By: Christy Mabute
Pre-colonial era, the Philippines had already established the basics of an organized community life. There's the government, religion and the very early beginnings of fashion. But hardly was it called fashion back then as the purpose of a dress was heavily dictated by function rather than style and aesthetics.
When the Spaniards set foot in the Philippines, they introduced a strongly patriarchal, Christian-centric society. With the new Western perspective, women are expected to be subservient to men, demure and modest. Moreover, this concept also imposed that women should conduct and dress themselves conservatively especially when out in public and this set the groundwork for the fashion landscape during the Spanish period. Exposing certain body parts such as the nape, ankles and feet was a great taboo. So if you don't want to be the talk of the town, the dalagang Filipina has to strictly conform to the fashion code of the day.
Here's a timeline as to how the Philippine national dress came to be what it is now.
During the early days, the clothes were less cumbersome. Women wore a tapis which is an unstitched fabric, wrap-around skirt used primarily to cover the body and genitals and is either tied at the waist or below the breasts.
It was rudimentary and a far cry from today's elaborate clothing but it served its purpose well of protecting the body against the harsh elements. The tapis also bore a close resemblance to its Asian neighbors wearing the same garments such as the Indian sari.
However, the garments also vary by region. For example, various tribal groups have been known to wear colorful woven clothes with intricate patterns and beadwork. But mostly, women wore dresses that are the archetype of today's modern Filipinianas.
The baro't saya
is influenced by two factors: religion and climate. Firstly, it was inspired by the dress worn by statues of the Virgin Mary. Secondly, the Philippines being a predominantly humid country, garments should be flimsy enough to allow the skin to breathe.
is the less restricting, country version of the baro't saya
. This is the garment of choice for Filipinas who wanted to have a good time during countryside trips, picnics or fiestas but would still want to look fashionable.
It has a shortened skirt, puffy sleeves, plaid design with low cut bodice. The Balintawak
symbolizes the carefree rural scene and is often associated with festivity, merriment and endless summer fun.
The Spanish regime still maintained its strong influence but with the added factor of a robust economy and exposure to Western fashion, the baro't saya
continued to evolve with the changing times. It was aptly named Maria Clara, after Jose Rizal's female protagonist. Elegant, beautiful and conservative, Maria Clara was the epitome of a true Filipina.
Now, let's peel the dainty layers one by one.
Baro or camisa - is the upper ensemble. It is a light, airy blouse made of flimsy and translucent fabrics like jusi and pineapple fiber. It's puffy sleeves with intricate designs are sometimes called " angel wings".
Saya - is a long, billowy skirt. It typically has double sheets called dos paños (two cloths) and is made of plaid or striped cotton.
- or alampay
is a stiff triangular shawl or veil used to conceal and cover the nape and breasts in an effort to show modesty. Depending on the design, the panuelo can be embroidered, with lacey intricate details. Can also be worn as a head scarf.
- opaque rectangular cloth wrapped around the skirt. It functions as an overskirt and is believed to be the native's assertion of pride. Muslin and madras cloth are the common fabrics used to make a tapis.
TRAJE DE MESTIZA
Spaniards out, Americans in. The change of hands also ushered in a newer version of the Maria Clara called traje de mestiza
loosely translated as dress for traje and mestiza which suggests a woman of mixed heritage.
The silhouette was still patterned after the flapper dress but the American fashion sense was starting to peek through. Baro sleeves transformed into bigger, voluminous butterfly sleeves. The panuelo was a smaller version of its former self. The bodice shied away from its boxy shape and became more shapely and fitted. The skirt became narrow and elaborate with a long train called saya de cola. Such was the fashion rage from the 1920s through the 30s.
As the years wore on, the typical traje de mestiza
was gradually being replaced by more practical, modern dresses. The terno
emerged, bringing with it a more seamless and intricate design.
Back in the day, the word "terno" means "matching," and refers to a matching set of camisa, pañuelo
, and saya. But during the 1940s, terno's connotation changed so it now means a single dress.
National Artist for Fashion Design Ramon Valera had a very pivotal role in popularizing the terno's
look. His version was a single piece of clothing composed of 4 pieces: blouse, skirt, overskirt, and long scarf
. Gone were the conservative panuelo and tapis. In its stead was the matching blouse and skirt, with the exaggerated, butterfly-wing sleeves as it's most defining feature. The newer design also has a cinched waist, lowered neckline, ankle-grazing length and zipped at the back for the perfect fit.
The Queen has Arrived
has blossomed into a full-fledged beautiful national dress. Special gatherings like the Santacruzan, government assemblies and even Philippine pageants have turned into a runway for women donning the sophisticated terno
and showcasing it to the world. A number of modern brides have also risen to the occasion and have worn the terno
on their special day.
has gone through quite a makeover. Brilliant designers have continued to innovate and incorporate their own sense of style and fashion to this beautiful dress and the results couldn't have been more breathtaking.
are elegant, vibrant and still exude the grace and elegance of a Filipina.
The challenge now though is to bring the Filipiniana
back to its golden days. The fashion industry is saturated with high end luxury brands but this should not be a hindrance in bringing the Filipiniana dress to the international stage. Because more than a beautiful terno, the Filipiniana
is a cultural heritage and a national pride.
So If you're looking for the perfect baro't saya, Maria Clara, terno or that Filipiniana dress that fits like a glove, do check out Barong Warehouse
. The dresses are exquisite and the Barongs
, such charm!
J. Moya. (2021). A Quick History of the Filipiniana, Also Known as the 'Maria Clara' Gown. Tatler.https://www.tatlerasia.com/power-purpose/ideas-education/the-history-of-filipiniana
L. Garcia. (2019). Filipiniana Dresses And How They’ve Changed Throughout History. Sinta & Co.