Who hasn’t tried the “Filipiniana Dress Up” Picrew by Stacey (@alamangoes) yet? Almost all my friends have made their avatars, hefting bolos on one hand and a signage or hand fan with the other. The novelty is this: We unexpectedly found representation and a subversion of the meek Maria Clara in a digital space that is ultra-hip and neutral. Despite my surprise, I thought, “Protest through Picrew? Of course, a Filipino would think of that.”
Stacey is an 18-year-old cis female from Calabarzon. Browsing through her work, you can see how she takes inspiration from local culture, from our folk fashion to mythology. While there are some artists who prefer a near non-identity in their art, @alamangoes is able to showcase her heritage and explore it through her narratives.
Many designers have reimagined the Filipiniana. You can find exciting variations of the costume on “TERNOCON,” a terno-making convention and contest that’s a joint project between The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and Bench. Recently, we interviewed Filipino designer Ron Roxas, whose virtual Met Gala submission was terno that’s “modern and uniquely queer.” For her part, Stacey part gave us different cuts and materials to choose from. You can pick a cage terno or a pineapple fiber camisa you can pair with a panuelo.
More than the clothes, the Picrew also challenged the notion of what Maria Clara looks like and stands for. Having several options for the body type and skin tone gives way to inclusion and pulls away at the image of a feminine ideal—fair, petite and doe-eyed. We shouldn’t have to conform to beauty standards and although mainstream media is beginning to value diversity, we still have a long way to go.
Seeing the Filipiniana with flags and signages prove that honoring folk tradition doesn’t have to mean reinforcing the status quo. Former first lady Imelda Marcos was known for wearing ternos and those who associate the dress with her consider the dress as a symbol of extravagance. Before Marcos became famous, it was connected to the ideas of gaiety (in rural festivities) or conservatism (when inspired by the Blessed Virgin). What can the Filipiniana mean for society today? We, the Preen team, shared our Picrew avatars with our calls in defense of press freedom. If fashion can be used to put a spotlight on social issues, the Filipiniana can be used to raise awareness for national concerns.