There is always a Balinese performing a ceremony in Bali. Anywhere, everywhere! My favourite ceremony was about Arjuna, one of the most important characters of the Mahabaratha Gita or ‘The Song of the Lord’, an epic poem that is extremely important for the Hindu tradition and that was studied by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ in India.
In this play, Arjuna was meditating in the Indrakila mountain when Dewi Supraba, a messenger from god Dewa came to tempt him. As he didn’t allow it, Arjuna was blessed by god Dewa, giving him an arrow with magical powers.
Balinese people spend a big part of their life on daily, weekly, monthly and annual ceremonies and dedicate a lot of their time to have perfect outfits for each of those ceremonies. Their fashion style has a meaning and every detail is carefully planned. As they say, ‘it is not a matter of choice, but rather it is a fashion statement’. Every little thing represents something and they use one outfit or another depending on the ceremony and their place in society.
White and yellow, representing purity and prosperity, are the favourite colours of the Balinese to attend ceremonies. However, if you walk in the streets of Bali, you will see an explosion of colour in all the fabrics worn by women everywhere and flowers in their hair adding the extra touch that make them look sweet, pretty and pure.
In the old days, their dresses were used to cover, logically, but the aim of covering was not about shame, it was just a way to control desires and concentrate in higher purposes, like meditation and the search of inner peace. Balinese fashion is all about the sarong, a skirt with various layers, that are used for both men and women, they come in every possible colour and are beautifully accessorised by women with lots of style.
What I love about Balinese fashion is that whilst its inicial purpose of covering the body has not disappeared, a pinch of chic has been added to their formal attires. The sarong is still on trend, but Balinese fashion has evolved to the point of hosting a Fashion Week with great designers from Indonesia and other parts of the world as guests. One of the most famous, Oka Diputra, argues that ‘fashion in Bali is not dead’ and he is willing to prove it!
And I agree with Diputra, Balinese fashion is not dead, Balinese fashion is looking towards the future, but still attached to their traditions, to their essence, to their believes.