The Maria Clara gown remains as the best traditional and cultural women’s dress across the regions of the Philippines islands. The coined term “Maria Clara” is taken from one of the beautiful and well-off protagonists in Jose Rizal’s national controversial epic novel entitled “Noli Me Tangere”. This was written in 1887 during the Spanish regime so the female characteristics have been penned in line with her character.

What is Maria Clara gown?

It has been always connected to the traits of the novel’s literary figure since she is very delicate, genuine, kind, courageous, self-assured, independent, and wholesome. No wonder this is the only dress in the Philippines that is named after a renowned literary figure which came to be as the national attire for all women. This has been worn in all government or political functions since it was made which symbolizes the high honor made by all men to women as well as the prestige that it represents.

The Origin of the Maria Clara Gown

The Maria Clara gown has originated from the Baro’t Saya that was worn by all women prior to its creation. As it is associated with the tragic character in Dr. Jose Riza’s worldwide novel wit the title of Noli Me Tangere, each component of the whole attire symbolizes something deeper beyond what is seen by the naked eye. This should be something that all Filipinos are well aware of since it represents Philippine independence and sovereignty of our nation.

Components of a Maria Clara Gown

Camisa

This is also known as the blouse which is worn on top. It represents the purity of a woman since it comes in white color or lighter shades. Also, this comes as collarless where the hem is located at the waist of the dress and usually made from flimsy and translucent fabric cotton from pineapple fiber or the jusi. Its sleeves are comparable to the wings of an angel with a shape like a bell since these are first worn on churches only or formal occasions for religious functions. Pagoda was the first term coined which is derived from Victorian classic dress in the West.

Panuelo

It is also known as fichu which gives an accent to the women’s dress. This represents the charm and vibrancy of women as it is reflected in their actions. Moreover, it is made of starched cloth which comes in square shapes which is either made from the similar material of camisa (pineapple fiber) or opaque. Once folded many times, it can be now placed on the shoulders which is also related to modesty. This covers the nape and upper portion of the body since the camisa has a low neckline once worn. Also, this supplements the panuelo’s sheer translucent characteristic with the embellishments placed on it which comes as embroideries with the pin that secures it on the place.

Saya

Also known as the skirt, this is worn below the blouse which should start from the women’s waist until the ankle or toes. This may come in many colors since it represents how colorful the Philippine nation is through the spirit of Filipina women. Also, it comes in a cupola shape with the length which starts from the waist as it reaches on the floor that is comprised of a single sheet or double sheet which are coined as panels or dos panos in Spanish (two cloths in English).

Tapis/Dalantal

This component of the Maria Clara gown may be optional but it means a lot when it is worn. This accentuates the whole Maria Clara gown which comes as a rectangular piece of cloth with an elaborated apron. Moreover, it is a knee-length skirt which hugs the hips of a woman who wears the Maria Clara gown. It can be plain or an opaque fabric which is the same as a madras cloth or a muslin one for the reason of a women’s modesty. This protects the lower body from being exposed since the saya is thin with the absence of a woman’s underwear.

What is the English of Maria Clara gown?

The modernization of the Maria Clara gown has been made since the Americans colonized the Philippine islands. The Maria Clara gown has been the same for the first few years that Americans started their rule on the government of the Philippines. After a few more years, the Americans influenced the evolution of Maria Clara costume as they modernized it in contrast to the traditional styling. The culture of the Filipinos has been changed from what the Filipinos are used to. In English term, this was called a ‘Filipiniana dress’ as it is still called in today’s generation.

The Evolution of the Maria Clara Gown

During the American times, it was called as ‘Traje de Mestiza’ which is the modernized Maria Clara gown version which is represented with bigger sleeves and narrower skirt which reaches the floor on its length. This has a long train which is coined as a saya de cola as it is replaced by the fully scaled skirt that is influenced by the Edwardian Era of the Western fashion.

On a more modernized note of the Maria Clara gown, it is now referred to as the ‘terno’ since the evolution of clothes that matches the fabric of a baro’t saya. A terno is a woman’s dress that consists of patronized colors. On occasional times, the terno is now refer to as the mestiza dress with women who resided in the first half across the 20th century. Modernizing the Maria Clara gown represents the self-reliant, and independent women character.

3. What is Maria Clara gown made of?

As mentioned above, the Maria Clara gown is the national costume for all women which is primarily made of pineapple fibers and silk. For fashion designers or dressmakers who tried modernizing the whole attire uses fabrics which are used for casual occasions. The cloth color is made from the dye of Sabang. It is a native plant in Misamis Oriental and woven in Aklan.

There are different dress designs that should be paired with a perfect hairstyle for all women out there. Wearing an old dress is something that is part of our national history. This national Some Maria Clara Costume DIY is made by intelligent and industrious women in the northern areas in the Philippines. The simple yet modern dress design can also be worn as Filipiniana for kids.

Gallery of Maria Clara Gowns

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