The national costume has got to be my favorite part in any pageant wardrobe. I get more excited with the lavishness and grandiosity of seeing our culture represented in a garb than seeing sneak peeks of one’s evening gown.
Last year, I had the privilege to be asked to create a concept art for Charmaine Elima’s national costume. The idea then was to capitalize on her dusky morena skin with a Nuestra Senora La Naval inspired national costume. One that pays homage to the Filipinos love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It may not have won best national costume but it did create buzz around the candidate who wore it. That costume created waves among pageant fans and that was always the goal. Which is the point of today’s blogpost: a focus on the national costume and how it should be designed and executed.
Whenever I am doing a national costume re-imagining or asked to create a concept design, I only have two considerations: 1) it should feel and look AUTHENTIC to the Filipino culture and 2) it should create DRAMA and IMPACT.
Authenticity is a hard thing to do nowadays with a number of national costumes in pageants. When I did the concept art for Valerie’s costume for Dances of the World, it did receive some flak on the usage of the color blue instead of the traditional black and red of the T’boli tribe. Nobody knew that the costume was actually a Blit Blaan costume, a dance from the B’laan tribe which uses navy, blue and white with other colors in their wardrobe. There is a lot of misinformation that could happen based on Filipinos limited knowledge of our own culture which is the point of research to make it feel authentic.
Take into account the recent Maranao costume of Catriona Gray. A number of pageant fans assumed that it was a Singkil costume (perhaps owing to the fact that it’s the most popular Marano dance). Others had actually went to post online the inaccuracy of the parasol saying that the princess in the singkil dance only holds the apir fans and the parasol was to be held by her handmaiden (it is noteworthy to mention that the position of a handmaiden in court is reserved for the noble families not for slaves). The costume however pays homage to a lesser known Maranao dance called the Kinakulangan where maidens would hold parasols and handkerchiefs as they dance. Actual research has to back up every design to reinforce being authentic. It is the only way to be respectful to the culture that the costume is representing.
There is also the aspect of impact and high-drama. Every costume needs to have visual impact for it to stand out among a sea of costumes. Whether it was the bells of the B’laan costume of Valerie, the body-tattoos of the Pintados costume of Mary Ann Ross Misa, the religious connotations of Charmaine’s terno or the Sarimanok atop Catriona’s parasol…there has to be a focal point that gives the wow factor. There has to be that element that ties everything together without sacrificing the overall impact of the entire look.
When you put these two elements together, you get a memorable costume. Authenticity and Impact.
If I were given the opportunity to create a concept art for a national costume to be worn by Eva Patalinjug for Miss Grand International, I would gladly accept the chance.
I actually have a couple of ideas for her national costume that I feel would be great for her pageant in Myanmar come October 25th.
1. Sinulog Festival Costume – of course this should be an option as Eva comes from Cebu. The Sinulog festival queen outfit would be so perfect for her mestiza beauty and will tie-up perfectly with her hometown of Cebu. I would love to make the concept art in a grandiose and extravagant manner, something that the MGI pageant seems to favor.
2. Boxer Codex Pintados Costume – one of the oldest documents in existence regarding the pintados of Visayas is the Boxer Codex that illustrated the ornate tattoos and the rich gold heritage of pre-Hispanic Philippines. The difference here is I would make it with a little more color to make it festive.
The national costume for Eva should be something that represents her and her background. I hope that Eva would be given a great wardrobe for her competition. I believe that she can actually be the first Filipina Miss Grand International winner…
The Jag Jeans and the National Costume fashion show had finished last March 3rd but it still dominates pageant discussions on social media. While the BPCI has selected its 10 best costumes, I felt that the quality of national costumes this year is so high that I have to shout out my own picks of 12.
12. Agatha Romero in John Cliff – being so close to the stage, I could see all these intricate details of the bodice of this terno. On top of that is how parts of it are added with LED lights!
11. Anjame Magbitang in Sonny Boy Mindo – this was one of those costumes that would make you feel you are a Filipino. This Katipunero costume was a breathe of fresh air as it was apt for the youngest Binibini in the pageant.
10. Shane Tormes in Polly Lagyap – another creative take on the national costume in this year’s competition. It is said to celebrate the Laing and the Magbubuko, which was an awesome idea.
9. Kristie Rose Cequena in Richard Barretto – an out of the box costume that celebrates the Moriones festival. This was one of the more creative ensembles that night.
8. Janette Sturmin Jay-R Gamboa Flores – the novelty of this costume is so much welcome. I can only imagine the long hours of creating an outfit that is almost devoid of fabric. Yes, the gown was almost made entirely out of interlocking beads!
