Looking back on our style ancestry, the Filipiniana Dresses

After watching a video clip called Manila, Queen of the Pacific, made sometime in the 1930s, my thoughts turned to days sitting through History class and nostalgia of reading Noli Me Tangere, particularly of Juan Crisostomo Ibarra and Maria Clara. Amidst the historic reverie, I was then lead to mull about what folks used to wear back then once again (yes, I’ve considered this more than once before).

And another clip that shows a collection of old photographs of historic places around the Philippines, which includes a glimpse of how Filipino men and women dressed up back then.

I’ve always wondered how women coped with dressing the way they did then if we are to think they had to put on the traditional frocks that composed the roster of Filipiniana dresses.

Filipiniana Dresses - Baro't Saya, Maria Clara dress, Terno | Style Manila - Fashion, Beauty, Shopping, Manila Street Style, Lifestyle

As far as I know, they’re called the Baro’t Saya, the Terno, and the Maria Clara dresses. I’ve always wondered if these Filipiniana dresses were respectively worn during some specified era or all at the same period. Did they assign society classification or worn by all? I reckon I need to do a bit more reading on it (if by some good fortune I’d find materials that discuss it).

Filipiniana Dresses - Maria Clara dress | Style Manila - Fashion, Beauty, Shopping, Manila Street Style, Lifestyle

Looking at the dresses, I can spot design similarities. The line that distinguishes a sleeve detail of one dress to the other, the use of structured wraps and weaved Piña fiber, the skirt and its hemline, and the hand-sewn embroidery and embellishments. I can imagine that, back then, one can tell the difference between an expensive Maria Clara dress from an average one by just looking at the fabric used to make it and the quality and quantity of its adornments.

Filipiniana Dresses - Terno | Style Manila - Fashion, Beauty, Shopping, Manila Street Style, Lifestyle

What used to be common wear are now reduced to a simple costume that one would only wear to patriotic themed events. Though I can recognise the effort that the fashion industry exerts in calling our attention to our nation’s style ancestry, I also hope that this will carry on (and not be seen as ostensibly patriotic or, worse, mere trumpery) and, at best, burgeon to a rekindled patriotic love for a fashion era influenced by our own.

Filipiniana Dresses - Maria Clara dress, Terno | Style Manila - Fashion, Beauty, Shopping, Manila Street Style, Lifestyle

Though, I know it would be impractical to keep at it for present-day everyday wear but I can’t help but wonder how our streets would look like and what our style mindset would be if our circumstances were conditioned from that period to keep this style tradition extant.

Filipiniana Dresses - Baro't Saya, illustration | Style Manila - Fashion, Beauty, Shopping, Manila Street Style, Lifestyle

Can you imagine how the landscape of local couture and prêt-à-porter will look like had contemporary Filipiniana-inspired pieces been injected in them? I do find it an exciting thought to think about — making the Filipiniana motif globally competitive and a way to distinguish Philippine fashion from the rest.

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Images courtesy of ebay.ph, mylot.com, mahryska.com and coupongladiator.com

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About Sasha Manuel

Sasha is the Founder and Chief Editor of StyleManila.com. Style Manila has been around since 2007. You can also follow her on Twitter (@angelisophia), Polyvore, and Instagram (@sashamanuel). Read more about Sasha Manuel.

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