December 26, 2008

Batik & Ulos = birth of a baby?

A few days ago, I accompanied my mother to buy a batik cloth for my cousin. It is a tradition in my family for the elder family members to give a batik cloth as a baby gift (i.e. the uncles and aunts give it to their niece).

If you have ever lived in Indonesia, Batik shouldn't be something new for you. It is a cloth made by a special wax-resist dyeing technique, and especially associated with the Javanese culture.

Traditionally, Batik is used as a long skirt for women. Until today, it is still used by women in formal occasions (such as a wedding reception), where the batik is combined with a kebaya (a traditional blouse). Btw, I love kebaya!. Batik worn on formal occasions can cost up to millions, depending on the cloth, the design & the technique used to produce it.

Cheaper batik is made from lower quality cloth, which is usually thinner, and therefore can be used as a blanket. Another common use of Batik is as a traditional baby sling. When it is used as a baby sling, it is called a "kain gendong" (kain=cloth, gendong=carry). Photo of baby sling downloaded from

Whereas Batik is normally associated with something traditional, in the past year, Batik has been made into modern design clothing, making it a hot & trendy fashion. One brand that I love is Allure, unfortunately it is quite expensive.

It would be a shame for me to write about Batik, without mentioning Ulos, which is the traditional textile of Batak (my ethnicity).

Below is a picture of my Ulos. This was given to me by my grandmother when I was born, because I was the first-born. If you look carefully, you can see my name woven into it.


Matt said...

Nice! I love the batik shirts I've gotten on each of my trips to Indonesia. Every time I wear them here in the States they always garner a lot of comments. My favorite is one that feels like a cotton/silk blend.

Fitri said...

That's great!

Because of the hype surrounding Batik clothes the past year, many imported Chinese made clothes which used Batik-like patterns were for sale in Indonesia.

They were a lot cheaper of course than original batik so many people bought them instead.

Such a shame :(

Matt said...

Hi Fitri,

When I was in Yogyakarta we took one of those tours of the place where they make batik. Very interesting to see how it is made. When in Bandung we bought some batik fabric and then went to a tailor to have them make a few nice shirts. I need to come back so I can buy a few more.

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