Baju Bodo, a Traditional Fashion from Sulawesi

Daftar Isi
Nowadays, people wear baju bodo only in a traditional events, welcome party, or dancing contest. Not in everyday life.

Women in Bugis Tribe, Sulawesi, have worn baju bodo or waju tokko since 9th century. But not after 1930s, a lot of women wore it "naked". As we know, baju bodo were made of muslim fabric of woven cotton, which are tenuous and thin. Anyone could see directly what was behind the clothe. The jackpot is, in those days, the women did not wear any kemban (breast cloth) underneath. Not even a brassiere!

Since Islam has been officially accepted as the kingdom’s religion in the 17th century, women had to cover their breasts with a kemban, or at least a bra, behind baju bodo. The rule was stricter since the DII/TII, a political organization of fundamental Islamist, started to dominate Sulawesi. They demanded that every dress worn, specially by women, should not show the inner skin color, the curve of the body, and particularly... the breast.

The Kingdom of Gowa addressed the cultural clash between Islamic and traditional society wisely. They then tried to popularize baju la'bu, which is like baju bodo, just thicker, longer, and loose fitting.

The conventional baju bodo and baju la'bu survive to these days. In addition to mandatory dress for traditional events such as wedding ceremonies, baju bodo are also worn for the dancing contests and the welcoming parties to someone VIP today.

Nowadays, people wear baju bodo only in a traditional events, welcome party, or dancing contest. Not in everyday life.

However, there are some patterns that must be obeyed no matter how modern is now. For instance, baju bodo are always rectangular form, and usually short-sleeved. For in Makassar native language, "bodo" means "short". There is a rule of baju bodo’s color utilization too.

  • Yellow is for women under 10 year old. This color represent their joyful world.
  • Orange or pink are for 10-14 year old women. Pink (bakko) is a representation of the word "bakkaa", which means “half mature”. Women at the age of 14-17 wear baju bodo with this color also. But, because of her breast’s growth, they wear it in double layer.
  • Red (double layer) is for 17-25 year old women. Also used by women who are married and have child. The red color symbolizes the blood they sprout after the marriage.
  • Black is for 25-40 year old women.
  • White is for the servants of the king, shamans, and bissus. The bissus are believed having the white blood by incarnation. It is what makes them able to be a liaison between Langi Botting (realm of sky), Peretiwi (world of human), and Ale Kawa (world of spirit).
  • Green is for the daughters of the king, nobles and descendants (the maddara takku).
Quite complicated, isn't it?

But fortunately, to wear the clothe is not that complicated. Unlike to wear kebaya, to wear baju bodo is as easy as you wear a T-Shirt . Baju bodo is worn with Lipa' Sa'be (silk sarong) to the bottom. Then, you use a belt to hold the Lipa’ Sa’be on position. Just like that.

- Photo from