7. Stephanie Abellanida in Archie Castillo – black and gold is my color du jour! And I loved everything about this costume, the headpiece was superb as well as the intricacy of the beading on the outfit.
6. Mary Joy de Castro in Albert Figueras – would have preferred the outfit with a different headpiece. I remembered the headpiece of this costume being worn by Emma Tiglao in MWP.
5. Eva Patalinjug in Philipp Tampus – gave drama in spades! Styled like a golden era screen goddess, the worked the costume to the Nth level.
4. Sandra Lemonon in Edwin Uy – the girl performed her best ‘Urduja’ moves in this costume. Although I don’t get which was the Ibong Adarna part, Sandra carried it with aplomb.
3. Aya Abesamis in Chico Estiva – thank God for the cape or else it would have looked like a generic gown with the apir fans and a sunray headdress. Aya carried it effortlessly.
2. Sarah Joson in Jay-R Gamboa Flores – it was a gorgeous ensemble. And it looked better in person. This amalgam of several indigenous tribes’ outfits was perfection. I loved the tiny brass bells in it as well.
1. Vickie Rushton in Francis Libiran – that punch of red at the start of the natcos segment placed the bar high. I thought this is one of the best that night. It was haute couture levels in its construction technique!
I felt that the BPCI selection has shut out a number of gorgeous ternos so I am giving it equal footing here on the list. There is also a diversity in terms of creative and out of the box choices for the costumes. I commend the designers for a leveled up national costumes this year!
Another thing I also observed that the BPCI selection of the 10 best NCs seems to be a test of which fandom will likely be the noisiest online. So I am very much excited to see which of the girls’ fan groups is the strongest on voting for the national costume award.
Note that since I had helped conceptualize the national costume for Binibini 20, it goes to say that it has automatically been excluded in this list, you know, for obvious reasons.
The national costume of Binibini 20 Catriona Gray is a collaborative effort between several creatives and designers who worked on different parts of the costume. While the concept may have been my contribution, I would have to say that the bulk of the credits should be given to the designers who created the costume and the accessories.
Jearson Dimavivas was the perfect choice to create the costume. He is from Mindanao and his point of view of the traditions and cultures of southern Philippines was of intrinsic value. He is a designer for royalties in Mindanao and he was dedicated to delivering an outfit that is fit for a queen. The painstaking work that went along the ensemble warranted a 24/7 commitment. His insight to replicate a mosque’s dome for the headdress was an ode to the people of Marawi and the survivors of the siege.
The main outfit as well as the tasseled umbrella was created by Jearson. The umbrella was originally lighter than the final outcome. However some sort of welding was needed to stabilize the arcs inside the umbrella. It was sort of a testament to Catriona’s fighting spirit to keep holding the umbrella up considering that it weighted 4 kilos. Jearson also did a little jazzing up on the custom-made shoes that Catriona wore from shoe designer extraordinaire, Jojo Bragais.
For interested parties who would like to have Jearson create a one of a kind outfit for you, here is how you can contact the designer. Trust me, you will enjoy working with him… Jearson’s CONTACT DETAILS
Viber & Whatsapp number: +639156648658
Farah Abu on the other hand created the amazing accessories that went along the costume. Those gorgeous shoulder sweeper earrings that Catriona wore? Those were specifically handcrafted by the very talented Farah. Her work is just extraordinary. The first time I met her in a shoot, I had to pick up my jaw that got dropped with her statement necklace piece that she was wearing in the collage above. It was a covet-worthy piece!
Farah, also from Mindanao, handcrafted these exquisite jewelry pieces that went along Catriona’s costume. She created a lovely pair of shoulder sweepers that would help frame Catriona’s face even more. Not to mention the couple of rings set with Swarovski crystals and semi-precious stones. One bracelet she did was to genius, that it had chains that connected a ring to it! All these were used by Catriona in the national costume show.
Ladies and pageant girls! Give yourself a treat and get yourself one or a couple of Farah’s jewelry. I can guarantee that it will make your wardrobe pop! Farah’s CONTACT DETAILS
Mobile number: +63 917 716 2153
With the designers working in unison, the output was a visual orgasm of sorts. It was no wonder that it elicited thunderous applause from pageant fans that watched the national costume fashion show last March 3rd. Rightfully so, this costume was among the top 10 national costumes that will serve as choices of the Best in National Costume award via online voting.
It is no secret that I have a degree in Clothing Technology from the University of the Philippines and that I dabble in fashion illustration every now and then. Today’s blogpost is about the concept art that I did for a Maranao Princess Bride. This all started with a request to do a concept sketch for a Maranao Princess costume. Who was it for? Catriona Elisa Gray.
