Bali has such a rich history of textile production that traditional Balinese textiles can be found in museums around the world.
Not only are they beautiful to look at, Balinese textiles are rich in symbolism. They play important cultural and religious roles, from providing information about the wealth and status of the wearer, to warding off evil spirits.
Perhaps the most common fabric is ikat, which has patterns dyed into the thread before it’s woven, and is also produced in Gianyar near Ubud. Another popular one is ‘prada’, a brightly coloured polyester, screen-printed with lavish gold stencil, used in dance costumes. You’ll also see statues all over Ubud wrapped in black and white checked sarongs known as kamben poleng; the black and white, like so many aspects of Balinese life, represents the balance between good and evil. Of course, batik is also immensely popular and in many ways has come to represent Indonesian culture.
Textiles in Bali have traditionally been produced by women, who pass the often complex techniques down to their daughters. This process has been slightly impaired by modern life, and while there is still a flourishing textile industry on the island, many textiles are now brought in from neighbouring islands (largely from Java, Flores and Sumba) as well.
Purchasing Textiles for Tailoring
If you’re planning to have clothes tailored in Ubud, it’s best to make a trip first to Jalan Sulawesi in Denpasar. This is a street dedicated entirely to textiles, and you’ll find a wider variety of cottons, wools, silks and linens here than you will in Ubud. There’s also a range of batik available, though be sure to distinguish between real batik and batik print, which only features patterns on one side of the fabric.