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Doll Costume Exhibition A Hit With Visitors

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TAIPING: “The baby doll is pretty,” remarked four-year-old Anis Sakina Ismail as she gazed at the dolls on display.

Her mother, Yang Hasina Omar, 32, said it was their second visit to the recent Doll Costume Exhibition at the Perak Museum. Anis Sakina had insisted that they visit the exhibition again.

The dolls on display were dressed in beautiful costumes of different ethnicities across the world.


The exhibition featured 204 dolls from countries around Asia, the Americas, Europe and Oceania.

Each doll is dressed is costumes that reflect an era or the country’s culture, economy, politics, weather or topography, among others.

Dolls from Asia were dressed in loose and covered clothing. This is reflective of a culture that highly valued the modesty and femininity of women. Such values are prevalent in the design of the Japanese kimono and Malaysian ‘baju kurung’.

Asians were also fond of decorating their garments with colourful beads and wearing accessories like earrings, bracelets and necklaces.


The Perak Museum Director Nor Hanisah Ahmad said the dolls’ costumes were adapted from the traditional attires of the locals and reflective of their respective cultures.

“Dolls are usually made into children’s toys, gifts, souvenirs or house decor. What we don’t realise is that they are usually dressed in clothes indicative of the country of origin or their culture.

“Dolls can become an ambassador for a country. This is reflected not only artistically and aesthetically, but in the expression that tells of the people and their country,” explained Nor Hanisah.

She told Bernama that the collection did not belong to individuals but were gifts to Malaysia from the respective countries.

“Many of these dolls’ costumes were gifts from the countries that have diplomatic relations with Malaysia.

“The reason they presented us with these dolls is to indirectly introduce their traditional attire and richness of their culture to us,” she added.


For the avid doll collectors, observers, researchers and even the fashion savvy, the intricacy and detail of the costumes worn by the dolls are indeed awe-inspiring.

The clothes depict a period of time when certain styles appeared to be the craze among the locals of a country.

Among the interesting ones were the European collection of clothes. There was a time when Europeans strove to dress like the upper classes in an attempt to appear as the more elite members of their society.

A favourite among the ladies is well-tailored and fitting bodice and voluminous, layered lace gowns.

The assortment of clothes representing the U.S., meanwhile, was varied.

This is perhaps because the U.S. is among the leading melting pot nation and therefore exhibits multiple immigrant cultural influences in its attire.


Also as captivating is the collection of doll costumes depicting those worn by the Maori tribe in New Zealand. The clothes are adorned with natural elements from plants native to their countries. The adornments, clothes and even hairstyle are indicative of the wearer’s status.

The Australian dolls, meanwhile, is dressed in clothes that are similar to those worn by the Europeans.

Dolls from Thailand and India are unique as they came in a variety of styles depicting different elements of each culture such as work, dance and weddings.

Exhibition Officer Selva Raju said the museum had prepared a detailed explanation of the culture and country represented by each doll to enhance visitor understanding and experience.

Since it opened, the exhibition had attracted a large number of visitors and foreign tourists, but was especially a hit with children.

It ran from July 2015 to January 31, 2016 and garnered 135,584 visitors.-Bernama


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