Inventory no.: 3459

Straits Chinese Wedding Costume, Penang


Straits Chinese Pleated Silk Wedding Skirt with Embroidered Panels

Penang, Malaysia

19th century

height: 90cm, width at hem: 105cm

This superb example of a Penang nonya’s embroidered wedding or bridal pleated skirt is in apricot-red silk with fine, hand-stitched embroidery work which includes small figures in Chinese dress, with borders of lotus blooms, other flowers, endless knot motifs and gold couching. The designs are mirrored on the front and back.

This type of pleated skirt, in this colour, seems to have been unique to the Penang Straits Chinese community.

A very similar example is illustrated in Ho (1987, p. 142). Ho says in relation to it and a matching jacket, that:

‘One unusual bridal garment which my wife acquired more than ten years ago [so around 1976] in Penang from an eighty-year-old lady, sported a mandarin square on the chest, and my initial impression was that this splendid garment with its profusion of bird and floral motifs of gold thread couchings, might have been worn by the groom. The skirt was the colour of deep saffron and was beautifully pleated and ornamented with bird and floral motifs in gold thread couchings.’This is a museum piece and the condition is essentially in museum-condition. There is some minor age-related deterioration to the black silk edging which has left several small holes; there is some minor staining and some of the embroidery threading has come loose (see the images below). But this item is without any restoration. We have decided to leave that for the next owner, if it is felt that it is needed. But overall, the condition for its age and the materials used is very good and almost certainly the product of having been stored in the UK probably since at least colonial times, away from insect damage and excessive humidity.


Ho, W.M., Straits Chinese Beadwork & Embroidery: A Collector’s Guide, Times Books International, 1987.Provenance:

private collection, Channel Islands.

Inventory no.: 3459


Examples of some of the minor condition issues – some looseness to the threading, and some small holes in the silk.