Maria Clara gown

Maria Clara gown
La Bulaqueña(1895) by Juan Luna depicts a woman from Bulacan, Philippines wearing a traditional Maria Clara gown.

The Maria Clara gown is a traditional gown worn by women in the Philippines. This Filipino dress takes its name from María Clara, the mestiza protagonist of the national epic Noli Me Tangere, penned in 1890 by Filipino national hero José Rizal. It has been connected to the Maria Clara character because of her traits: delicate, feminine, self-assured, and with a sense of identity. The Maria Clara outfit is the only Philippine national attire that is named after a literary figure.[1]



The Maria Clara dress originated from the conventional baro't saya of early Filipino women. The baro't saya consists of a loose, long-sleeved blouse, which is then worn over a wide, ankle-length skirt.[1]

Traditional components

The attire is composed of four pieces, namely the camisa, the saya, the pañuelo (a scarf, also spelled panuelo), and the tapis. The camisa is a collarless chemise whose hem is at the waist, and is made from flimsy, translucent fabrics such as pineapple fibre and jusi. The sleeves of the camisa are similar to the so-called "angel wings", or shaped like bells that have cuffs. The pañuelo is a stiff covering for the neck, which acts as an accent piece because of embellishments added to it. The purpose of the pañuelo is related to modesty, used to cover the low-necked camisa'. The saya is a skirt shaped like a bubble with a length that begins from the waist reaching the floor. These are usually comprised either of single or double sheets, called "panels" or dos panos (lit. "two panels/layers"); some examples are made out of seven gores or siete cuchillos (lit. "seven knives"). The tapis is a knee-length over-skirt that hugs the hips. Tapis designs may be plain, and is usually made of opaque fabrics such as muslin and the madras cloth, and also is used for the purposes of modesty as it keeps the lower torso from showing due to the thinness of the saya.[1]


A more modern version of this dress is referred to as a "terno".[2]

During the July 8, 2008 State of the Nation Address of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, she wore a “modernised Maria Clara gown”. The adaptation donned by the president came was fuchsia-pink, designed by JC Buendia. Created in three weeks, the fabric used for the presidential gown was a blend of pineapple fibres and silk and was developed by the Philippine Research Institute, an agency of the Department of Science and Technology of the Philippines. The six-yard fabric costing 3,000 was produced in the province of Misamis Oriental, processed in Manila, and woven in the province of Aklan. The cloth was then coloured with a dye from the sabang, a native plant.[3]

The purpose of the gown was to project the theme of the president's speech that was “The world-class capacity of Filipinos”, in addition to the values of self-reliance, environmental protection, helping the underprivileged, and tapping into the Philippines' “potential for catapulting into First World status”.

According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, this is the first time in Philippine history that the media office of the Malacañang Palace revealed details about a Filipino president's evening outfit that would be worn for a State of the Nation Address, although the president herself talked about the attire she wore in June 2008 during the 50th anniversary of the Department of Science and Technology. The aforementioned outfit was an old-rose-coloured dress from pineapple fibres and dyed with materials originating from coconut husks.[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Moreno, Jose "Pitoy". Costume at the Fin de Siecle - Maria Clara, Philippine Costume,
  2. ^ Project Runway Philippines (season 1)
  3. ^ a b Avendaño, Christine. ‘Modernized’ Maria Clara gown for Arroyo, Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 28, 2008.

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