Dress make the man. You know that Bali is rich in culture when you see how beautifully the people dress. In traditional Bali, how you dress directly reflects your social status, just like in Victorian England. Though styles differ from class to class, with things getting more grandiose higher up on the social ladder, all Balinese clothing is centered on the sarong.

Balinese clothing is often divided into three broad categories based on their functions: everyday, religious, and ceremonial.

Everyday clothing refers to clothes that the Balinese use to go to work daily or wear around the house. Despite many Balinese adopting Western attire (typical shorts and T-shirts), a large portion of the population still choose to dress traditionally. This is especially true in villages. Men and women wear a single sarong, tied on the waist with a sash and topped with a T-shirt or sometimes nothing at all! This was the way to dress back in the old times, when Bali was still an undiscovered paradise. Today, you can still see people in the villages walking around in sarongs, despite the absence of a ceremony. Everyday clothes also cover the clothes that the Balinese wear when doing prep work for a ceremony, known as pakaian adat madya. The men usually wear dark-coloured sarongs (bright coloured ones are reserved for religious ceremonies) that are thicker than everyday sarongs and specialized sashes that have pockets and holsters where the men can sheath their knives; while the women wear a sarong topped with either a simple lace dress or a shirt.

Religious attire is a step up the everyday clothes. For religious or community ceremonies related to religion, the Balinese make sure that they wear their best. It is considered an insult to the gods and goddesses if a Balinese were to wear unfashionable clothes in the temple. Men wear a white buttoned shirt and two sheets of sarongs. The outer layer is the saput, which is usually bright yellow or white; while the inner layer is just a simple sarong. On the head, the men wear a destar or white headband. Women wear lace dresses called brokat or kebaya over a colourful sarong. Balinese women love their colours, which is why their outfits are more eye-catching. Unlike the men, women do not wear any headgear. They can, sometimes, style their hair with hair extensions called sanggul, but since it takes a lot of work, only a few women opt for that.

Ceremonial attire is on another level. Ceremonial attire seeks to resemble the attire worn by Balinese royalty during the feudal age. Known as busana agung or literally “royal dress”, this type of attire is guaranteed to make anyone look like a prince/princess for a day! The men wear two sheets of modified sarongs, usually made from expensive fabric, that covers their chest until their ankles. The outer layer is either a lighter or darker colour than the inner layer. The headgear is still a destar, but sometimes, men wear gold-plated crowns. On the back, men also wear an imitation dagger made from wood. Sometimes, they carry a real dagger! Then, on the neck, ankles, and wrists, they wear gold-plated accessories. Men also wear makeup! These attributes are only reserved for special ceremonies, such as weddings and tooth filings. The women also wear similar attire to the men, but without the dagger. The women wear two pieces of fabric: a shorter one for their torso, and a longer one for their bottom parts. The pieces are held together with a sash. The women’s also wears the same decorations as the men, but the crowns for women are usually much larger.

So that’s how the Balinese dress up. Traditional Balinese dresses can easily be bought in local markets and even souvenir shops. For the more flashy ones, you can rent them at photo studios that offer a traditional Balinese package.