On this page:
  • How to wear a malong
  • Traditional clothes
  • Batik and ethnic clothes
  • The malong and other fragments of Philippine culture
  • More malong pics
  • Looking for a malong supplier

How to wear a malong

Someone came upon my webpages while looking for ways to wear a malong,
one of the traditional Filipino costumes. It’s really simple – just a
tube of cloth – but incredibly versatile. Although a number of
creative ways to use a malong are featured in a traditional dance
called (unsurprisingly) the malong-malong, I haven’t been able to find
a good Web reference that gives step-by-step instructions on how to
wear a malong. I may just build a malong site this summer, after
sewing that pretty blue/green batik cloth into a spring/summer malong.

Here are a number of ways to wear a malong as a full-length skirt. The
easiest way to wear a malong around your waist would be to flatten the
tube and wrap it around your waist, tucking it in at the end. My
malong is ankle-length when worn like that, which probably goes to
show that I’m exactly the typical Filipino’s height.

Alternatively, you can step into the tube and fold the malong inwards
until it’s the height you want. Then:

  • draw it to one side and wrap that one around tightly, tucking in
    the other end with or without pleating. To pleat, you wrap part of
    it tightly and then fold the excess back and forth with a little
    bit of overlap (like making a paper fan, except with less
    overlap), then tucking this bulky part into the tight inner part.

OR

  • stand in the middle and use your elbows to keep the front side of the malong
    close to your waist while you tie the excess ends into a knot (or a
    double knot), or

OR

  • draw it forward and backward, then use your elbows to keep the
    inside part of the malong close to your body as you fold the excess
    ends to one side and tie a knot

Or you can make something up. =)

I tend to like pleating over a tight wrap because pleating gives you
some freedom of movement. If I knot the malong, I prefer to knot it at
the side so that it has more of a shape, although middle-knotted
malongs go nicely with certain tops.

I should post pictures sometime – maybe three weeks from now, when things quiet down a bit (end of term cramming)…

I’ve also figured out how to wear it as a dress that reminds people of
India or togas. It’s interestingly cultural and gets a lot of comments
(although I’m not sure how many of those are being politically
sensitive) although it’s probably not kosher (safety pins?!). For that
one, you step into the tube and pin it under one arm, then take the
excess and drape it over the opposite shoulder, pinning it to the
front side and adding a large brooch.

I also experimented with using garters to hold up a tube dress (wrap
the tube around you, fold it in front, fold a little bit back, tuck
the excess under that fold, fold the top part in a bit to secure, then
clip on the garters like dress straps). White garters with metal
fasteners looked incongruous. Black or beaded garters with black
fasteners might do the trick.

And yes, I know, I should just post pictures so that you know what I’m
talking about, but I’m technically not supposed to be up this late
documenting part of my cultural heritage… =)

Besides, isn’t it just _so_ cool that malongs are one of the
acceptable skirt-like garments that guys can wear? ;)

More malong tips would be very much appreciated. If my blue/green
malong goes well, I’ll probably shift more of my wardrobe to malongs.
(I can’t sew a balintawak or a Maria Clara!) People can chalk it up to
my being charmingly quirky/nationalistic/exotic/weird…

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Traditional clothes

I like wearing outfits inspired by traditional Filipino costumes. I
love wearing my malongs, for example.

I want more Filipina flair! =)

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Random Japanese sentence: 彼はとても満足そうに見える。 He looks like a cat that ate the canary.

Batik and ethnic clothes

Wearing a batik malong

I love wearing ethnic clothes. Traditional outfits are hip enough to
pass off as casual but dignified enough to go formal, possible with a
little creative re-pinning. I love wearing batik-dyed or embroidered
malongs, the simple tubular skirts that can be turned into dresses and
sashes and sleeping bags depending on need. I love wearing my
butterfly-sleeved terno and wish I had one that looked less formal.
The gold-threaded cream blouse makes it too dressy, but I wear it
anyway!

Of all the costumes I wear—from hacked computer T-shirts to flowing
skirts to jeans and a tee—I like the traditional ones the most.

Thanks, Mom, for sending me two more malongs and a few black tops!
Thanks to Pavel and Emily for bringing them from the Philippines!
I want more outfits…

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The malong and other fragments of Philippine culture

Red malong, style 2

One of the good things about Canada is that I can wear funky ethnic
outfits. I invariably get complimented whether I’m at a geek
get-together or a fashion boutique. I stand out in a crowd. It gives
people something to talk to me about, which has led to quite a few
interesting conversations. This is great when I’m among strangers, as
I don’t have to chat people up – people come to me!

My favorite ethnic outfit is the malong, a tubular piece of cloth
frequently embellished with batik designs or embroidery. I love it for
its versatility. Not only can it go from casual to formal and back
again, but I can also make it a skirt or a dress or a bag with just
the strategic repositioning of safety pins.

This malong:

  1. Slip into the malong’s tube and hold it so that the extra part is to your right.
  2. Loop the extra part behind and over your right arm.
  3. Fasten the part to both sides of the tube using a safety pin.
  4. Pin the fold to the opposite side.

Granted, I’m making things up as I go along. I don’t even have the
vocabulary to describe what I’m doing. <laugh> I’ll just have to
record a video sometime.

I’ve seen only one other person wear a malong regularly, and she was
one of the hippest dressers in Ateneo de Manila University. I have
three full malongs and two skirt-type malongs, which could probably
double as short dresses in a pinch. I want more!

Promoting traditional Filipino costumes is one of my little crusades.
I think we don’t give our culture enough credit, and we don’t have
nearly as much fun wearing traditional outfits as we could. I love
wearing my terno, and wish I had a more casual version that I could
wear during summer. I’d wear a Maria Clara if I had one, full skirt
and all. I would love to wear the Ifugao belt with the cute pompoms
and the tapis with intricate weaving. And I want to discover all the
other costumes that have sprung out of the multifaceted culture of an
archipelago.

