Category Archives: fashion

Stressed By The Ties That Bind

I first encountered neckties in 1963.  Didn’t like those “kiddy” types at all – one which came with an elastic band, and another with a Y-shaped plastic catch (this one made my skin sore).

I wanted to have those which adults wore.

But getting the knot “right” with the correct lengths to be left dangling was quite tricky.  In those days,  the prevailing style seemed to resemble a scalene triangle, which I called the “ketupat”.    I hated that shape because it was asymmetrical.

I spent many hours perfecting the twists and turns to get that ultimate symmetrical “samosa” knot, along the way inadvertently producing some  “bak chang”, and “kuih abok abok” as well.  Quite stressful, just to put a tight noose around our necks !

Do you have a knotty story to tell ?


They Kept Me in Suspense – Y ?

Remember Y-suspenders ?   These accessories for men seemed to be fashionable in most of the Westerns – the menfolk appeared to be wearing these all the time.

When I was a kid, I used to wear these too.  But it was less of being a hipster of the day and more of upholding a down-to-earth need.   I was growing quickly in size, and being relatively poor, we could not afford to buy new clothes frequently.

So my mum found a solution – she bought pants for me that were 2 sizes larger.   When new, those were really loose and thus the Y-suspenders came in handy.  By the second year, I probably did not need those anymore.  (But by the third year,  the pants were rather tight)

To Sew With Love

You may want to call it Stitch – any which way, it was an art that required huge Passion, Patience plus creative Imagination.  Embroidery by hand ; which ladies of the old days – including many of my senior relatives – loved to indulge and excel in.

I remember that sometimes they also used sewing machines to do the stitching.

Haiz, it has been donkey (maybe for 2016 just call it Monkey) years since I last saw any lady, especially a younger one, doing it.    Perhaps it simply does not jive well with the fast pace of modern life.   Also, these days, with computer-aided machines, even extremely complex patterns can be sewn and reproduced by the millions in perfection.

Glitzy Pin-up Trilogy

The Kerongsang Kebaya Peranakan, that is.  (I think some call it Kerongsang Rantai)

The ladies who donned the Kebaya Peranakan would need to garnish the front with a three-piece brooch that was intra-linked with a chain (usually of gold or silver).   The brooches came in a huge variety of  intricate and exquisite designs and were often adorned with precious stones of various colors too.

This fashion accessory-cum-pin fastener was an essential item to complete the Kebaya outfit.  But as these were expensive pieces of jewelry, the ladies in less well-off families could only afford a set in their lifetimes – often the relatives would mutually exchange among themselves for different festive occasions (usually weddings).

Clarity or Vanity ?

Unlike 7-Up, the difference is not so clear

Since young, I had always prided on having perfect eagle-eye vision, that could spot spelling mistakes on a signboard 20 miles down the highway, and see font size #1 used in sneaky Disclaimer Notes on my insurance policies.   And the thought of I having to wear ugly spectacles never crossed my mind.

That pride shattered acrimoniously in 1977, when I found that I had developed myopia and astigmatism. AND, worse, that started my financial ruin, as prices of prescription glasses rocketed over the years and,……

…..the distinction between Clarity and Vanity blurred… these days I look a lot better with glasses – at least the lovebags under my eyes won’t be so obvious. Kakaka !

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.

Pretty Beads For Dainty Feet

Complementing the Kebaya Peranakan were of course the Kasut Manek, or Beaded Shoes.  These were mid-to-high heelers,  covered on the front top with tiny colored beads – painstakingly and lovingly stitched into place by hand – arrayed in a variety of exquisite patterns.

These were masterpieces of art, and back in those days, were highly sought after by all ladies, regardless of age.   But they were not cheap.  Most of my female relatives could only afford a pair or two of these in their life-times.   When matched with the Kebaya‘s – wow, you’ve got a stunning combination.

These shoes are still  being made today, by specialist shops to custom orders by well-heeled connoisseurs with dainty feet.