The name Indonesia, meaning Indian Islands, was coined by an Englishman, J. R. Logan, in Malaya in 1850. Derived from the Greek, Indos(India) andnesos (island).
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, is located astride the equator in the humid tropics and extends some 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometres) east-west, about the same as the contiguous United States. (0*)
Indonesia is culturally rich. Indonesian art and culture are intertwined with religion and age-old traditions from the time of early migrants with Western thoughts brought by Portuguese traders and Dutch colonists. The basic principles which guide life include the concepts of mutual assistance or “gotong royong” and consultations or “musyawarah” to arrive at a consensus or “mufakat” Derived from rural life, this system is still very much in use in community life throughout the country.(1*)
As there are so many different religious groups and communities which make up Indonesia they have all had a heavy influence on the styles and designs of its fabrics, jewellery and costumes.
One of the most notable facets of Indonesian Fashion is their rich selection of fabrics. One easily recognisable style is Batik fabrics which can come in a variety of colours-bright and subdued-depending on the region where the fabrics are made. (2*)
Once on the brink of disappearing, batik and later ikat, found a new lease on life when former President Suharto promoted wearing batik shirts on official occasions. In addition to the traditional patterns with their special meanings, used for particular occasions, batik designs have become creative and diverse over the last few years. (*3)
Batik is also being produced in some other areas as in Bali where local designs are incorporated. Other provinces produce hand-woven cloths of gold and silver threads, silks or cottons with intricate designs.
An example of some of the traditional formal wear worn by women in Indonesia is called a Kebaya, which is a dress with a beaded floral sarong usually made from bright, beautiful colourful fabric. On formal occasions women will also tie their hair up into a bun and may wrap themselves in a long stretch of sheer fabric called a Selendang. Selendangs can also be worn as a head dress or be used to carry infants
In some regions of Indonesia women will also wear silk robes with metallic thread woven into the material and head dresses shaped like Buffalo Horns.
Strap less wrap dresses are also common in some parts of Indonesia and are usually styled out of a bright, golden embroidered batik fabrics. Bright, colourful, make up and costumes are also incorporated into Indonesian performances and theater.
The diversity of people in Indonesia makes it easy to understand why their fashion is so broad and attractive. Ninety-five percent of over 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia are of native Indonesian ancestry. The ethnic groups in Indonesia, in order of size, are as follows: Javanese, which makes up nearly 42% of the total population; Sundanese, 31%; Malay, 3.7%; Maduranese, 3.3%, and others, 26%. There are also ethnic Chinese populations, which make up 1% of the total population. (4*)
Taking this into account-it is easy to see why Indonesia would produce such beautiful designs.