This striking jacket or shirt (baju Melayu) made of striped, locally produced kain tenun (literally, ‘woven cloth’) was acquired in the 1930s or earlier by a British colonial official. It was brought back to England and has been in storage since. As a consequence, it is in very good condition. It is of predominantly of blue, green, orange and pink stripes.
Made to be worn by a Malay man, it has a single large pocket in the front.
Kain tenun was handwoven often by small family enterprises in the traditional way using the Malay or Siamese floor weaving loom known as a kek Siam. It was produced on the Malay peninsula, mostly in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang states. The resulting textile was used for sarongs but also for kain samping – the shorty sarongs Malay men traditionally wore over their trousers. Kain tenun was also tailored into traditional shirts for women (known as baju kurung and baju kebaya) and shirts for men (baju Melayu). The finest producers of kain tenun received commissions to supply the Malay peninsula’s many royal courts for most of the sultans, their families, and officials all wore the textile.
As mentioned, it is in very good condition, particularly when compared with most extant examples that have age. There is a water stain to one shoulder only. There are no insect holes or repairs. There is some wear to the back along the fold. The colours are as bright as the day the textile was woven. Probably, it was never worn.
Ismail, M.S.Z., et al., Muzium Tekstil Negara/National Textile Museum, Department of Museums Malaysia, 2012.
Uda, Y.M.R.D.P. Fuziah Raja Tun et al., Tradition & Continuity: Woven and Decorated Textiles of the Malay Peninsula, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 2013.