The Long And Short Of It

Kebaya Peranakan – high fashion of the Nonyas of old.

The upper half was usually a translucent – I would say nearly transparent – long sleeve blouse, with intricate embroidered patterns on the front.  The variety of embroidery patterns and colors was only limited by the imagination.  However, the distinguishing feature of the blouse was that the front hem tapered down to a pointed triangular end, which could be as much as 8 inches lower than the straight back hem.    Hence, the Penang Hokkien people called it “The Half-Long-Short” (半长短)

The two flanks of the front were usually held together with several pieces of brooch linked with a fine gold chain – something called “kerongsang“.  Actually, these were intricate pieces of jewelry “masquerading” unabashedly as buttons or safety pins.

The lower half was usually a matching sarong kebaya – more or less conventional.


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