Clothing and Textile Basics: celana, kemeja, & batik

I noticed that 2 out of the 3 suit jackets I’ve bought have tags from Indonesia. Besides spices, for which the archipelago is so well known for throughout its history of international trade, Indonesia also has a very healthy textile market. It’s a wonderful place to visit and buy relatively cheap, high-quality clothing.

Here are some of the basic pieces of baju, clothes, in Bahasa Indonesia:

Celana / ce·la·na / n. Pants, trousers, or outerwear that covers the waist at least to the knees, including shorts. In some contexts, it especially refers to men’s clothing, but anyone can wear celana.

Kemeja /ke·mé·ja/ n. A dress shirt, most often for men (but not exclusive), usually with a collar and buttons in the front. Some are long-sleeved, some short. It typically refers to formal clothing, whereas the more general word, baju can quickly refer to any style of informal shirt used by any gender.

Batik /ba·tik/ n. A word that does not translate to English; it’s the same in both languages. It is one of Indonesia’s unique exports. Batik is pictorial fabric traditionally made by-hand by using wax to prevent dye from penetrating certain parts, then washed and repeated to create complex, multi-colored designs [1].

Wearing a kemeja batik is considered perfectly formal enough for business meetings, even up to the national political stage. To me, it’s a wonderful trait of Indonesia that there is still some creativity and color in their super-formal settings.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and military members wearing kemeja batik. Image attribution: Gitoyo aryoJoko widodoCC BY-SA 4.0.

A batik cloth. It can be sold as a fabric sheet or used in the production of baju. Image attribution: Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World CulturesCOLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Katoenen wikkelrok met geometrisch patroon TMnr 5713-2CC BY-SA 3.0.