Keep it REAL
by Anna Vivienne. Posted on June 3, 2012, Sunday
A traditional costume means just that — traditional and not value-added so much that it loses its authenticity.
TRADITIONAL costumes refl ect the identity of a people and are usually associated with a period in history. In Sabah, costumes were worn after the introduction of full body garment for women and loincloth for men.
Necessity and fashion for clothing of yesteryear were the forerunner of the traditional costumes we see today.
Such garments have evolved by leaps and bounds and nowadays, we can see them adorned with glittering gold linings and sequins, superseding the plain black velvet of old, usually trimmed with gold and red.
They are beautifully made with sewing machines. But not everybody, especially the younger generation, is happy with this trend.
Ruzinah Siturup of Pegalungan Pensiangan said traditional costumes should refl ect the tribal identity of the wearers and not used to make a fashion statement.
“I’m a Murut and very proud of my ethnicity. Our traditional costumes refl ect our people’s culture and should stay as such instead of being embroidered so much that they only produce a vague resemblance of the original,” the 23-year-old stressed.
Ruzinah grew up in a village in the Pegalungan area where traditions were revered and secure — and still are. These include traditional wear.
“I have seen our traditional costumes decorated so much that they no longer look like Murut costumes but sequinned black blouses and skirts,” she noted.
A handicraft-maker by profession, this petite young lady hoped the women representing her ethnic group at the Harvest Festival Unduk Ngadau Pageant would remain faithful to the originality of their traditional wear.
Too pretentious Another Murut, Jamilah Pinda of Kampung Salikup, Pegalungan, agreed, saying she had seen their traditional costumes so outrageously sequinned that they looked very heavy.
“Instead of admiring them, I have this feeling of discomfort and disappointment because they don’t seem real. They are too pretentious.
“The beadworks can be made in an intricate way but they should adhere to Murut motifs,” she said, adding that dragons and phoenixes, for instance, are not Murut motifs at all.
“Make it simple and elegant, and, of course stick to our traditional motifs.”
The 25-year-old who makes and sells handicrafts for a living, hoped organisers of beauty pageants, especially those parading traditional costumes, would prioritise the cultural signifi cance of such attires.
These young women are not the only people who want the authenticity of traditional costumes of the indigenious communities preserved.
Sonia Peter, of Dusun descent from Keningau, said the originality of the costumes should be maintained.
“If paraded during a fashion show or beauty contest, the costumes should depict the tribal or ethnic identities of the wearers — and not go overboard with the motifs.”
She believed this would preserve the traditional signifi cance of the costumes, especially for young people who may only have seen them during festivities and weddings. “My grandmother used to say our traditional costumes are just black with gold threads and not sequinned so much that they lose their originality.
“I also believe other people such as tourists will be able to tell the ethnic group we come from when they see us in our original costumes — and not left guessing due to the similarity of heavily sequinned garments.”
Sonia, who works in Kota Kinabalu, said such sequinned attires could be worn at weddings or personal functions but not in front of the public during the Harvest Festival Beauty Pageant.
The real thing Ivy Stanislaus, also from Keningau and works at a five- star hotel in Kota Kinabalu, echoed Sonia’s sentiments, saying traditional costumes meant just that — traditional and not valueadded so much that they lost their authenticity.
“The traditional costumes of yore can be seen at the Sabah State Museum. If anyone interested in making a traditional costume wishes to stick to authenticity, he or she should visit this place to copy the pattern,” she suggested.
Jannie Benson, 56, of Kampung Tombulion, Kota Belud, believed the pattern of traditional ethnic costumes should be maintained and not overly embroidered.
“I have seen traditional costumes so outrageously overdone that they looked like heavily sequinned dresses — nothing more. They don’t represent any tribal background and I think this is not to be encouraged,” she said.
Jannie, a tailor, believed authenticity should be maintained even though minor additional decorations could be beautiful.
“It should be tastefully made to refl ect the ethnic background of the wearer,” she said, adding that the authentic traditional costumes of the Kadazandusun were beautiful and elegant and needed no glitter to make them presentable on stage or otherwise.
She noted that at a recent beauty pageant in her district, the judging was based on the costume with the most glitter instead of authenticity.
Angela Roland, 45, of Matunggong Kudat who works in a private company in Kota Kinabalu, believed the Rungus traditional costume is beautiful and should be maintained as such.
“However, I’m happy to see the originality of the Rungus costumes is seldom compromised.
There have been additional decorations like extra beads or sequins in some outfi ts but never so much that it makes the costumes unidentifi able,” she said.