This is the 2nd of 3 posts. Part 1 here.
Actually! The reason for these posts is this: What did Malays back then wear?
If you have seen anything that featured Malays or the Malay world, chances are you would have seen the Baju Melayu and it's easy to imagine the Baju Melayu as the default attire of Malays or Malay warriors.
The Baju Melayu is basically a set of long sleeved shirt(baju) with trousers(selaur), both made from the same material. And while technically not a part of the Baju Melayu, a songket or a sarong wrapped around the waist is commonly paired with it.
Like this image below.
Contemporary depictions of Malacca Sultanate and legendary warrior Hang Tuah has him and just about everyone else in medieval Malacca wearing the Baju Melayu. Here is a screen grab google image search of Hang Tuah.
In Malaysia, the Baju Melayu in recent years has grown to be identified with , and has been frequently used by politicians to Malay dominance , both instances hinting of force (because it's also the attire for the the Malay/Indonesian martial art, Silat) and also probably an attempt to identify as part of a greater civilization.
Though, I often wonder how much the contemporary depictions of our past are influenced by ethno-nationalist agendas.
And because this is such a visual thing, and I've been trying trace and figure this out for some time. It's still all a bit muddy but this is what I've been able to get so far.
Some sources point out Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor was the creator of the early Baju Melayu - Baju Melayu Telok Belanga but I would also read of sources that mention that it had it's origins in the the Malacca Sultanate.
Many popular trivia I have read of the Baju Melayu seems to have originated from or gathered and organized at this website.
The site strangely claims that the Baju Melayu was borne in Malacca with the shirt influenced by Arab/Indian clothings and trousers from Mongol or Turkish as well as some influence of style from the Europeans.
While it is possible and likely that the Arabs/Indians influenced the shirt, the claim that the trousers were from Turkish influence is weird, because direct contact with Turkey only happened after the fall of Malacca. Even weirder if it is the Mongols(which I assume are the Mughals), because the Mughal empire was only founded more than 15 years the fall of Malacca. Plus the result of contact with Europeans was the fall of Malacca.
Actually all the things mention would probably support the idea that the trousers came during the period of Aceh's rise to power in the region, as Aceh had close contacts with both the Mughals and the Ottoman empire and modeled the courts closely to theirs. And during the period after the fall of Malacca, Aceh took over the mantle of Malay centre of power. (source)
I'm assuming that either the trousers would have come from Turkey or the Mughals through Aceh adopted and popularised through it's influence in the 1600s to 1700s, or it would have been the Johor empire which was the following dominant Malay centre of power, which would then probably be influenced by the British and Dutch.
Which really brings me back to this picture from the previous post!
The illustration of the Malay man, wearing just a shirt and a sarong, no pants. His headgear is quite identifiable as a form of tengkolok still.
And then this from wikipedia . (actually credited to this book)
"The Melakans were described by European travellers as "white", well-proportioned, and proud. The men normally wear cotton garments (sarongs) which cover them only from the waist down, but a few of the more distinguished wear short, silk coats, under which they carry krisses."
It does not mention the trousers either.
If we were to follow the illustration and the description above, would the attire of the Malacca Sultanate be closer to this
All the pictures are from Kelantan, a northern Malay state, did the distance from the Malay power centres of Johor or Aceh slow the spread of the trousers as part of the Baju Melayu?
Something to also point out is that the term Baju Melayu is used in Malaysia to identify it as male attire, but Baju Kurung largely used as a generic gender neutral name to mean the attire for both sexes.
Aside from the sash, the two attires are more similar than different, could it be that there was no gender specific name because there wasn't much gendered difference(without the trousers), that Baju Kurung just meant a loose top with the woven cloth for the bottom.
Is this a case of a fashion identity that evolved (trousers added) and subsequently ossified during Aceh/Johor Empire period and the concept became so popular that it is frequently transposed into imaginations of what the Malay past looked like?
Meaning that it's possible that the idea of Baju Kurung/Baju Melayu existed back then during the Malacca Sultanate, but it probably isn't the one we identify as the attire today, that the name didn't change, the meaning evolved.
Well, that's where I have arrived anyway with my amateur dot-connecting and researching skills. I'd still be keeping an eye out for more research about this and would update when I find more or something new.
So okay! Next post would be part 3!