Kebaya has hostory that flows as time goes by, and adapting to the modern time and has long history since 15 century, in Majapahit period. And the early designed was influenced by Islam. Before the advent of Islam, there is an inscription date back 9th century mentions term of kulambi (in Javanese=klambi, or cloth) and sarwul (Sruwal). However that clothes mentioned are estimated did not cover body well. The open shape of front part of cloth, was then influenced by Islam and change this into more covered design.
Kebaya according to Hobson-Jobson dictionary is written to derive from Arabic, kaba means cloth but was introduced by Portuguese language. Batik expert, Rens Heringa in his work “Batik Pasisir as Mestizo Costume” (dalam Fabric of Enchantment, Batik from the North Coast of Java, 1996) shows the evolution of kebaya and and the origin word of kebaya. Estimated that kebaya was related to cambay that refers to cotton with floral motives imported from Cambay Port in India.
In Majapahit period, there were many nations meet for trading from China, India, Portugese, Arab and later Dutch. They influenced in the development of kebaya.
In history, kebaya was blouse that was first worn by Indonesian women, especially Javanese with jarik. But in 19th century, Kebaya design was also populer for Dutch women as it was suitable for tropical climate. Chinese descendant popularized kebaya encim during colonial period. Kebaya then evolved as feminism symbol, and now become national costume with various modern designs.
European descendants usually wore cotton kebaya with lace accent on its edge. And Chinese wore kebaya with shorter design and more simple with colorful decoration, or known as kebaya encim.
Kebaya design changed over time and it was ever forgotten. Moreover in Japanese occupation when creativity and productivity was limited and Japanese put pressure to the lowest level. In Japanese occupation, textile and its ancillary equipment routes was broken up, that lots of factory or production house closed and only few could survive.
Women that fought for independence still wore kebaya kartini and kebaya encim, and they re-popularized kebaya though it has western/modern outfit competitors. Western clothes were deemed to represent women independence out of kebaya, symbol of past that imprisoned women in twisted corset and long cloth.
After Indonesia reformation in 1998, Kebaya become new trend and flourish in woman fashion. If usually kebaya was made of silk, cotton ot velvet, later it is made of chiffon, shantung, lace, or even other textiles and later enhanced by embroidery, lace, gyre and pleated. Aplications also applied in kebaya design with ornaments of sequin, crystal, or stones. Now kebaya is not designed and worn with long fabric, but with jeans, shortng dress, or even hot pants. New kebaya creations can be seen from its pattern, silhouette, cutting or material.