Monday, December 13, 2010

Malaysian Bead Work and Traditional Costumes

By on Monday, December 13, 2010 7 Comments

I first knew of Wan Norzita Megat Othman when she invited me to take a look at her bead work on her blog, Endless Beads. I am glad I did pop over to see because she is an exquisite bead work artisan, passionate artist who loves baking too.

Norzita is currently living in Malaysia which is next to Indonesia and Singapore (her birthplace). Although I have spent all my adulthood in England and Canada, Malaysia is actually the country of my birth so I'm very familiar with the region.

The country is divided into two. West Malaysia on the left, where Norzita and I come from, is the more densely populated part. East Malaysia occupies the northern parts of the large island of Borneo.

Malaysia and Singapore were once British colonies which is why many of the citizens still speak and write English. The population is ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse - mostly Malays, Chinese and East Indians. Virtually all of them speak more than one language and enjoy a wonderfully varied cuisine.

thE Baju KuRungImage by Ur_noS

Norzita hails from the Malay population. One form of traditional dress of Malay women is called the baju kurung ("enclosed dress") which is sometimes worn with a headscarf if the wearer is of the Muslim faith.

It consists of a long knee-length blouse worn over a long skirt, pleated on one side - a simple design ideal for a tropical climate where the humid heat can be merciless. It's also versatile as it can be worn for casual or formal occasions. The modern preference is for bright colors although traditionalists like it made from batik.

What you see here are my favorites from Norzita's extensive collection of exquisite bead embellished baju kurungs - the Teluk Belanga style which is collarless - featured on her blog. She decorates the sleeves and the collar area making these baju kurung suitable for formal occasions. She has a really good eye for color and patterns. It is especially challenging when embellishing printed fabrics.

She is also an accomplished beaded jewelry maker:

Do check out my past post on the Sanggul Lintang, the fabulous traditional bejewelled hair adornments of traditional Malay brides.

Here is a video of some Malaysian traditional costumes. Included are those of the Orang Asli or aboriginal tribal people.

You can also see Malay costumes in this cultural dance demo. The dancers are performing the joget, my favorite of all the Malay dances because it is the most lively and fun. It is a deceptively tricky tempo to master. The dance is usually performed at formal occasions like Malay weddings where the audience is invited to join in afterward!

Before you go:
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 



  1. I love ethnic design and especially like your posts that emphasize these sorts of things! My husband is from Cameroon, West Africa and I have been playing with incorporating all sorts of tribal design in my refashioned jewelry using the recycled-material beads (glass, paper, etc.) that areas of Africa are known for.

    Happy Holidays, Pearl!

  2. That sounds like fun, Cate! Happy Holidays to you too!

  3. Dear Beading Gem,
    It's been an honor to have my profile and beading works appeared in your articles. I would not have been able to present such a smooth article of our culture as you did. Thank you, and wish you a happy holiday.

  4. Tq Beading Gem for a write up about our Wan Norzita, a talented lady in her beads embroideries skill.

    Kak Wan, I'm proud of you sis !

  5. Wan Norzita Megat Othman... seen her bead works and I was amazed. Her creativity, her talent is something that should be recognized. She is different in her own style. Such an honored to me to get know her in person..

  6. You used the right word Pearl, exquisite! Just beautiful!
    And .. you were born in Malaysia? One of your posts is going to need to be about how the Beading Gem came to be!