This blouse would have once been an element of a four-part ensemble (baro’t saya) consisting of a skirt, overskirt, blouse, and shawl. Blouses with similar billowing “angel” sleeves can be seen in portraits of upper-class women in the 1880s. Today this style of top is still worn on formal occasions, although it is often merged with a fitted skirt into a bell-sleeved formal dress. Clothing made from embroidered piña cloth was popular among the upper classes, especially in the lowland Christianized areas of the central Philippines. (See the text to your left for more on the process of making this cloth.) The shimmery, diaphanous cloth was cool in hot weather. Embroidered piña textiles were also exported in large numbers to Europe and the Americas. They continue to be made today.
“I look at the camisa and I think that it’s almost timeless. When I was growing up, we had events that our parents made us go to. This was the one time of year you wore your costume. Those camisas—everybody had one. They’re timeless, and seeing one brings back pleasant memories.”
Victoria Santos (Northern California Representative, National Board of Trustees, Filipino American National Historical Society)