The ABS-CBN Ball's new dress code this year opens a new opportunity to put the spotlight on the Filipiniana attire. On the red carpet, we'll be able to see this traditional garb with a fresh new look, modernized to fit today's time. Below, we zoom in on everything you need to know about the Filipiniana attire and discuss how it became our national dress.
The Popular Textiles Used in Local Garments
One of the distinct characteristics of the Filipiniana is that it's traditionally made from pineapple leaves. Pineapple fibers are extracted by hand and worked into fine threads that are later woven together in a loom. The end result is a translucent piece of fabric that can be layered on top of each other without its wearer feeling too hot. To this day, it's one of the most lightweight and breathable fabrics that can last for a long time.
Jusi is another type of Filipiniana fabric originally made from banana leaves. After the influx of Chinese silk organza, jusi textile now comes from a blend of piña, silk, and abaca (manila hemp) fibers woven by machine.
The Different Terms Used to Describe Filipiniana Attires
Throughout the years and with our rich history, the Filipiniana attire has evolved into different iterations. These are the most popular iterations and a common reference for modern remakes.
The tapis in the Philippine context is pretty much like the garments worn across the Southeast Asian countries, and is closely related to the Indian saree. It's a piece of unstitched fabric wrapped across the waist and fastened with a knot on one side.
2. Baro't Saya
This literally translates to shirt and skirt. The baro't saya is the national dress worn by Filipino women during the Spanish colonization.
This is comprised of four separate pieces of clothing:
Baro or Camisa (Shirt)
The top is made with puffy or butterfly sleeves, adorned with intricate emboidery. It is said to have been fashioned after the Virgin Mary's costumes and how her statues are typically dressed.
Panuelo or alampay (Scarf)
Since the baro is made from translucent material, a scarf is placed on top of it, across the shoulders to cover the breasts. Some also wear the panuelo as a head scarf.
The saya is made from cotton and sinamay that remained to be unadorned until the start of global trade. Since the early Spaniards and Filipinos entered trade with other countries, the fabrics for the skirts also became more elaborate.
The tapis was retained and used on the Baro't Saya as an assertion of the old ways of the natives. The tapis functioned as an overskirt, furthering the conservative practice that the Spanish were imposing through religious doctrines.
The tapis saw a more extravagant take and was refered to as sobrefalda (overskirt), a black translucent piece that was sewn over the saya.
3. Maria Clara
The Maria Clara is fashioned after Dr. Jose Rizal's character from Noli Me Tangere. She is described as a Filipina donning the mestiza's formal eveningwear. Her skirt features vertical panels called Siete Cuchillos or Seven Daggers.
4. Traje de Mestiza or Terno
This is the modern version of the Maria Clara, come the American occupation in the Philippines. The baro sleeves had a more voluminous bell-like shape, the bodice became more fitted instead of its old boxy silhouette, and the skirt became more elaborate and even had a short saya de cola or train.
Still, the baro had a translucent finish thus the need to have an undergarment. The lacey piece worn underneath it was called the corpiño.
Under the skirt, a petticoat was added and called the enaguas, which gives another layer of embellishment when the cola would be lifted. The enaguas would feature lace and crocheted trimmings.
The Balintawak can be referred to as the country version of the baro't saya. It is known for its butterfly sleeves and shorter skirt with plaid patterns. It is favored to be worn by Manileñas when vacationing away from the pueblos or when they go on picnics or fiestas as this outfit would be less restricting.
6. Barong Tagalog
The men were often clad in Barong Tagalog, originally known as "Baro ng Tagalog" (dress of the Tagalogs). The Spaniards brought in this dressy shirt made from pina, silk, abaca, and banana fibers that bear intricate embroideries inspired by patterns from the Indo-malays.
Accessories and Add-ons Worn with Filipinianas
The Filipinianas then were adorned with luxurious accessories that were indicative of one's societal and financial status.
1. Tamburin necklace
This is a necklace typically worn over the panuelo as a form of embellishment.
It's a decorative hair piece made from gold, silver, and tortoise shells.
Llavero or key ring/ holder is an accessory carried by women who manage households.
These are confraternity badges worn as a necklace to signify one's religious devotion.
Folded fans were an accessory always carried by the women not only because the weather was hot, but also to converse demurely without actually speaking to the opposite sex.
For footwear, a pair of wooden clogs or bakya was worn by the ladies.
The Filipiniana Attire Today
The Filipiniana was once recognized as an everyday wear and not as a costume. Since we entered into the modern times, however, we became highly westernized and so did our daily wardrobe. Today, we look at its revival as it transformed through the visions of local designers.
At an educational level, Slim's Fashion and Arts School has made it a mandatory activity for its students to learn how to make modern ternos and barongs. Local apparel brand Bench has also made an initiative to resurrect the art of making and wearing ternos through Ternocon, where they tap local talents to reinvent the Filipiniana attire. This culminates in a runway show celebrating the national dress. Likewise, local talents continue to revamp the Filipiniana to appeal to our modern society.