ethnic wearethnic wear

Ethnic Wear for Women in Singapore

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 25 Apr 2019  

From simple to ornate ethnic wear, Singapore is a melting pot of cultures – whether Chinese, Malay, Indian or Eurasian – whose traditional clothing have played a part in defining the city’s identity. We show you where to shop them.  




The traditional Chinese dress

With its slender, figure-hugging cut, the Chinese cheongsam or qipao exudes a certain classiness. The dress is also fashioned with a high collar made from silk or cotton – and makes an elegant alternative to a cocktail dress.

Depending on your budget and how much time you have, the narrow streets of Chinatown are a good place to start. For mid-range cheongsams and other Chinese silks and fabrics, try Yue Hwa Chinese Products department store. Want something a little more unique? Check out Singapore’s cheongsam couturiers who make exquisite, one-of-a-kind cheongsams. Many such designers can be found in luxury hotels and wedding boutiques.


baju kurung


The simplicity of a baju kurung

Baju kurung is the ethnic dress of many Malays in Singapore: a long, flowing skirt paired with a long-sleeved, knee-length blouse. While traditionally designed to be loose and airy, contemporary versions now feature more fitted cuts that incorporate runway-inspired trends, long with colourful patterns and up-to-date accessories.

Generally, the baju kurung is sold in a skirt-and-blouse set in fabric stores, of which you'll find no shortage in the Arab Quarter. (Close by is Haji Lane, a street packed with bars, graffiti and eclectic knick-knacks.) Materials range from cotton to silk and brocade, and fabrics from simple to elaborate. Most women prefer to get them tailor made, so that they fit just right. 


peranakan kebaya


The Peranakan kebaya 

Also common in Indonesia and Singapore is the sarong kebaya: a fitted, often embroidered blouse (kebaya) paired with a long woven skirt (sarong). Because of its versatility, you may notice kebaya influences in designs by many international clothing brands. But we say nothing beats the original, and you’ll easily find the traditional costume in Chinatown, Little India or online.

In Singapore, the kebaya is traditionally associated with the Peranakan community – better known as Straits Chinese, or people of mixed Malay and Chinese heritage – though the most iconic example of the sarong kebaya is the uniform of Singapore Airlines’ female flight attendants.


indian ethnic costume


Haggling for a salwar kameez

For Indian ethnic wear in Singapore, head to Little India. The upper floors of Tekka Market are the best place to start, with an extensive variety of traditional Indian clothing for most shapes and sizes. Prices are reasonable, and you can try your hand at haggling for a better deal.

The traditional Indian salwar kameez (loose drawstring pants with a long tunic-style top) and churidar kameez (the same long tunic-style top, but with narrower drawstring pants) are easily available and comfortable to wear – and sometimes referred to as Punjabi suits. Styles are varied and virtually endless, with a myriad of designs, colours and cuts for your picking.




Shine in a sari 

Saris are also available in stores 'round Little India, most of which come with extra fabric that can be used to tailor custom-made blouses. Although these traditionally require a certain technique to be worn, many modern-day designs now come with a zip-up, made-to-measure sari to ease the process.

To up the glamour factor, head to Selegie Road – you’ll spot Indian boutiques filled with scores of glitzy evening wear and bridal outfits. If you’d rather something simple to pair with jeans, look out for simple cotton kurtis: long- or short-sleeved tunic tops in bright colours that are often set with interesting motifs and accents.



Ready for more? Check out this guide to Hindu temples in Singapore, or consider spending a day exploring the colourful streets of Chinatown – the latter's only a five-minute ride by train from Marina Bay Sands. And our Book Direct offer means you're always guaranteed the lowest prices. 



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