What is Batik Clothing?

B. Koch
B. Koch

Batik clothing is made from cloth that is decorated through batik processes. A wax relief method of decorating cloth, batik is a traditional Indonesian craft. Batik fabric is used in many traditional Indonesian garments.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

The use of batik clothing can be dated back at least 1,500 years. It is believed the technique was originally developed in Egypt and the Middle East, although examples have also been found in Turkey, India, China, Japan, and West Africa. While batik originated elsewhere, Indonesia, especially the island of Java, embraced and developed the technique extensively.

The creation of batik clothing begins with fabric made from natural materials, such as cotton or silk, that absorb the wax and dyes used in the batik process. The fabric chosen must be densely woven so that the intricate designs will show up clearly. After the cloth has been washed, areas are covered in hot wax, which is absorbed into the fabric. The wax may be sprinkled on randomly, designed into a pattern, or fashioned into an image.

After the wax is applied, the fabric is dyed. The wax in the fabric resists the dye, so when the wax is washed out, the areas covered in wax are left un-dyed. The process of adding wax and dyeing can be repeated to create complex, colorful designs.

There are a number of different types of traditional batik clothing. Perhaps the style most familiar to the western world is the sarong. A sarong, which may be worn my both men and women, is a tubular cloth worn at the waist and extending to the ankles. A panjong is worn in a similar manner but is a flat piece of fabric that is held together with a belt or sash and worn for more formal occasions. Women commonly wear batik shawls, and batik-decorated head cloths are often worn by men on formal occasions.

Contemporary batik clothing varies significantly from traditional designs. New batik may use complex techniques such as etching and discharge dying to create decorations. Stencils are also commonly used, as are waxes with various dye-resisting capacities. Batik concepts have even been applied to paper, wood, leather, and ceramics.

Batik is an essential cultural tradition in Indonesia. The craft was developed there and has been an essential part of the culture and dress throughout its history. In response to a petition from the Indonesian government, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named batik an intangible cultural heritage of Indonesia in May of 2009.

Discussion Comments


@aviva - I wonder where you're getting your information from about the trendy batik fashions. I just visited about twenty clothing websites for high end fashions and none of them feature or even carry batik clothes for teens or juniors.

I did another search for batik apparel at wholesale prices and came up with nothing but beachwear, sarongs, handbags and basically hippie stuff.

I do hope you're right about the hip new batik styles but until I see a little more demand, I'll wait on purchasing any wholesale clothing.


I first learned how to batik in art class back in high school. I almost forgot how easy and fun it was to create such unique designs until I uncovered my old Tjanting set the other day.

Tjantings are the batik tools we used to apply the wax onto the fabric. I think it's time to brush up my skills and start batiking again.


I think there's been a dramatic change in batik fashions over the years. What was once popular back in the sixties and seventies and was considered hippie clothes is slowly making a comeback.

Long gone are those icky backyard tie-dyed tee shirts. Fashion designers are finally adding trendy batik clothes to their junior and misses clothing lines.

Bali clothing is gaining in popularity again and I predict that it won't be long before you'll be seeing it in more clothing stores around the world.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Man with hands on his hips
      Man with hands on his hips