Malaysia National Dress: Baju Kurung

Baju Kurung

Each region in Malaysia has its unique traditional costumes. There are national and classic Malaysia National Dress. Well-known clothing of the Malaysian community is Songket fabric made up of gold thread and silk.

The Baju Kurung is a conventional Malay attire since the 15th century, which means an “enclosed dress”. In Malaysia, both males and ladies’ clothes are Baju Kurung. The women’s dress is known as Baju Kurung while men’s attire is known as Baju Melayu. 

These dresses are the national costume of Malaysia and Brunei. In Indonesia, it’s among the numerous regional attires of the diverse country (it is located on the Sumatra Island – where various cultural Malays and Minangkabau females are wearing it). Also, it can be found in Thailand and Singapore.


In the 15th Century during the Malacca Empire, Malay men were dressed in simple costumes, a short-sleeved, close-fitting coat with skin-tight pants that ended in the middle of the leg. This attire is worn by males during the silat (a martial arts) performances (but it seems traditional martial arts attires or T-shirts with khakis are more common).

Tun Hassan Temenggong who lived in the 15th century in the Malacca Sultanate is the designer of men’s Baju Melayu. Temenggong means the leader of public security. His father was the prominent Bendahara (vizier) Seri Maharaja Tun Mutahir who passed away in 1510. His transformations are recorded in the Malay Annals or Sejarah Melayu. It seems that his attire was inspired by the different people who visited the country. The simplicity and class of the look are by the Europeans, the Turks and Mongols influenced the pants and trousers, as well as the baggy fitting styles (robes), are by Indians and Arabs.

He even designed the full length of the men’s coat down to the arm length. Tun Hassan Temenggong also created them with a very baggy fitting with a coat extending down to the feet. He stretched the shirt sleeves to the wrists and expanded the end of the shirt’s sleeves to create a relaxed-fitting style. The cut guaranteed that the sleeves of the shirt could be pleated up the arms for another look.

Men’s Attire

Up to now, the style and cut of the Baju Melayu have been maintained as the cekak musang design. This look has a standing neckline with holes for the five buttons as well as two buttons for the necklace. Also, it has three pouches, one of the left sides above the breast and two in the lower part. There are some minor changes discovered including the (Johore) design (from Teluk Belanga of Singapore), it has no neckline and collar sewed in the design known as the Tulang Belut (“eel’s bones or spines”). It has two pockets below.

Baju Melayu is paired with sampin (which is a Malayan sarong or skirt) which is draped around the center part of the body from the belly down to the knee and sometimes even lower.

The sampin is made up of tenun pahang diraja, kain songket and other braided materials with classic designs. 

Women’s Attire

The Baju Kurung is the women’s dress and it is usually baggy fitting full attire, which consists of a kilt and coat. The saree or skirt is from the long fabric with creases on the other side, the top has no collars, has extended sleeves and stretches within the hips and legs. The dress is made out of foreign silk from China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, India and Turkey. Kelantan and Terengganu are the eastern Malaysian regions which also produce silk and traditionalists choose this material still as the civilization of batik and many other hand-made materials are influential there. The contemporary Baju Kurung uses vibrant colors and geometric designs.

The Baju Kurung is worn by Muslim women, but also by non-Muslims females (Malaysia ethnic groups including Indians and Chinese). This is because Baju Kurung is among the authorized costumes of female public servants as well as among the authorized designs of uniforms for women school uniforms.

Numerous Malay women are wearing headscarves known as tudung. Although it is being worn for humility, they are also highly embellished with beads, sequins and floral designs. Also, the plain black scarves are worn.