Indonesian Women’s Wear is Regulated Throughout History: Stop Controlling Clothes

When did women's clothing first begin to be regulated? It's been controlled since the past. Initially, it was the tradition that controlled it, then the society, industry, and now social media also regulates women’s clothes, which is to wear hijab. Even today, women's clothing has been politicized to attract intolerant groups through the politicization of religion in political contestation.

Please read carefully the following sentences:

“You are a woman, you better don’t dress like this.”

“You are a woman, you should follow this style.”

A few months ago, Charley Sullivan, a historian from the University of Michigan, explained his dissertation entitled “Years of Dressing Dangerously: Modern Women, National Identity, and Moral Crisis in Sukarno’s Indonesia, 1945-1966” in an online discussion “Indonesian Women’s Clothing Throughout History” held by Historia.id.

“The kebayas from before the Kartini era until today is always been the same, but the design changes. Fashion has a history. About the women’s position in society, about social status. Women as people and relations with the state,” said Charlie.

In 1952, for example, a beautiful woman was a woman who wore batik. Three years later, this position has changed, batik is described as modernity, cultural pride, and the source of national economic development.

Women’s clothing throughout history, as described by Charley, is controlled in such a way according to national purpose. Women are also symbolized to negate foreign influences to strengthen the nation’s personality traits. For example, in the 1960s, women were forbidden from showing their breasts because they were not considered part of Indonesian culture. If women don’t pay attention, they will be bombarded with stereotypes.

However, it doesn’t just happen in the past. How about the present? It’s the same condition.

As a woman living in Indonesia, how many times have you heard the opening phrase? I believe that almost all women have received these words, under any circumstances: at a party, on a vacation, to everyday wear. In contrast, the men are freer to wear whatever they want.

Women’s activist, Tunggal Pawestri said that Charley’s dissertation confirms the fact that women had a central role in the early days of Indonesia’s independence. Unfortunately, it was removed from the historical narrative. Soeharto, the New Order regime leader, reformulated the concept of mother of the nation or the first lady after 1965.

“During the New Order regime, women’s bodies were used as arenas for fighting. We still have a dress code. The hijab ban on the grounds of limiting the influence of Islamic fundamentalism. There is a stereotype that is built that the use of the hijab is one of the characteristics of extremism,” said Tunggal.

During the New Order regime, the hijab was a form of resistance to the ruling regime. A lecturer at UIN Syarif Hidayatullah, South Tangerang, Neng Dara Affiah also explained the social history of women’s clothing. Neng, who was born with a santri (student of Islamic boarding school/pesantren) background, said that in 1970, the kebaya became a national identity for Indonesian women, including in the santri circle.

At that time, the santri hijab was a transparent veil. Even women’s hair is regulated.

“The female student’s hair must be long. Short hair is considered the same as colonial women. If you are native, you should have long hair. Until my mother died, her hair was still long, and she was still wearing a kebaya, but after the hajj pilgrimage, her hair was no longer visible,” said Neng Dara.

Neng Dara confirmed the statement from Tunggal Pawestri that the hijab was widely used in the 1980s generation because it had world political power. Hijab became a form of protest against the New Order which reconstructed national identity with the kebaya. Tien became a role model at that time.

This is in contrast to today’s era which makes kebaya a resistance movement against the domination of the people wearing hijab who are intolerant of women who do not wear the hijab.

This intolerant attitude is not only from fellow citizens but also becomes a regulation with a number that increases every year. In 2012 Komnas Perempuan recorded 342 discriminatory regional regulations, 72 of them related to women’s dress code. In 2019 the number became 421 discriminatory regulations based on a single interpretation of religious teachings.

It contrasts to today’s era which makes kebaya a resistance movement against the domination of the people wearing hijab who are intolerant of women who do not wear the hijab.

This intolerant attitude is not only from fellow citizens but also becomes a regulation with a number that increases every year. In 2012 Komnas Perempuan recorded 342 discriminatory regional regulations, 72 of them related to women’s dress code. In 2019 the number became 421 discriminatory regulations based on a single interpretation of religious teachings.

Tunggal Pawestri also reminds us of community movements that try to regulate women’s wear, such as the petition against Blackpink which was initiated by Maimon Herawati in 2018. Maimon said that Blackpink’s clothes were revealing the body. Maimon is also the initiator of a petition to reject the Elimination of Sexual Violence Bill (RUU P-KS).

“On social media, there is a movement to cover the women’s body with followers up to 150,000,” said Tunggal.

Even today, women’s dress has been politicized to attract intolerant groups through the politicization of religion in election contestations.

“Sometimes the women who before running for regent did not wear the hijab, but when they ran for election, they wore the hijab. They show that they are good women, so the hijab is a symbol of goodness but for politics,” said Neng Dara. Though dressing is the most autonomous thing for everyone. A Dress should be a person’s identity, not a national identity. If a dress is associated with national identity, then women will always be confined

(Foto/ ilustrasi: Pixabay)

Tika Adriana

Jurnalis perempuan yang sedang memperjuangkan kesetaraan. Saat ini managing editor Konde.co

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