Bidayuh Costume

Despite of being stress with my final year project, I am very excited of designing my new Bidayuh costume for this year’s Gawai. Wearing the traditional costume on Gawai festival night has been my favourite part of Gawai. What is so great about it? I feel like a honoured Bidayuh maiden, just like in the famous modern Malay sayings, “perempuan Bidayuh terakhir” as in the film “Perempuan Melayu Terakhir” starred by Vanida Imran quite a long time ago (Ready your bucket for puking earlier next time before reading my entry).

Hereby, I want to share to you about the traditional Bidayuh costume. I can see there are still many Malaysians who do not know how the Bidayuh costumes look like, or cannot differentiate it with the other ethnics’ costume. Some even think that Dayaks wear leaves to cover their body and as loincloth (according to my experience, I had met one who think as such).

Male Bidayuh traditional costume comprises the loincloth, or locally called ‘chawat’, a vest that is made of the inner bark of trees, head band which is usually red or black in colour and some accessories. However, nowadays, this kind of costume is only worn by the Bidayuh men during performing the ritual or traditional dance and Keling contest. Keling contest is like a Dayak ‘beauty peagent’ contest for men. The name of the contest is derived from a love story of a legendary handsome man named Keling, who married a beautiful and talented maiden named Kumang.

Bidayuh maidens if Kampung Pichin

The female Bidayuh costume is mainly black in colour, but some are red, with borders of contrast colour. Black suits are always bordered with red, yellow, gold or silver, while the red ones are bordered with black or gold. The reason of preference of certain border colours is simply the conformation of the colours. These colours are also natural, because in the olden days, Dayaks dyed their fabrics with dyes that are derived from natural sources such as turmeric and accessorize their dress with beads, silver and gold.

My sister and who-else
The design of the female costume top is adapted from the kebaya blouse. The sleeves can be long, three quarter, short or even sleeveless. While the sarong can be long like a maxi or short, (the shortest is slightly above the knees). The sarong is usually decorated with laces and trims from India and can be embroided with beads. The uses of beads in the Bidayuh costume are not as distinctive as in the Orang Ulu costume. The suit is incomplete without the red scarf over the top, at least one silver or metal buckle around the waist and a headgear which is either a tailed cap or a conical hat called the ‘toko’.

Kumang beauty peagent contestants posing in the "Awah Gawai"
However, this is the modernized form of female Bidayuh costume. The Bidayuh costume had been reinvented by the modern Bidayuh women after the British colonization era, to make it more convenient, comfortable and fashionable in the modern era nowadays. Before the innovation, Bidayuh ladies are only wearing a dark cloth which is tucked above the chest to form a tube dress (kemban), or merely wear sarong (topless). They also had brass coiled tightly around their calves as a beauty trend. Their hairs were always tied up neatly into a bun (sanggul).

Actually there is also the modernized form of male Bidayuh costume. One suit consist of a black long sleeved shirt and a pair of black trousers with red or gold border alone the neck, button line, wrist and ankle. The neck of the shirt can be round, v-shaped or clerical collar. Many Bidayuh men prefer to make the Bidayuh gear stylish by wearing only a black vest (with red border and decorated with gold trims in the inner of the border) as a top layer over any shirt and match with any trousers. Loincloth is not favoured by the Dayak men anymore since about 140 years ago. As I mentioned before, it is only worn when performing traditional dance or Keling show. I would like to show you a quote taken from an article about Bornean loincloth written by Otto Steinmayer;
“A foreigner sympathetic to Dayak ways of life, and not only to its superficial particulars, can only deplore the nearly complete abandonment of this ancient and beautiful dress. I have especially wished to write this article in defence of it because of the remarks of persons who flaunt the Penan loincloth as a symbol of alleged Dayak "primitivity" (whatever that means) and unwillingness to conform to "progress." The argument that the loincloth is even "uncivilized" will not hold water.”
Let me translate it to Malay:
“Orang asing bersimpati terhadap gaya hidup orang Dayak, bukan sahaja pada perkara remehnya, hanya mampu kesal dengan pengabaian pakaian yang usang dan indah ini. Saya telah berhasrat untuk menulis artikel ini demi mempertahankannya. Ini adalah kerana terdapat segelintir orang yang beranggapan bahawa cawat orang Penan ialah simbol kehidupan Dayak yang kolot (apa-apa je lah) serta tidak seiring dengan “kemajuan”. Percanggahan pendapat tentang cawat ini malah "tidak bertamadun" serta tidak berpatutan.”


Globalized Dayung said...

Macam kenal aja laki yg pakai baju vest bidayuh ya?? =)

MarlyMarble said...

Hahaha...MacSwyzer ya.

Globalized Dayung said...

Dah agak.... =)

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