The baro’t saya might strike us today as traces of the past. While they might have been considered everyday wear a century ago, today, they are regarded as “costumes” and worn only on special occasions.
This women’s clothing consisting of a blouse and a skirt may signify formality and dignity. The type, quality/craftmanship of the material can also convey the sitter or the wearer’s social status. A modified version of the baro’t saya is the one-piece dress known as the Terno. Often paired or worn as “terno”, designers have explored piercing the baro at saya as one.
The baro, which can be translated to a shirt or blouse, is often worn over a camisa or undergarment. Usually made from natural fibers, the baro is sheer and lightweight, giving an airy feeling to the wearer in a tropical country like the Philippines.
Earlier Philippine fashion included a panuelo around the neck. The ensemble is completed by a tapis worn over the skirt. (note: Before the arrival of undergarments in the Philippines, the tapis is an additional piece of clothing over the skirt.
The portrait of Purita Kalaw-Ledesma depicts her in her baro’t saya during her adolescent years.
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