Fashion Forward Filipinas

Women's Fashion and Styling in Colonial Philippines

By Intramuros Administration

Baro't SayaIntramuros Administration

Fashion Forward Filipinas

Maria Clara as a Filipina icon is characterized by a conservative fashion sense. She is, however, a product of our colonial past. Before the Spaniards came to the Philippines, women in many islands were bare-breasted. A woman’s gayak (styling) shows society’s conventions and ideals about women in the same way that it shows the statement each woman makes about herself. In celebration of Women’s Month, this exhibit presents items about women’s fashion from the Intramuros Administration collection. For the whole month, each week, we will be featuring items in the collection from grooming tools to garments, and to portraits that capture the whole ensemble. They speak about the way a woman in colonial Philippines presents herself to society, tackling the ideals of beauty and power that come into play.

Peineta/Suklay (Comb)Intramuros Administration

Beauty Tools in a Woman’s Dresser

Grooming and glamming-up is a woman’s way of showing the lengths she goes through to take care of herself and keep-up with the trend. More than becoming an object of desire as the goal, grooming may be viewed as self-love.

Hand MirrorIntramuros Administration

Sterling silver hand mirror. This is part of a set of grooming tools that bear the letters “A, M and B,” presumably the initials of the owner.

Lady's HairbrushIntramuros Administration

Sterling silver hairbrush that comes in a set with the hand mirror. The bristles are soft, fine and dense, meant to maximize the natural shine of the hair.

Le Roy Soleil by Schiaparelli Perfume BottleIntramuros Administration

Le Roy de Soleil perfume for women was launched in 1946, in celebration of the end of the Second World War and the freedom of France. The gilded Baccarat bottle was designed by surrealist painter Salvador Dali.

Electric WaverIntramuros Administration

Manufactured by Fitzgerald Mfg. Co. in Torrington, Connecticut, USA. 115 to 120 volts, 50 watts. Wavy hair were in fashion during the 1920’s, the second decade of the American colonial period.

Manton de Manila (Black)Intramuros Administration

Women’s Clothing Amidst Social and Economic Changes

Through the centuries, the Filipino dress evolved with the influence of social status, religion and practicality. During the Spanish colonial period, the church guided the women on the proper way to dress. The Filipino dress progressed together with women’s rights and roles in society during the American Occupation.

Manton de Manila (Manila Shawl)Intramuros Administration

Inspired by the Filipino dress, the embroidered silk shawl was actually made in China and exported to the Philippines, Latin America and Europe via the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade. It was popular among wealthy Filipino women from the 18th to the 19th centuries.

Manton de Manila (Manila Shawl)Intramuros Administration

Chinese motifs are apparent in mantones. Colorful flowers, birds, butterflies and landscapes are common. Long fringes characterize this trendy accessory.

Baro’t SayaIntramuros Administration

During the 1920’s, it was a strict standard to have matching camisa (blouse), pañuelo (kerchief) and saya (skirt). Here, the printed blue saya is paired with a camisa and pañuelo in abaca fiber dyed and embroidered with the same color and design.

Baro’t SayaIntramuros Administration

This outfit is made entirely of abaca fiber. Matching art deco embroidery on the skirt, sleeves and kerchief makes this simple attire appropriate for formal occasions before World War II.

Peineta/Suklay (Comb)Intramuros Administration

Adornments of Noblewomen

The Philippines is abundant in gold.  The natives were fond of gold jewelry long before the Spaniards arrived.  Jewelry highlighted the beauty of the indias (Spanish term for native women) who were also known for neatness.  During the latter years of Spanish occupation in the 19th century, jewelry and costume had a deeper meaning other than beautification.  These were symbols of piety and status in society.

Rosario (Rosary Necklace)Intramuros Administration

Rosary necklaces made of coral, tortoise shell or gold beads served as symbols of both wealth and faith. Initially, the pendant contained a relic. As years passed, the rosary necklace became more decorative rather than devotional. The pendant would contain a simple image of the cross like this one. Eventually, the pendant would have more decorative motifs like filigree work of a flower bouquet.

Pañuelo PinIntramuros Administration

The wealthy woman wore her expensive embroidered piña blouse with a matching pañuelo (kerchief) fastened by a pin. This gold pin is filigree work with a green stone at the center.

Criolla (Demilune Hoop Earrings)Intramuros Administration

Earrings were made to match the necklace and the peinetas. Favorite motifs were flowers, grapes, and native fruits such as sampalok, bayabas and balimbing. These fruits, according to jewelry expert Ramon Villegas, were considered delicacies associated with pregnancy, fertility and womanhood.

Peineta/Suklay (Comb)Intramuros Administration

Earrings were made to match the necklace and the peinetas. Favorite motifs were flowers, grapes, and native fruits such as sampalok, bayabas and balimbing. These fruits, according to jewelry expert Ramon Villegas, were considered delicacies associated with pregnancy, fertility and womanhood.

Portrait of Rafaela Blanco de Ereñas By Juan Luna y NovicioIntramuros Administration

Portrait of a Woman Empowered

During the latter years of the Spanish occupation, women grew out of their image as convent-bred girls who were trained to keep house and be submissive to their husbands. They were enterprising and resourceful.  Widowed matriarchs ran the family business. It was also the time when noblewomen displayed their status and wealth through portraiture. 

Portrait of a Lady by an Unidentified ArtistIntramuros Administration

The mid-19th century saw the rise of the new elite class, which was the precursor of the secularization of art. The rich families commissioned portraits, mostly of the women of the family, to showcase their wealth. Details signify nobility. Here, the lady holds a prayer book to express piety.

Portrait of Liberata de los Santos by Simon Flores y de la RosaIntramuros Administration

During this time, the miniaturismo style of painting emerged. This style paid attention to minute details which made it possible to render intricate jewelry and embroidery on vestments. Observe the complete set of jewelry featured in the previous section: the peineta, the criolla, the pañuelo pin and the rosario necklace with a cross pendant.

Portrait of Rafaela Blanco de Ereñas By Juan Luna y NovicioIntramuros Administration

With his knowledge on classical antiquity, Juan Luna rendered Rafaela de Ereñas in a Roman officer’s costume. The delicate countenance of the lady is balanced by the costume, which may be seen as a sign of a woman’s strength and power.

Portrait of a Lady By Fabian de la Rosa y CuetoIntramuros Administration

Women as portrait subjects continued into the 20th century. This time, the aim was not to render the details of costume and jewelry, but to highlight the beauty of the Filipina.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps