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            [post_content] => Jakarta. In commemoration of the birth of national heroine Kartini on Friday (21/04), women in government offices and schools wear kebayas or other traditional costumes to celebrate this special day.

"I think it's more than a mere ceremonial or symbolical gesture," Taruna K. Kusmayadi, adviser at the Indonesia Fashion Chamber (IFC), said during a talk show at AlunAlun in the Grand Indonesia shopping center in Central Jakarta on Thursday.

"By wearing traditional costumes on Kartini Day, we adopt Kartini's spirit for women's independence and betterment and perpetuate that spirit in today's generation," Taruna said.

Kartini, who was born and raised in an aristocratic family in Central Java, fought against restrictions on young aristocratic Javanese women of her era by educating herself with books and communicating her ideas through letters to her Dutch friends.

Kartini's letters were later compiled into a book "Habis Gelap Terbitlah Terang" ("Out of Dark Comes Light").

The book has since become a source of inspiration and prompted many improvements in the lives of Indonesian women.

"Until this day, Kartini remains an inspiration for us all," Taruna said. "We should be proud of her and also be proud to wear traditional costumes, not only on Kartini Day, but also in our daily lives."

However, wearing a tight-fitting kebaya and kain (pareo) may not be very practical for today's fast-paced lifestyle.

Therefore, IFC designers have developed a series of modern kebayas that would be suitable for modern women.

"The way to perpetuate traditional costumes is by adjusting them to today's women's needs," IFC national deputy chairman Wignyo Rahadi said. "The traditional costumes should maintain our cultural identity, without losing their modern functionality."

In a fashion show following Thursday's talk show, Wignyo showcased a series of simple kebayas, made from handwoven fabrics produced in his workshop in Sukabumi, West Java.

"These fabrics are made by women in my neighborhood that used to work in the backbreaking brick industry," Wignyo said. "I train them to weave so that they can make a better living for themselves and their families."

The simple silhouette and relaxed fit of Wignyo's kebayas allow wearers more room for movement. The soft pastel hues of his kebayas also complimented the models' fair complexions.

Inge Chu, fashion designer of the IFC's Semarang chapter, also showcased her mini-kebaya collection during the fashion show.

[caption id="attachment_655797" align="aligncenter" width="245"]Inge Chu's kebaya. (JG Photo/Sylviana Hamdani) Inge Chu's kebaya. (JG Photo/Sylviana Hamdani)[/caption]

Inge's kebayas, made of lace, tulle, duchess silk and organdy silk, also have a relaxed fit, as well as pretty bell sleeves. The bodice and hemlines are adorned with arabesque-pattern embroideries.

The kebayas were paired with pareos and long pants made of natural-dyed batiks from her hometown, Semarang, Central Java.

The exquisite colors of the natural-dyed batiks complimented Inge's semi-transparent kebayas.

Hannie Hananto chairwoman of the IFC's Jakarta chapter, also presented a series of kebaya-inspired Muslim clothing for women during the event.

"I truly appreciate today's event and fashion show," National Handicraft Council (Dekranas) chairwoman Erni Tjahjo Kumolo said after the show. "The kebayas are all very beautiful and elegant, as well as modern and wearable."

"I hope that this event would inspire today's Indonesian women to be proud of their cultural roots and wear kebaya much more often," Erni added.
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            [post_content] => Jakarta. Young people who value simplicity and practicality in fashion often think of traditional costumes such as the kebaya as too old-fashioned and impractical for everyday use, but a group of designers in Jakarta are quietly trying to make the classic style hip again.

Designer Amy Atmanto and the Kebayaku (My Kebaya) association on Wednesday (07/12) held the "Pesona Kebaya Nusantara" (The Beauty of Kebaya) fashion show at Raffles Hotel in Jakarta to prove that the kebaya can be both elegant and practical for everyday use.

"We want to reintroduce the kebaya to the younger generation, they need to preserve this tradition. We're proud and more than happy to share our knowledge about the origin, history, and variations of the kebaya," Kebayaku chairwoman and founder Nunun Darajatun said.

The show was opened by the Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Cultural Affairs, Puan Maharani, who encouraged young people to find out more about the philosophy of the kebaya.

"Many young people today don't understand kebaya and have no desire to wear traditional costumes. They should know kebayas are not just clothes, there is a philosophy behind them. Kebaya symbolizes modesty, gentleness, elegance and being well-cultured. A person who wears kebaya is expected to be nurturing to others," the minister said.

The fashion show was also held to celebrate the upcoming Indonesian Mother's Day on Dec. 22, and Puan fittingly emphasized the close association between kebaya and Indonesian women in history.

"Kebaya and Indonesian women share the same characteristics: elegant and strong," Puan said.

Two separate shows were held on Wednesday, the first of which showcased Amy Atmanto's lineup of 15 chic kebaya styles for younger women. The collection, called "Rainbow Expressions", showed the variety of colors a kebaya can take.


"I like and try to create wearable kebaya using lighter fabric like chiffon. My kebayas are designed to be more casual, more suited to the active modern women," the award-winning designer said.

One of the most eye-catching pieces in Amy's collection was a short-sleeved kutu baru kebaya combined with a maxi skirt, which looked like a long gown. Characterized by a rectangular panel in the center, kutu baru is one of the oldest kebaya styles but has recently enjoyed a resurgence.

"The kutu baru, modified to be more modern and dynamic, is very happening at the moment," Amy, who also plans to launch a modest wear line called "Amy Atmanto's Abaya and Keffiah" next year, said.

For the current collection, Amy experimented with bold and pastel colors, as well as floral patterns for the kebaya tops, which are matched with traditional songket bottoms as well as modern pencil, box-pleated and draped skirts.

"To me, the kebaya represents the true identity of the Indonesian women, which should not only be preserved but also explored. It is my job as a designer to keep coming up with innovations for the kebaya," Amy said.

Amy's kebaya activism is not restricted to the runway, she also runs a women-empowerment program called Rumah Kreatif Amy Atmanto (Amy Atmanto's Creative House), which provides training in tailoring for women from poor families, many of whom graduate to make kebayas for Amy.

The fashion show also featured prominent members of the Kebayaku association, including actress Rima Melati, on the runway to show off their private kebaya collection. The show was choreographed by big-name fashion director Ari Tulang and featured musical accompaniment by singing violinist Mia Ismi.
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