All posts by Fiola

Modest Fashion: Things to Know Before Traveling to Indonesia

If you’re an Indonesian, I suggest you read the Indonesian version one “35 Aksesoris & Pakaian Wajib Dimiliki Wanita Indonesia.”


I’ll introduce you a general knowledge of Indonesian fashion and standard of modesty. Hopefully, this article can help you to learn my country’s culture and get an idea of how to plan your outfit when you visit Indonesia.

Every day feels like summer

One of the best things (or maybe boring) about living in a tropical country is that it never gets too cold or too hot!

Indonesia has a tropical rainforest climate and it’s humid or rainy all year. The rainy season usually occurs around  September to February, but global warming probably affects everything because until now (March), it still got heavy rains.

 

The temperature varies according to cities, but it normally remains stable on the average 22°C/72 °F (min) and 32°C/90 °F (max). I live in Bandung, the capital city of West Java. It’s a mountainous city which has a really nice, fresh, and cool weather. The temperature average is usually around 20°C/66 °F (min) up to 29°C/90 °F (max). Eastern Indonesia areas are hotter, like Bali, the average is around 24°C/75 °F (min) up to 32°C/89 °F (max)

Cultural diversity

Indonesia is full of diversity, it has lots of different ethnic groups and languages.

With more than 17,000 islands, so can you guess how many cultures are there in Indonesia? Even though I’m an Indonesian, I still need to do some researches to dress properly when traveling to other cities.

The first time I visit Nusa Tenggara Timur island, the eastern part of Indonesia, I feel like a foreigner. The culture, language, food, and the climate is totally different from my hometown. When I visit rural areas in Yogyakarta, many people stared at me and my local friends told me it was probably because of my skin tone and how I didn’t look like local.

Therefore, I advise you to do some researches of specific places in Indonesia that you would like to visit, especially for Special Region areas like Aceh and Yogyakarta.

Indonesian is conservative but open at the same time. Every ethnic group has different and unique characteristics. We preserve our cultures and traditions, some ethnic group can be more strict than the others.

Nowadays, more people begin to accept new influences and integrate it with their traditions. The ones who live in bigger cities, especially in the Metropolitan areas like Jakarta, is usually less strict because they adapt to western cultures. However, it all depends on how their family’s values.

Calling older people by name is mostly considered impolite, of course, unless the person asks so. We usually use Mr., Ms., Sir, etc., but since we have so many language and different ethnic group, we have many different terms. For example, we call Javanese older woman by “Mbak” but in Sundanese is “Teteh”.

Standard of Modesty (Things to avoid)

It may be challenging to dress modestly in a hot or humid climate, but I’ll later share you some general knowledge to give you some ideas and wardrobe essentials which you can get easily at your country or even have it already at your closet.

Indonesia is one of the most populous Muslim-majority countries in the world so we have a certain standard of modesty as a mark of respect to Muslim values. In some areas, especially in a smaller city, rural area, or areas which don’t get a lot of tourists, the standard modesty can be more strict especially for females. However, you can dress more freely if you are in resort or tourism areas which get lots of visitors from around the world.

‘Fit’ is Okay! The longer + the baggier: the better

Avoid wearing revealing clothes unless you go to a touristic area with lots of foreigners. You don’t necessarily have to cover everything but basically, you should at least wear medium coverage outfits and anything which is not too tight.

It’s acceptable to wear at least a short sleeves t-shirt top with a neckline which is not too open. I don’t recommend you to wear a tank top and especially see-through outfits unless you wear a camisole underneath. For bottoms, everything below the knee is acceptable.

General Indonesian fashion styles

Most Indonesian dresses up casually. T-shirt, jeans, leggings, sneakers, sandals, and flats are the most common outfits for men or women wear. Light jackets, hoodies, and cardigans are the most common outwear we use. You’ll see more people wear neutral or pastel colors than bright or bold ones and simple graphics or patterns.

Fashion in the bigger cities

Movies, TV Shows, magazines, and especially social media begin to have a big role in influencing Indonesian fashion style. Instagram is a really huge thing now. People looking for style and beauty inspirations from Indonesian influencers. Moslem fashion has grown a lot these days so you probably will see stylish hijabers (a term commonly used to Moslem women who wear veils/hijabs).

Although batik originally comes from Indonesia and it’s one of our precious heritage. Not many people wear it daily, but Indonesian fashion designers begin to develop a more modern batik style. It’s generally considered looking more dress up when wearing batik shirt. Government tries to empower us to wear Batik by creating a “Batik Day” every Friday. It’s common for an office to have a Batik dress code on Friday.

Signature dresses for formal occasions

Marriage ceremonies and parties are huge things in Indonesia. 

Most people willing to spend more on their money to create a very big party and invites hundreds to thousands of people.

