Style Destination: Philippines

For those local gals in Southern California, you know it can get pretty hot and humid. Think back to September and you’ll remember dripping in places you didn’t know you could sweat! Even though we’re deep into fall, we might get those pesky Santa Anas where “All bets are off; anything can happen” (thank you, Jack Black in The Holiday).  Either way, keep those summer clothes handy and try a quick trip to the Philippines — through fashion!

The Philippines has a very active history. The first recorded visit came with the arrival of explorer Ferdinand Magellan. It was then colonized by Spain for over 300 years until a Revolution sparked. After two years of fighting, the First Philippine Republic was proclaimed. However, the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish–American War, transferred control of the Philippines to the United States. Fighting continuously for freedom, the Philippines nation was finally able to declare an internationally recognized independence in 1901.

With the heavy influence of Spanish culture, Filipino fashion blares shades of Spain’s passion and drama. The official national costume of Filipina women is the baro at saya. The blouse and skirt are both regally colored and ornately decorated. The Maria Clara dress is the traditional festive wear featuring these specific elements. Wearing Maria Clara, the women also don a fixed shawl and a neck choker or pendant for delicate charm.

Here’s a look that shows the significant contribution of Spanish flair to Filipino fashion, while retaining the unique style strength of the native peoples. Commit to the majestic fabrics, whether bright colors or a neutral sheen. Antique markets will have the ethnic textiles to use as shawls. Farmers’ markets might even carry fun scarves. Rummage through thrift stores and secondhand shops for the more feminine jewelry.

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 9.15.39 AM

  • Choose a dress that defines the waist, giving an illusion of a top and skirt.  If necessary, add a sash of color. The dress fabric should be stiff (satin or even starched linen) and hold its A-line.

  • If your dress has short sleeves, wear a light, see-through tunic under your dress, making sure the neckline falls below your dress’ neckline.

  • The most important part is your shawl, worn up and tightly drawn around the shoulders. Tie a loose knot with the ends, or fasten in place with a brooch (that doesn’t distract from your choker or pendant). This is where your pattern and decoration gets a little freedom. Anything resembling lace, embroidery, or feminine pattern is a go. Again, go with stiff fabrics.

  • Your feet shouldn’t draw attention, so stick with flats the same color-scale as your dress.

  • For earrings, choose classic studs, like pearls.

  • Head to Michaels or JoAnns for ribbon and jewelry clasps to make a black choker. Find pendants at garage sales, thrift stores, or amongst Grandma’s old brooches or even her clip-on earrings.

  • Instead of a clutch, fill your hands with a fan to wave in elegance and keep you cool.

  • To protect your precious skin, try a delicate parasol, available online.

  • Keep the makeup natural and beautiful, playing up the lips with an innocent pink.

The next time you need a warm weather (or any weather) cocktail party inspiration…think Philippines!