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Looking stylish and spot-on in Indonesian ‘wastra’


Glamor: A mini fashion show, depicting traditional cloths worn in classical and contemporary styles inspired by the book, is staged. (University of Indonesia Library/-)

The recognition of batik as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity on Oct. 1, 2009, which also marked National Batik Day, has expanded the market for the traditional cloth as Indonesians now wear batik shirts or dresses, or even kebaya, to work.

Other traditional cloths from different regions in the country, mainly those made with hand-weaving techniques or ikat, have also gained momentum in the fashion industry as artisans and designers develop them with lighter fabrics and modern patterns.

Such traditional textiles, known as wastra, include songket, which is associated with the Melayu culture in Sumatra and Kalimantan, ulos of North Sumatra, and wide varieties of ikat from the eastern part of Indonesia with Bali’s ikat geringsing as the most intricate.

Not many people, however, know that the word wastra itself carries the deeper meaning of a piece of cloth as it represents the age-old tradition and cultural values of the community, which is symbolized in motifs, colors, as well as the size dimension of cloth.

And no one wants to get caught wearing a traditional cloth designated for a festive occasion while attending a burial ceremony.

The bilingual guidebook Pesona Padu Padan Wastra Indonesia (Enchanting Indonesian Textiles) would come handy in making the sartorial choice when it comes to traditional cloths.

Pesona Padu Padan Wastra Indonesia (Gramedia Pustaka Utama/-)

The first ever book published by Perkumpulan Wastra Indonesia (Indonesian Wastra Society), the organization focusing on the conservation of traditional cloths, has everything people need to know about the cultural heritage.

Ranging from information on the variety of wastra to the meaning of motifs or patterns, from tips on how to clean and store heirloom batik or ikat to the step-by-step tutorial on how to wear kain (batik skirt), both classical and contemporary styles, the heavily illustrated book would be very useful for beginners or those who need to add variety to their “kebaya-to-work” outfits.

Written in Indonesian with English translation, the book also contains ideas and instructions on wearing and combining different textiles, including as stylish headdress.

The classical kain style is usually used in formal and tradition-related events as it would accentuate the elegance of the wearer as well as the meaning behind the cloth itself. One such example is batik with Sidamukti motif, which symbolizes nobility and success for its wearers.

Meanwhile, the contemporary style tackles more modern looks for non-formal events or everyday activities that are mostly inspired by younger generations’ fashion trends.

“One of our main target readers is the millennials and through my interactions with them I found out that they are still unaware about the wastra-making process and that they could still be stylish in them without having to go through all the complicated methods,” said the organization’s founder, Lewa Pardomuan, also an article and fashion contributor to the book.

“However, they must be aware of the sacred meaning of the motifs before wearing them, because they are traditional cloths after all and some of them hold special meaning,” he explained in the book launch on Oct. 26.

Published by PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama, the 160-page book would be available in stores starting Nov. 11. The book price is tagged at Rp 150,000 (about US$10.7).

Lewa said most Indonesians still lacked knowledge about the cultural aspect of wastra and he expressed hope that, through the book, they could learn more about the diverse motifs and patterns of the textiles to appreciate the artisans.

“Many people cannot tell the difference between batik and ikat and often mix it up as ‘ikat batik’, which doesn’t make any sense at all because each has their own technique. We wish Indonesians would pay more respect and appreciation to the richness of our wastra by buying them without complaining about the prices,” he said.

Gramedia Pustaka Utama senior fashion and beauty editor Nana Lystiani also expressed her concern toward the dwindling number of artisans.

“We all have a pile of traditional cloth in the closet that may lose their worth if we don’t use them as often. Through this book we’d try to convey a message that traditional cloth is wearable and there are creative ways to wear them daily, and that the more we use them, the number of artisans will also increase,” said Nana, fashion contributor and stylist for this book.

According to Nana, the writing process of this book took approximately two to three months but was halted for one year in terms of its content, especially for articles written by experts.

Translated by Poppy Barkah to English, one of the article contributors for this book, this process took quite some time as well due to her busy schedule.

“Since this book is on Indonesian wastra, it would be a pity if we were only to cover mix and match style and tips, so I thought of inviting some of our members who have the ability and a collection [of traditional cloths] to write something based on their expertise, and that process took quite a long time,” added Nana.

The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.


From: THE JAKARTA POST (INDONESIA) Sun, November 17, 2019

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