VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Dragon Kebaya
2011-02215
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This kebaya is unusual due to the dragon that decorates the garment. The Peranakan Chinese did not slavishly copy Indo-European fashion – rather, they infused their sense of aesthetics into the sarong kebaya, creating a distinctly Peranakan style by the 1920s.

History of the Object
In 1910, the Chinese in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) were allowed to become Dutch subjects. Peranakan Chinese women in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) began to emulate European fashions, as an outward manifestation of this new status. This included both Western dress and the Indo-European style sarong kebaya, which had evolved over centuries. By the 1900s this took the form of waist-length, translucent, open garments made of fine cottons and trimmed with lace, matched with batik sarongs (tube skirts) with ‘modern’, naturalistic and even art nouveau designs. The Peranakan Chinese did not slavishly copy Indo-European fashion – rather, they infused their sense of aesthetics into the sarong kebaya, creating a distinctly Peranakan style by the 1920s. This kebaya, featuring auspicious Chinese motifs of dragons and peonies appliquéd on fine netting and a trim of broderie anglaise, is a good example. Following Chinese belief that good things come in pairs, the motifs are depicted in even numbers. This kebaya was probably made for a Peranakan Chinese lady from Java. By the 1910s, these fashions were introduced to the Straits Settlements by families with strong links to the Indies.

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Type
Textile 
Materials
Cotton 
Measurements
H: 69cm x W: 137.5cm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Java, Indonesia 
Geography
Indonesia 
Time period
AD 20th century ~ AD 20th century 
Creation date
Early 20th century 
Function
The kebaya is an open tunic with long sleeves, a collarless neck and front opening. It is a hip-length garment and is gently shaped to flatter the figure. It is fastened in the front by a set of three brooches (kerosang), usually connected by a chain.  
Acquisition
 
Copyright
Peranakan Museum, Singapore 
Acknowledgements
Jackie Yoong, Maria Khoo Joseph 
Owner
Peranakan Museum, Singapore 
Museum
Peranakan Museum, Singapore 
Credit line
Gift of Mr and Mrs Lee Kip Lee 

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