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Singaporean Styles

Fashion is an integral part of the culture of a country. From religious and traditional outfits to day-to-day casual wear, fashion and clothes are an important part of society. Fashion greatly varies from place to place, oftentimes defined by the weather, progressiveness of society, and importance placed on fashion in that culture. Each location is influenced by its own various quirks. Fashion is an important part of the Singaporean culture, and Singapore has become a leading destination for high fashion trends and styles throughout the world. Everyone is not necessarily pressured to follow trends, but most everyone looks well put-together.

The various ethnicities of people living in Singapore have their own unique style of dressing. The main races of people here are the Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Eurasian, with other ethnicities forming sizeable groups as well. The Chinese traditional dress for women is known as the “Cheongsam”. It is a one-piece dress, also called “Qipao” in Chinese. The male equivalent is known as the “Changshan”, and is literally translated as “long shirt”. These are worn during festival times and have even become a type of formal attire for high end functions or gatherings.

The traditional costume of Malay women is the “Baju Kurung”, a knee-length blouse worn over a long skirt, which is usually worn with a headscarf. Another popular, and less formal, type of clothing is the “Kebaya”, a form-fitting two-piece dress. The attire for men is the “Baju Melayu”, a loose tunic worn over trousers, which may be accompanied by a sarong called a “Sampin”, which is wrapped around the waist. A cap called a “Songkok” is also worn with it. These attires are donned both for religious celebrations or any family gathering in general.

The Indian costume also has a large number of varieties. The most common for women in Singapore are the “Sari” and “Salwar/Kurta”. The men usually wear “Dhoti” or “Kurta”.

Fashion in India has come a long way. There are many different types of traditional clothing. For women, they have a choice of the “Sari”, “Salwar Kameez/Churidaar Kurta” and “Ghagra Choli/Lehenga”. The Sari is a long, unstitched cloth which is draped over the body in different styles, varying from region to region in India. It is worn with a blouse and a petticoat underneath. Saris are made of different materials depending again on the region where they are from. The Ghagra Choli consists of a long skirt or Lehenga, a blouse, and a “Dupatta”, which is a long scarf worn over the chest or head. The Salwar Kameez consists of loose trousers worn with a tunic, which usually hits mid-thigh. The Churidaar Kurta is almost the same, except the trousers are loose until the knees and then fitting towards the calf, with horizontal gathers near the ankle. The top is usually longer than that of the salwar, and usually goes a bit below the knees. Both are worn with dupattas. A dot, or “Bindi”, is put at the centre of the forehead to go along with any Indian clothes. The men usually wear “Dhoti/Lungi” or “Sherwani/Kurta”. The dhoti is a long, sarong-like garment which is wrapped around the waist and reaches the ankles. They are usually paired with a shirt or loose tunic. The Sherwani is very similar to the women’s Kurti, except it is in the form of a long coat or jacket which ends just below the knees, and worn with Churidaar bottoms.

In the all-year-round hot and humid climate of Singapore, it is incredibly common to see people wearing loose clothes made from light materials. Shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, and jeans are all staples in every Singaporean’s closet. However, being an extremely modern city, nearly every building is air-conditioned, so there is a stark difference between the temperatures inside and outside. We Singaporeans handle this with style – knitted sweaters and long cardigans are becoming increasingly popular items of clothing. People dress perfectly from top to toe, meaning the feet get the same fashion treatment as any other part of the body. From slippers and flip-flops, to sandals, heels, boots, slip-on Vans, Crocs, sport shoes, and the large sub-categories of each, the available footwear outnumbers the number of feet on each person.

Being on an island, most Singaporeans spend a large part of their free time at the two parks which are built right onto the beaches, very creatively called East Coast Park (ECP) and West Coast Park. Most people wear shorts, t-shirts, and summer wear. The beaches of Sentosa are filled with sunbathers in bikinis and fashionable swimwear. Sentosa is renowned for the Universal Studios theme park, its long sheltered beaches, golf courses, and various hotels and clubs. Here you will find a party vibe all the time.

While these clothing items are what everyone wears on a regular basis, different places like offices and schools have their own rules for clothing. Primary and secondary schools have uniforms, while college kids have no such rules. This is where, as many people say, ‘true freedom begins’, with no one bothering whether you look like you’ve just rolled out of bed or are dressed to the nines. Those who work in offices are usually dressed very formally in traditional western business attire like suits, and are always very polished-looking. The click-clacking of heels is probably the most common noise heard in office buildings!

Fashion in Singapore is definitely evolving. More and more teenagers, and the general public alike, are turning towards famous icons in pop culture for major fashion trends. Home-grown stars are few in number, though, so foreign idols create a huge impact on what will become the latest rage. Clashing colours, crop tops and statement sunglasses are the in-things right now as we are in the peak of summer, and the places to stock up on the season’s latest looks would be the famous shopping district of Orchard, or most malls.  Fashion and style has become an integral part of society and culture. Whether it is for traditional or religious purposes or even just regular clothing, people are paying far more attention to the way they look, and appearances have never been more important. After all, with the number of options available these days, who can blame anyone for spending time on looking good?



My name is Nikki and I currently study in Singapore.  I come from Bangalore, India while my parents come from two different Indian states, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and I have lived in various cities like Delhi and Bombay.  Other than my academics, I have been learning Bharatanatyam, which is a form of classical Indian dance, for the past 10 years now.  I also love to read and am a volunteer at the Singapore National Library.  I have a great attraction towards these projects due to my passion to help people, and I find that these make me a more compassionate person, as well as help me to see the reality of the world. 


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