Essay: Influences of Philippine Women Fashion Clothing History

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¶ … Philippine Women Fashion/Clothing History

The aim of the paper is to give a clear picture of the Philippines women clothing history from the colonization period by the Spanish to the present fashion. The report aims to look at the influences that have shaped the fashion sense of the Philippines women to what it is today. Indeed, much of what is worn today is as a result of various influences from the cultures that the Philippine women have been part of particularly by Spain, Japan and America.

They were occupied for a long time by Spain, and then the American for a few decades. The Japanese late came and then the Americans again. We can thus say that the history of the Philippine women fashion is made up of the mixing of cultures and the intentional separation of social classes.

The Philippines were colonized by the Spanish from 1565 and ruled until 1898. 'Before the invasion, the Philippines had not yet established an identity of their own when it came to their own cloth fashion. The settlement of the Spanish drastically transformed Filipino culture and fashion.' (Schirmer, B., 1987)

In fact the clothing style of the Philippines can be said to have been inspired by the Spanish. Through the teachings and traditions that were impacted by the colonizers, the Philippines found themselves coping the 'foreigners' including clothing style. The period from 1565 to 1898 was a very long period of colonization which meant Philippines picking quite a lot from their colonizers.

Before the invasion by the Spanish and consequently colonization, the Philippines clothing style was mainly simple yet functional. Because of the nature of the climate, i.e. tropical climate of the Philippines, most natives wore light but comfortable clothing woven from local resources. 'The Philippines would only dress up on collarless shirts that were known as 'canga' and for the bottom part they would dress on wraps that were known as 'bahag'. This was not to last for long when the Spanish entered into the Philippines territory and modification were made on the Philippines fashion sense and the 'canga' was revolutionized to what is now known as 'Barong Tagalog' The collarless shirt was also modified by the adding of collars, laces, trimmings, and adornments. Besides that, the 'canga' was further modified by the adding of embroidery and buttons as the 'bahag' was replaced with the trousers.' (Helena, 2007)

The female counterpart of the 'Barong Tagalog, the Baro't Saya did also receive some modification. The Baro't Saya is a flamboyant gown commonly accepted as the unofficial national dress of Philippine women. This is still their traditional dress up to today. The Baro't Saya is a simple dress simply consisting of a blouse and skirt ensemble. It is designed for flamboyant occasions and it is designed to be graceful and elegant to accentuate the beauty and charm of the Philippines who choose to wear it.

The Spanish would always fully cover their upper body and the Philippines women took over the practice mainly to avoid offending the sensitivities of the Spanish wives. 'They would not wear transparent materials when the Spanish invaded their country.' (Renato, 2006) At first, the Philippine women wore the saya or tapis only for their lower body and their upper body was left naked; however in time they added the baro as a result of the influence of the Spaniards. Thought the Spanish colonization, the Baro't Saya was the everyday wear of most of Philippine women, especially any woman of class. The 'Baro' is the upper part consisting of the blouse while the Saya consisted of the lower part of the ensemble; this is along wrap around skirt. The garments were fashioned from checked or plain cotton and sometimes made from the banana fiber, popularly known as Manila hemp, a plant indigenous to the Philippines. With the exit of the Spanish, the dress changed a bit.

'The Philippine fashion became recognized in the 15th century but it was not popular in the U.S. And Europe until 1800. In fact the people who brought the delicate native fabrics to other countries were the Spaniards who had colonized the Island.' (Alfredo, 2008) During this period of the 15th and 16th century, identifiable Philippine fashion started to emerge. Embroidery was an important aspect of the Philippine fashion in the centuries prior to Spanish settlement and beyond. Native Philippines considered needlework an essential skill for women. In fact the Spanish were very much attracted to the Philippine embroidery work and collected the pieces the women made. The most popularly of the embroidery methods was the calado and sombrado.

Women fashion in the 19th century was deeply entangled with the separation of social classes. In 1890, The Maria Clara Gown was invented as a traditional dress of the Philippines combined with Spanish Influence. The outfit consists of a saya, the baro, the panuelo, which is a scarf, and the camisa. The camisa is an undergarment that is usually made of pina and has long sleeves with cuffs that look like bells. As a matter of fact, this gown is still worn today. It is typically worn during folk dance and theater performance that feature the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines. The Maria Clara Gown has been widely accepted as one mode of traditional formal wear especially during political and social gatherings ad it is also worn by brides who wish to paint their weddings as a traditional affair.

The American influences have also shaped The Philippine women clothing style by the development of the terno which was developed in the 20th century. Terno has butterfly sleeves and a streamlined, figure hugging look, mirroring the tastes and influences of American colonists. This means that apart from picking something from the Spanish, the Philippine also had a chance to pick some fashion influences from the American people and this tells that the present women fashion is a mix of not only one culture but many.

As a result of these influences from many cultures, it is typically hard to spot the Philippines wearing their own traditional dresses. The modern American dressing has caught up with them, making the traditional dress a thing of the past. To see a typical dress in the Philippines, one has to pay a visit to the remote areas. Some people especially in some mountain villages on Luzon and Mindanao still wear traditional colorful clothes. It has been said that more and more people especially the young women prefer the more westernized clothes. This show that the traditional women dress of the Philippine just like it is in other cultures in the world is slowly loosing its value due to the western colonization.

The most affected groups are those that were in place to easily mix with the Spanish, Americans and the Japanese. This hardly happened to the more isolated tribes (the so-called cultural minority groups or tribal Filipinos) and it also never affected the Muslim people in the South of the country. Hence because of this at least 10% of the Filipino were never affected and still retain their traditional dressing. This is such a small number as compared to the other 90% who have been influenced and left their traditional dresses to wear the newly introduced jeans, shorts, pants etc.

Even with the modern Westernization affecting the women form of dressing, there is still little form of traditional dressing done especially during official ceremonies. We can therefore say that all is not lost with the Philippines still recognizing their traditional dresses on such occasions. It is still possible to see typical Filipino dress at official ceremonies. This has been the case in most cultures which have been affected by other cultures, and mainly American and Spanish cultures.

The clothing style was also influenced by the existence of the different social classes. These classes and racial divides were most vividly apparent in clothing especially in the case of women. Women of a certain class were recognized with a certain form of dressing. Thus the spectrum's poles were defined with some being naked and the layered clothing being associated with the elite. This signified the different poles existing between the two groups of the rich and the poor. There was a radical difference between the abject and the civilized. It was thus with a sense of local pride that elite and mestizo classes wore extraordinary refined jewelry, silk and trousers, and delicately embroidered pina garments.

The clothing was supposed to deliver both a political and aesthetic statement. The extreme refinement was a showcase to be defined as a civilized society which meant distancing from the naked body of the savage. The rich wore a lot of layers as they saw their Spaniards do. The Spaniards believed in covering their whole body especially the upper part and so when they came to Philippine the same was introduced especially among the rich.

Those who did not put a lot of layers were termed to be backward but one thing to remember… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Influences of Philippine Women Fashion Clothing History.  (2011, August 17).  Retrieved November 22, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/influences-philippine-women-fashion/599381

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"Influences of Philippine Women Fashion Clothing History."  Essaytown.com.  August 17, 2011.  Accessed November 22, 2019.
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