Through a friend of a friend and that is how it started. Catriona is a very close friend of another beauty queen, Valerie Weigmann, whom I also did a national costume concept art for. Back in 2014 I created a sketch of what turned out to become the national costume that Valerie would wear in the international stage.
Shortly after the Binibining Pilipinas deadline of applications, I received the request to do a sketch. I was given a Maranao Princess peg. Catriona got the inspiration from a visit to the National Museum where she saw woven textiles from Mindanao, notable of which was the inaul. The challenge was to create something that was modern, fashionable but at the same time respectful to the culture of the Maranao people. Everything was in a rush as I dashed to illustrate the concept with as much research as I could. I only had less than a week.
The singkil being the de facto Maranao Princess folkdance was the start off point. But I didn’t want another singkil costume. So instead of the apir, I took the jeweled umbrella instead as the initial focal point and worked around it. And that was what made the entire design pop. Later I was informed about the Kinakulangan (Maranao) dance. It originated from Marawi, Lanao del Sur, and is performed by the proud Maranao women holding ornamental umbrellas while marching the “Royal Walk” or kini-kini to show their high status.
With very little time, I filled in the outfit with whatever motifs were immediately available. I had to say that whoever will execute the design should take liberties on the outfit. The only thing that I wanted to remain intact was the umbrella with its sarimanok and the beaded tassels on the bodice.
I was glad to hear that Catriona chose Jearsond Dimavivas to execute the design. Jearsond is another designer whom I had several mutual friends: Angelique de Leon and RL Lacanienta are some of them. He was the one who made Angelique’s T’nalak national costume for Binibini and also did Elizabeth Clenci’s T’boli costume in Miss Grand International last year. Small world, right? Jearsond worked 24/7 on the costume and thankfully, being from Mindanao himself he understood the culture of the Maranao. He took the concept art and made it his own, adding elements that only someone who grew up in Mindanao would understand. The outcome was something that I couldn’t be any prouder. The costume was marvelous up-close and we were all in awe.
A collaboration of minds and a creative exercise on synergy… This is what made the costume a true standout.
If I was asked what is my favorite national costume ever worn in Miss Universe, I would unequivocally say the T’boli-Manobo costume of Charlene Gonzales in 1994.
This was the only Philippine national costume so far to win Best National Costume in the history of Miss Universe. It was designed by the Fashion Czar of Asia and National Artist Jose “Pitoy” Moreno. In his book “Philippine Costume” the entire ensemble was described as follows:
“This ensemble draws inspiration from the Bagobo and the Higanon. Her upper garment is of gold material appliqued with authentic Bagobo t’nalak bands. In lieu of tapis, Charlene dons a skirt with t’nalak panels, this is further held in place with an authentic female Bagobo belt of glass beads and brass bells. The whole ensemble is reiterated further with gold beads, more brass bells. A Higanon headdress crowns her to complete the ensemble.”
The costume may have earned a bit of controversy for winning as the majority of the judges who selected the winner were Filipinos. Nevertheless, the award is very much deserved as it made noise literally and figuratively.
What made me love this costume is its authenticity and the research that went into making the costume. Nowadays, designers seem to be very lazy in doing costumes that should feature our culture and customs. The country is rich with tradition and there should be more than enough resources to make one that is impactful, well-designed and authentic. And I found all of that in Charlene’s national costume…
I am a fan of the Philippine terno but in all honesty, it has over-saturated the pageant scene in the last 10 years. I believe that it has been over-done in pageants that it looses appeal at times.
For today’s post, I am listing down several costume options that I believe should be given a chance to be spotlighted and featured at a national pageant.
7. T’boli costume – after seeing the T’boli costume worn by Elizabeth Clenci at Miss Grand International, I thought that this needs to be revisited. Her costume featured the traditional T’nalak woven fabric of the T’bolis. I have to say that if this costume was used with the added brass belt with bells, this would easily get anyone noticed.
6. The Kappa Malong Malong costume – this Maranao dance is said to feature the many ways of how the malong is worn. Predominantly worn as a skirt, the malong can also be used as a scarf, a shawl or a headpiece.
5. The Yakan costume – there is something about the very colorful Yakan weaving that is very pleasant to the eye. But what makes it the more striking are white geometrical face-paint. The Yakan are said to be peace loving and family oriented community. It would be a great ode to these people to see their culture celebrated in a national stage.
4. The Sagayan War Dance costume – the sagayan war dance is both alluded to the Maguindanaoans and the Maranaos and is a dance of gallantry and nobility. Dancers wield a double edged kampilan sword, a klung shield with shell or brass noisemakers, and a heavily adorned helmet.
