life is cruel..

Kak Teh said...

mrs N, I think my girls mau pakai my kebayas because they are quite simple and my baju kahwin pun simple - tak ada lah nampak macam mak datin. I think it really served my wish - i wanted a very simple one yang boleh pakai selalu.

One day when they are older, your girls might want to try them on - and they might even like them.

lilian said...

Wah wah Kak Teh...down memory lane! The other day I jugak dug out my old photos and I saw legs that I have forgotten I had! Long, thin, sexy legs! Hahaha. Now, I kena belah dua satu kaki to make up that slimness.

J.T. said...

Hi Kak Teh

Oh lovely kebayas. I miss wearing those. I had a few pairs when I worked in KL. I felt more feminine in a kebaya. :)

I love this post. Reminds me that every object that we have kept long enough has a tale to tell.

Kak Teh said...

lilian, you are so farny!!!! One leg sliced into two and you get a slim- melim lilian with sexy legs again. But what about the other parts of the body?
You know I have given up. I am happy to see my girls wearing them to remind me what a glutton I had been - makan sampai lupa daratan! hahaha!

JT,I bet you looked stunning in those kabayas - I know that you have the figure and the height.
Yes, keep anything long enough and they have stories to tell.

MrsNordin said...

I forgot to tell you ~ you look 'cun melecun' in these old photos. Non-challenged by your daughters! No wonder AG kawin and terus bawak you lari ke London!

Kak Teh said...

Mrs N, thanks. How about some old pix of you? Kak teh teringin jugak nak tengok.

MrsNordin said...

No, kak teh. My old photos are really ugly! I tengok gambar lama u, puteri and busymum ~ you all look so pretty. I guess, women from your era memang cantik2 lah... sampai sekarang pun... :) (kasi angkat lebih sikit!)

pennyjane said...

Assalamualaikum kak teh! hope it's not to late to wish u n yr family, Selamat Hari Raya, minal aidin wal faizin. maaf zahir dan batin.

what lovely kebayas u hv! n u certainly hv the physique to wear it (eventho it was long time ago :p ). sungguh cantik! n how wonderful it is to be able to pass it down to yr children n even travel it across the ocean to yr relatives. a tradition that's truly meaningful. imagine if it's kept for yr grandchildren! it's a real treasure!

Kak Teh said...

Mrs N, gambar lamaa...tinggal kenangan. Dah tua ni, hai...nak tengok cermin pun tak mau dah!


pennyjane, thanks for the raya wishes and same to you too. Selamat hari raya! Yes, the material of the blue kebaya is still good. I am sure it can keep for a long, long time.

Argus Lou said...

So lovely, your kebaya suits are. I only have a couple of 'sarong tipu' with matching selendang from two trips ago back to M'sia.
Dark blue is beautiful for a lacey one, ya? So pretty lah Kak Teh! :-)
(I'm awaiting your autumn pictures.)

Kak Teh said...

argus, what is a sarung tipu? A sarung is a sarung..but of course if with help of zips, you consider it tipu, those you see in the pix are certainly the tipu type. I wish I had made them with elastic so I can still wear them now....bigggg elastic bands!

Argus Lou said...

To me (saje) sarong tipu is the kind with a 'belt' and a hole in the side-seam to aid easy wearing, and will 'expand' with one's waistline. But your kind with zip is much better at hugging the figure and therefore more flattering. ^_^

Kak Teh said...

oooh that sarung tipu!! My daughter brought back two recently for themselves. Now I understand. Hehe, tak tipulah, trendy!