Batik and kebaya are commonly worn to the party, graduation ceremony, and become the main choice for bridesmaids dresses. Some people still choose to wear a classic western style, dresses or suits.

Fashionably respectful

Pack lightweight clothes with natural fibers, light wools, and everything that absorbs sweat well.

If you aren’t used to hot weather and easily sweat, consider wearing colors that show your sweat the least. In rainy days, some of the roads can be covered by puddles so it’s better to wear darker bottoms.

When you travel to Indonesia on business, prepare for a nice t-shirt, trousers, flats, leather shoes, cardigans or a blazer (it’s not necessary but depends on your field). Women can wear a nice knee skirt for women and men can prepare a tie. Polo shirts are also a great option if you attend a less formal meeting.

Styles that prevents pickpockets

Generally, Indonesia is a safe country to travel, but there are pickpockets in certain areas, especially touristic areas.

Growing up in a modest country, we are taught that the main reason not to wear revealing clothes, especially for women, is to protect us drawing men’s unwanted intention or flirting with you.

Therefore, you also don’t want to draw attention to some pickpockets. So if you carry a sling bag, it’s safer to always put it across your body and in front of you. If you don’t need to carry so much stuff, one of my favorite bag to travel is a waist bag.

When carrying a shoulder bag, keep your hand around and try to keep your bag away from the road (if the road is on your right side, hold your bag on your left side) to avoid pickpockets who ride a motorbike take your bags. Don’t put your wallet on your back pocket jeans.

Again, do some researches about the places you’re going to visit. Of course, it’s not the best idea to wear revealing clothes and carrying your designer bags while visiting a local and traditional market.

When traveling, it’s safer to spread your valuables around various hiding places. Don’t forget to always use a lock for luggage and backpacks when traveling to Indonesia by airplane.


A special note for everyone: Don’t be surprised if many local people stare at you, especially when you have pale skin or hair color other than dark brown or black.  If you have already dressed properly, relax, there’s nothing wrong with you! It’s usually because of you being a bule, Indonesian word describing foreigners. Think Crème Brûlée and pronounce Brûlée without R.

Certainly Wear Uncertainty

Maybe we are connected to each other because we are part of the universe. That day, I felt that the universe could see and feel that I was ready; ready to learn to see uncertain things.  


When the sky looked grey, and the sun didn’t seem to be there, I interviewed a woman in a cafe. My first impression of her was: a serious woman with curly hair who wears a simple and plain outfit.

my impression of her was a serious woman with curly hair who wears a simple and plain outfit

When I woke up, I fell that I was well prepared to work

All of the outfits I own are all the same type, simple cutting, neutral color like black or white, and intermediate pastel colors which hard to define as I wore today. It was not grey but it was not blue.

I like simple cutting and the colors that are in between… Probably it’s related to me who’s a detached person.

People… they come and go. I believe some are meant to go, some are meant to stay. Some are meant to be

I love to make friends, but even when we are close, one day they might go, or we might never see each other again. I just realize, it probably somehow affects me with everything I own and I’m wearing.

I guess it’s all related to my past… It is a perception which is kind of hard to be understood by others.

I’ll just buy thing based on its function and my needs

I only have this one pair of flat shoes and this one cellphone. When I walked around the store, I found cute things that attracted me, but then I realized one day I would stop using or wearing it. My love for those things will eventually be gone also. If it won’t last too long, I won’t buy it.

It was since one and a half years ago when I experienced a self-transformation. I guess it affected by everything that happened to me, changed my mindset, and make me who I am now. Which I’m also just realizing it when you ask.

I’m not a person who needs details

I like to wear and to see something plain, no motives, as simple as that. My work makes me think too much all the time, things that are too bold, too conspicuous, too colorful is too much! It stimulates my brain. One or two days seeing that kind of things is quite okay, but I don’t need too much.

Like my bag, it has a similar color to the outfit I wore. It’s just a simple bag I use only to keep my stuff and I can put lots of things in it.

I don’t usually wear accessories unless it has meaning.

Like the ring I’m wearing, it was a gift from my grandmother, which also a gift from my grandfather when he went to Netherland. I also had a necklace I sometimes wears, which was a gift from my friend from Canada.

If you see my wardrobe, I use the KonMari method. I arrange all of my stuff based on the color gradation. Because my entire outfit has the same type and similar colors, some people even think that I didn’t change my clothes!

***

An interview with someone who describes herself as “a Storyteller” 

NB: She introduced me to the KonMari Method that I tried to apply “Self-Healing, Declutter Bedroom.” This interview means a lot to me, she made me realize that uncertainties are scary but can change our life for good. She’s also the one who made me started to like grey and uncertainties and inspired me to write “I was Wrong, Grey was Right.”


Maybe it was not just a coincidence. Even when we are stuck in between things, even there are too many uncertainties in life, there are things that are certain. Some were just meant to be.