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Sabah Traditional Costumes

The people of Sabah comprises several ethnic groups. Among them are the Kadazandusun, Bajau, Murut, Kedaya, Bisaya, Irranun, Rungus, Kimarang, Kwijau, Lundayeh, Ubian, Binadan, Orang Sungai, Tatana, Tagaas, Brunei, Suluk and others.

The most notable difference among the various ethnic groups are their dialects, religions, customs, and way of life which includes their traditional costumes.

The use of traditional costumes can be seen from two periods of time, that is the classical and modern periods. In the classical period, traditional costumes were worn during rituals, weddings as well as daily wear. In modern times, traditional costumes are only worn at special occasions like weddings and traditional functions.

Most ethnic groups in Sabah use black as the dominant colour of their traditional costumes. The use of black stems from the belief that black is a godly colour and represents power that will protect the user from the bad spirits. Other beliefs state that the use of black is synonymous with the way of life and natural conditions at that particular time.

In the past, red gemstones, coloured glass beads, cowry shells, white buttons or disks made from shells and bronze were used to adorn the men and women’s clothes. Today most of these ornaments have been replaced with plastic beads and other more modern materials like gold and silver threads, sequins and coloured threads. As of old, these ornaments are still worn with belts made from various materials like shells, silver glass coins, bronze or other types of alloys. A waist cloth made of coloured rattan is used to tighten up the robe, pants, or vest. Necklace made from various materials are used as decoration around the neck and chest. Bracelets are also used to adorn the hands, wrists and feet.

Traditional hats/headgear or scarves are normally used by the men and women as protection from the heat as well as to absorb perspiration. The headgear used during official functions are more beautiful and colourful. The ritual specialists wear headcovers and garments which are decorated differently when they are performing traditional functions. Today, the men still use the headgear (sigah) as part of their daily attire. The sigah is a square piece of cloth folded into different shapes according to the district the person is from. The women use beads, combs, scarves and traditional hats based on the occasion or functions held.

                   Bisaya Traditional Costume                      

Lundayeh Traditional Costume

Brunei Traditional Costume

Irranun Traditional Costume

Kokos Traditional Costume

Suluk Traditional Costume


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