Traditional Dresses that Portray Diversity of Singapore

July 14, 2023

Singapore consists of four main ethnicities primarily - Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian and Peranakan. This small nation is home to a wide range of ethnic wear. All these diverse wear helps in defining the culture of the land. Let us dive in it a little and get a better understanding of the traditional dresses of Singapore.

Listed below are a few traditional dresses that represent Singapore's rich diversity. 

Traditional Dresses of Singapore

Baju Kurung 

This traditional costume is the national dress of Singapore as well as Malaysia, and it became fashionable in the nineteenth century when it was worn by Sultan Abu Bakar. Baju Kurung is the generic name given for this attire for both men and women. The male version is Baju Melayu and the female version is Baju Kurung. Baju Kurung comes with two distinct fashion methodology - Baju Kurung Cekak Musak and Baju Kurung Teluk Belanga. The two types can be identified by looking for the standing collar on the neck of the latter. 

This traditional dress was adopted by a lot of Chinese women in Singapore, Indians as well as Eurasians. This attire, just like Baju Melayu, is a baggy full-length outfit that can be paired with a long skirt and a collarless blouse that extends down to hips or even knees. In Northern Malaysia, this outfit is worn with a headscarf (also called a tudung).


Traders from India have influenced fashion in Singapore since when they arrived with trade clothes during the pre-colonial period. Sari is one of the popular outfits and common preferences of ethnic Indian women living in Singapore. Indian women wear this long strip of fabric around the body in numerous styles. They also wear it around the waist with one end on the shoulder. Not just the Indian women, other races also take pride in wearing this stylish outfit with long blouses and bagged trousers for special occasions. 


This elegant traditional dress is a great alternative to modern wear. It has appropriate cuts and a high collar and gives a slim fit look. Made of cotton or silk, it portrays the duality of modern wear. Besides, it also helps to revive the traditional culture and identity. This attire is popular in mainland China as well as overseas for more than hundred years. During the cultural migration, words about this attire spread in Hong-Kong, from where the Chinese women adopted it.

Well-stitched Cheongsams can be a bit costly, but people in Singapore choose to wear them often as they believe that it showcases the social status and cultural identity of a person. It is also the reason why matrons of wealthy society choose this dress as their uniform. Many famous personalities like Elizabeth Choy, Aw Cheng Hu, and Christina Loke have good collections of this attire. 

Sarong Kebaya

Wearing this tight-fit attire with a tight blouse and skirt is a sign of dignity for the Peranakan women, and it became popular in the early twentieth century by famous people like Evan Heng and by TV shows like Little Nyonya. Today, women in Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Thailand wear this outfit with pride. It is the uniform of the stewardess of Singapore Airlines, and the choice helped in increasing the prestige of the costume.

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