July 08

Conservative wear where? What to wear in Malaysia


I thought of sharing a ‘Cheat sheet’ on the usual What to Wear postings. Even though Malaysia is a Muslim country, the people are quite moderate which can be reflected in what they wear. The cheat sheet I have here would be more relevant for Kuala Lumpur, Penang, or in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu (KK). Essentially the largely non-Muslim majority cities or the capital.

On the left I’ve drawn up what I would consider wearing when walking along the city. In choosing your outfit, you should consider three major parts; the hemline, the cleavage and the sleeve. I’ve highlighted here what I consider to be a safe to the riskiest outfit you could bring to Malaysia.

There are three categories I’ve defined here.

Green – the fail safe:

These are your ‘safe’ hemline, cut of top and sleeve length. Show up in a fully ‘Green’ outfit and I can guarantee you that no one will bat an eyelash when you walk on by… though you may still feel a little over dressed. Remember that you can of course always go longer in the bottom and the sleeve and higher on the neckline. More covered will always be safer (and warmer! eeps!)

Orange – still safe especially if you’re a tourist:

You would actually see quite a number of youngsters donning these kind of hem/ sleeve/ neck line. After all, the average temperature in Malaysia is around 34-36 degrees year round. If you’re in Kuala Lumpur or Penang this should still not be a problem, but in quieter areas you will start to feel out of place.

Red – Risky:

Head out to the nightclub or night entertainment areas like Changkat Bukit Bintang and you will undoubtedly see hemlines go this short. Invariably you may ask yourself, conservative wear, where? A German friend who was visiting once asked if it was ok to wear a short dress to go to Changkat, I pointed to the sea of sequins, legs and cleavage below the restaurant we were sitting at. Warning though, don’t wear something like this out in the day. You will get stares and possibly cat calls as you walk on by.

By all means, this is just a guide. So of course I assume there will be some mix and match of hem/ sleeve/ neck lines in what you choose to pack. I’ve always been a fan of keeping a certain ratio in tact – e.g. if you’re going red on the hemline, then go green on the sleeve and neckline. Or if you’re going red on the neck line, then go green on the hem and sleeve lines, etc. It’s always about keeping at least a little mystery and covering some things up rather than putting all your goods on display.

photo (2)(Notice the amazing mix of shorts/ dresses/ long sleeved/ conservative Burqa there are in this shot of the busiest area in KL)

So let me know, was this visual helpful? I just got very excited after finishing up my Fashion Illustration classes =)