September 14, 2010

Filipiniana

September 14, 2010 - Categories: clothing, filipino, philippines

The dress arrived last week. It’s a simple ivory sheath of piña (pineapple fiber), with a lightly-beaded and embroidered panuelo (wrap). Although I’d never met the seamstress who made it, the dress fit like a charm, thanks to the measurements I’d sent.

I had been planning to wear a dress a family friend had given me before, but my mom wouldn’t hear of it. She wanted to be involved in planning the wedding, so she volunteered to take care of the dress. It would be her gift, she said. I accepted, asking her to make sure it was simple, classic, and something I could wear again. This dress fits the bill perfectly. It would do just fine at a wedding and at a formal get-together or cultural celebration.

In addition to this knee-length dress, she has also commissioned a Maria Clara, in case a long dress proves a better fit. My concession to the pageantry of weddings is to reach back in time and connect with my roots. I asked her to make sure the designer didn’t get carried away with modernizing the outfit. Traditional. Classic. A dress I can be buried in, I said.

I was half-tempted to suggest an Ifugao outfit – our family has many memories of Banaue – but it seemed easier to find a seamstress to work on a beautiful Tagalog outfit than to (a) pick the right tribe, and (b) find an outfit that doesn’t scream “tourist souvenir”. Maria Claras and nice panuelos are non-mainstream enough to require a seamstress, but there’s plenty of wedding inspiration. The rich weaves and beading of the mountain tribes are more niche. And there’d be no question of W- matching my outfit – a g-string? in Canada? in October? At least W- has a barong, which he may or may not choose to wear.

Actually, the wraparound skirts and colourful belts of some of the tribes can work really well here, too. I’ll need to find a way to pick up some of those when I next visit, as SM Kultura doesn’t stock a lot of those. =) We don’t have nearly enough variety in those department stores. I was looking all over for a payneta, and I think I only found it in Baguio…

I love wearing Filipiniana, from the malongs I wear in summers to the colourful Ifugao belt I once repurposed as earwarmers in winter. I’d like to wear more of it, like the way I see men and women in ethnic outfits even at work. That might mean learning how to sew my own everyday versions, because the only baro’t saya I’ve seen in Philippine department stores are embellished with metallic threads or beads. The baro’t saya is close enough to regular wear for me to avoid having tons of conversations with strangers about whether I’m heading off to perform somewhere.

Yay culture. =)