At the turn of the century with the Spanish and Spanish American war, the Filipinos asserted themselves through crystallizing their identity with costume. For four hundred years, Filipinas wore plain wrap-around skirts (saya) fashioned out of opaque plaid or striped cotton and sinamay varieties, and the baro (blouse) fashioned out of sheer lace fabrics.
In the early 1900’s, the Philippines was acquired by the Americans from the Spaniards. From the Spanish colony, we moved into the American colonial era (1902-1946). This gave way to the “Americana” in the Philippines where Hollywood movies, musicals, magazines were introduced. Having a Hollywood inspiration, a stunning Filipino costume was created called the “Traje de Mestiza”. Traje is the Spanish word for dress. Mestizo came from the Latin word mixticius, meaning mixed. Roughly translated, traje de mestiza means mestiza dress.
The traje de mestiza was in fact the “Maria Clara“, trimmed into a shapely modernity, with detailed embroidered skirts. The camisa became a clinging bodice, with delicate oversized lace bell-shaped sleeves. The saya became slimmer that burst out at the hem into a flare and acquired a train (saya de cola – skirt with a tail) leading to the new look.
The gown became the star of the zarsuelas with all the glittering glamour of a beauty queen.