3. Carnival Queen in a Traje de Mestiza – an authentic traje de mestiza is featured in the costumes worn by Dina Bonnevie in the film Tatarin. It features the bell sleeved camisa with a stiffened panuelo matched with the narrower saya with a sweeping train (saya de cola) and a flimsy embroidered tapis. Of course the carnival queen wouldn’t be complete without her requisite festival crown.
2. The El Cani costume – one of the most Hispanic-Filipino of our folk dances is the El Cani. The costume reflects our links to Spain. The El Cani costume looks very 1800’s European but with the long barong tagalog underneath. Add a salakot and it will definitely be more Filipino.
1. The Banga costume – banga which literally means pot is a dance that required balance and poise. Traditionally, 7-8 clay pots are placed on the heads of the dancers to showcase strength and stamina as women of the Cordilleras would use them to fetch water from the rivers. The most notable banga costume in pageants was the Banga costume of Aileen Damiles in MU 1996.
While I encourage designers to mine these costumes for pageants, I hope that they will be respectful of the traditions and customs of these dances/ costumes. There is a thin line when it comes to creating costumes for impact versus creating costumes to look commercial. Cultural appropriation and disrespect should not be practiced when creating these costumes for beauty pageants.
There have been some debate over the Sarimanok national costume of Miss Universe Philippines Rachel Peters: people are on the fence on it.
The Sarimanok costume (which at first I erroneously posted as an Ibong Adarna inspired costume) was made by designer Val Taguba. Some criticism on the costume stemmed from the lack of coherence of the skirt with the rest of the ensemble. While others say that it looked like something was missing, that the costume lacked research hence it looked like some details was not there. On my part I though that despite the critics blasting the costume, Rachel carried it well. Yes, I agree that there could have been more feathers on the skirt part to really set off the entire costume. Yet I find that it did the job it set out to do: shock & awe.
Rachel’s killer bod was in full display in the costume specially with her mile-long legs in full display with Jojo Bragais’ gladiator heels. I loved the feather treatment on the tanga though I would have liked that it extended to the skirt to tie it much better. Another thing I would have loved that the headdress had a stabilizing strap on Rachel’s head so that she wouldn’t have to keep on balancing it up with her hand.
Overall the costume was ok, and it was different. Anything new and different must be viewed with an open perspective. It might not have been at first glance very striking but it allowed the focus to shift on the wearer rather than on the costume. I was looking for something new and different and it delivered.
The Miss Universe national costumes that have won the best costume award has been those that delivered drama and shock value in equal measure. Just look at the 20kg Borobudur temple inspired costume that won in 2014, the Tuk Tuk costume that wowed in 2015 and the Myanmar puppet costume of 2016… all these had massive impact that got media mileage and had pageant fans talking. It is no wonder why this year, the national costumes that have just been revealed are expected to illicit the same shock factor come finals.
First to be revealed is the Thai national costume that is expected to be a frontrunner for the national costume award. Maria Poonlertlarp will be wearing a costume named Chasing the light, which is inspired by Thai mythology of Mekkala “Goddess of Lightning”, and Ramasoon “Thunder God”. The costume is said to be made out of fiber optics and LED lights to create light effects onstage.
Then we recently have seen the “Nasi Lemak” costume of Samantha Katie James of Malaysia. This Malaysian national dish is considered one of the most popular Southeast Asian dishes in the world. While this may have met with mixed reviews, in the cases that I have covered the MU pageant, this is exactly the kind of national costume that gets attention…and television ratings for MU…
Olivia Molly Rogers also have revealed an intriguing costume inspired by the Sydney Opera House. It features a white bustier-top covered in pearls and Swarovski crystals, it is topped off by a light-up skirt with sails and sparkling replica fireworks inspired by the annual Vivid Light Festival. There are two LED projectors built into the dress and more than 500 individual lights. The national costume is expected to light up when worn during the national costume show.
Gone are the days when traditional costumes are the rage for the National Costume special award. Nowadays, it is all about wow factor and shock quotient.
One of the most heavily criticized national costumes that a Filipina beauty queen wore to a national pageant was the Pineapple Filipiniana costume worn by Carla Gay Balingit (to Miss Universe) and Precious Lara Quigaman (in Miss International). The national costume was a creation by Colombian designer Alfredo Barraza. In retrospect, the costume wasn’t bad as we all thought. It poked a little bit of fun with its literal interpretation of the piña fabric from pineapple fibers that the traditional Filipino costumes are made from. It was festive, it was out of the box and perhaps too ahead of its time. After all it was only in 2015 when we were all surprised by a tuktuk national costume from Thailand.