I’d also love to have suits with ethnic accents, whether it’s in terms
of materials (I miss my barong dress!) or embellishments such as
weaving or embroidery. Does anyone know a fashion designer in touch
with the Filipina soul? I can’t afford an entire wardrobe of
custom-made suits, but I don’t mind slowly accumulating pieces of
quality. (Very slowly, given my graduate student budget!) I want to
promote Philippine culture, and this will be a lifelong endeavor.

I’m Filipina, and I want people to know it. I want people to think of
Filipinas as not just domestic helpers or nurses or potential wives. I
want them to think of Philippine culture as not just Western-aping
blandness but rather something richly textured. My body is my
billboard, and I want to be a walking advertisement for what is
beautiful about my home.

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More malong pics

My mom sent two more malongs through Von Totanes. Slowly building a malong collection and coming up with different ways to wear it. When I go home, I should learn the kappa kappa malong dance… ;)

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Looking for a malong supplier

I get complimented almost every time I walk out the door wearing one
of the beautifully patterned malongs from the Philippines. The malong
is also worn in several other Asian countries. I love the intricacy of
the pattern, particularly when it’s embroidered and not just printed.
It’s a terrific what’s-it at parties, sparking plenty of interesting
conversations. And yeah, it’s hip enough to go casual and ethnic
enough to go more formal: all I need are a few safety pins and a nice
brooch.

When some friends and I were at the Taste of the Danforth (a Greek
food festival), a shop owner asked me if she could buy the malong off
me. She wasn’t the first to ask me where to get these malongs. I
wonder if I can start a little side business that’ll also make it
easier for me to get the malongs I like… <laugh>

Sourcing the cloth would probably be the hardest thing. Quality is so
variable. One of my favorite malongs had a brilliantly coloured red,
purple and gold pattern in the beginning. The dye runs each time I
wash it, which is a pain. I have to wash it separately and make sure
there’s enough space between it and the other items on my
clothes-drying rack.

I wonder where to find malong cloth: embroidered, printed, etc. I want
quality malongs and accessories with the same patterns. Imagine
wearing a matching scarf, or a cute bag, or even shoes…

Hmm. It would be a good excuse to learn how to build an e-commerce
site, too. Also, I’ve been doing lots of strange things with wearing a
malong that I haven’t seen other people do yet, so that might be fun
to pick up.

Something to look into. First thing I’d need to do is to find a source
for ready-made high-quality malong cloth and make a few samples.

Hmm. I’d love to pass this idea to someone else. It’s not part of my
core competency (sewing bags? making shoes? I’d have to learn so much
first!), but it’s something I wouldn’t mind taking a risk on to help
make it happen…

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Comments:

From Simon Ditner:

<rant> It kind of throws me for a loop that your blog doesn’t
have a display of user submitted feedback. It’s very unsatisfying
putting comments in this little box, and not seeing them go anywhere,
like I’m pitching bits to the wind. It seems like the complete
antithesis of your research.</rant>

On Queen St., between Spadina and Bathurst, you’ll find yourself in
the fashion design district with some of the best deals on fabric in
town. I sent an email off to my friend Lyn, a local vietnamese fashion
designer, to see if she knows of a local source of malongs.

From Charo Nuguid:

I have a friend who lives in Iligan City. He’s a photojournalist, and being that your dad was formerly one, you’d know how small the pay is for this job. What he does to raise money for lenses and bodies is to buy and sell beautifully crafted native swords. He’d auction them off on eBay and have people send money to his brother’s account in the States.

Selling Philippine-made malongs would be a great idea. It’s just a matter of sourcing them out here in the Philippines. :)

From Kelly Drahzal:

I love the ideas of an e-commerce site making(?) and selling ethnic
clothes of good quality. I’d be their best customer as well, I think.

I’m also into sewing and quilting. Have an old Bernina sewing machine
that is my pride and joy, and have been dropping hints for months that
I’d like a mannequin/dress form for birthday/christmas.

If you decide to seriously pursue something like this, let me know.
I’d be interested in a joint venture. :-)

From Jay Goldman:

Some thoughts on your malong project:

  • Go for it! It may not be part of your core competency, but you might just surprise yourself. I just read Leila’s post about Bob Parson’s rules right before yours (http://www.hyperbio.net/fric_frac/2006/08/bob_parsons_rul.html) and was struck by the overlap. His rule #1? Get and stay out of your comfort zone. He’s right you know.
  • There are some excellent fabric shops along Queen St. W., in the few blocks west of Spadina. I’m not sure if malongs require special fabric, but there’s a good chance you’ll find what you need in there (and, if not, some good leads on where to track it down). Take a malong with you when you go and you’ll have much better luck explaining what you want.
  • Craislist is a great resource for finding things. A quick search for mannequin turns up a few that might work for you (like http://toronto.craigslist.org/clo/193412155.html, though lacking legs). There’s also a “wanted” section, so you could post a request for a proper one in there. You would likely also find people who could make malongs for you (i.e.: a “Production Team”) if you wanted to focus on the design and order taking aspects.
  • The Shopify folks out in Ottawa (who are awesome and part of the barcamp crew out there), have a great solution for setting up a simple ecommerce store, which we’re about to use it to sell torcamp t-shirts. Although it may offend your open source sensibilities, check it out as a possibility.
  • Last thought: this is a low risk opportunity with a potentially high reward. All you really have to do is set up a website, print some business cards, and see what happens. Your worst case is that no one is interested and you spent some time building a site, and your best case is that it takes off wildly and you end up enthroned on a global fashion empire :)

Good luck!