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.

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  • 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!


Style Destination: Greece

If you’re not a golden girl, then dressing like a Grecian may not be your newest favorite style. Since ancient empires ruled the city-states, Greece’s native garb has been adorned with precious metals.  But more than the mother source of fashion jewelry, the all-encompassing “Golden Age of Athens” has seen a great following throughout history in architecture, drama, science and philosophy. This unprecedented birth of contagious culture was destined to reach the eyes and ears of the world, eager to imitate.

Despite an unending sequence of invasions and domination by the Macedonians, the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, plus 400 years of Ottoman rule, dictatorship, and economic poverty, the people remain strong. Their rich history has continued to influence business, family, and religious life as well as the evolved traditional costume. Many roots of this fashion can be traced to the ancient Greek costume modified by Byzantine influence, with Turkish elements added during the Ottoman rule.

Styles vary between mainland Greece and its surrounding islands, but most variation contains similar source elements. These include remnants of the ancient draped garment with basic construction made up from native materials. Layers are important to Grecian women, as are bright colors, with gold jewelry used to signify a wealthy status.

Here’s a look blending two well-known costumes: the Crete and the Karagouna (the traditional wedding dress). Antique markets have ethnic textiles to either drape or sew into skirts if you’re having trouble finding these locally. Remember bright colors…even bright whites! Pillage thrift stores and secondhand shops for costume jewelry. Ross and Marshalls carry great, inexpensive clutches. Farmers’ markets might even carry fun headscarves.

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  • For starters, pick a patterned white top. The fabric should be soft and/or thin. Greece has a warm climate so short sleeves or sleeveless aren’t quite traditional, but definitely practical.

  • Next find a bright red skirt that has multi-colored designs and patterns. If it includes the colors blue and gold, even better! Keep the waist fitted, with an A-line drop. The fabric should be light but full, and if it’s two-toned, even better…it will look like the traditional apron layer.

  • Bring in a bit of the traditional black velvet Crete vest with a modern black blazer as your new “fall coat.”

  • Your feet should be traditional, so go with simple black flats.

  • Here’s the important part: gold accessories. Keep necklaces long. Use gold medallion earrings and trade your usual bangle for a gold medallion ring. More than chunky, think “tastefully regal,” without the gems.

  • Your hair should fade away into the bright colors, so keep the style easy but use a red headscarf in the style of Karagouna’s light pattern, again bringing in a little bit of blue if possible.

  • Keep attention on your colors by carrying a simple, bright clutch. Ideally, blue, which echoes the Greek flag and throws a “pop!” into your red.

  • Finally, Greek women typically have plump red lips. Just go easy; you don’t want to look like a streetwalker.

And you thought Greece was only good for its white coastal villages against the bright blue ocean!