Creative Vision: The Making of a National Costume

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.

Vision to reality: the exquisite details that jumped from paper to fabric and jewelry…

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.

The parasol looked exactly as the concept art. The Sarimanok on top was my idea to dramatically create a lasting impact and to lift this iconic creature higher…

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.


Binibining Pilipinas 2018 Review Pt. 4 – The Fashion

This is the final part of the Binibining Pilipinas 2018 pageant review. And since it is Friday, what to expect other than a #FashionFridays post! With a number of changes, let’s go through them one by one.

Opening Number of BBP 2018

The Opening Outfits – this is actually a 50’s inspired swimsuit with floral sarong. A mole told me that this is one of the options for the swimsuit for the finals but was later relegated for the opening as it didn’t say “competition” enough. I loved these floral and black outfit compared to previous years’ jersey dresses. Do I need to mention the colorful Christopher Munar earrings worn by the ladies? They complimented the girls’ outfits and framed their faces perfectly.

The top 25 in their DR Swim 2-piece swimwear…

The Gold 2-piece Swimwear – now this is more “competition” in terms of design. DR Swim’s Domz Ramos showed us fitting pics that were exclusively released earlier in the day of the finals. His cover ups with handpainted flora and crystals was cohesive design-wise. What I am even more impressed is the fact that he has told me that he experimented on a new technique so that all the girls would look more ‘gifted’ on the chest area. Just go back and check the ladies in the swimsuit competition, nobody looked flat chested this year! Great job on that Domz!

The Evening Gowns – what did I tell you about lace being so last pageant season? This year, the gowns are all about the bling. And there are more variety of red-carpet gowns this year. I’d have to mention the following ladies for picking great gowns for this year’s competitions: Jehza Huelar, Muriel Orais (this white number is one of the gowns that Rachel Peters brought to Las Vegas last year but didn’t get to wear), Patrizia Garcia and one fringe gown of one of the candidates that didn’t make top 25 (I hope someone could help and name her). But I’d have to list down 5 of my favorite looks below…

* Sigrid Grace Flores- her gown was reminiscent of the one worn by Brenda Liz Lopez of Puerto Rico in Miss Universe 1999… the gold color and the cover up. I love this design as it was updated for today’s fashions.

* Agatha Lei Romero – this caped gown reminded me of the Chanel haute couture number used as the centerpiece in the Manus X Machina fashion exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The silhouette had similarities and I would expect this kind of gown done by bygone chic era of Filipino couture masters like Christian Espiritu, Ramon Valera and Joe Salazar.

* Edjelyn Joy Gamboa – this simple and chic number is very lovely in motion. It does not need the overtly and ostentatious embellishment but works quite well for pageants.

* Samantha Bernardo – I thought I was over with cape gowns but this one worn by Sam I reconsidered. It reminded me of the Tom Ford gown worn by Gwyneth Paltrow at the 84th Academy Awards. I would have loved it even more in fiery red as it exemplifies Sam’s fiery performance in the finals.

* Catriona Elisa Gray – hers was an evening gown fit for Miss Universe. And she delivered very well choreographed turns to showcase all the best angles of the gown. This is a gown worthy of a Miss Colombia. I’m quite speechless on how she would be able to top this one off for the MU pageant as this was the bomb.

#FashionFridays: Carolina Gomez’ MU 1994 Evening Gown

Today’s #FashionFridays is all about the highest scoring evening gown in Miss Universe history.

Carolina’s gown at Senorita Colombia 1993 and in Miss Universe 1994

This gown got a whooping score of 9.897 during the Ms. Universe 1994 pageant held in Manila. It was the highest televised evening gown score in MU history that is unbeaten not even by Miss Universe Lara Dutta, Wendy Fitzwilliam, Dayana Mendoza and Alicia Machado. It is also one of the highest recorded scores in MU history trailing only behind Lara Dutta’s 9.99 score in the interviews.

Initially I have erroneously posted that this was designed by Jaime Arango. This was instead a creation made by Alfredo Barraza. The gown was a version of the gown that Carolina wore during the Señorita Colombia 1993 pageant. The only difference was the last two herringbone stripes on the upper portion taken out.

Will we ever get to see something similar to this gown in the future?

#FashionFridays: Charlene Gonzales’ Miss Universe National Costume

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.

During the live finals telecast, Charlene did not wear the headdress portion of her national costume like the rest of the candidates…

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…

#FashionFridays: Five Spring 2018 Haute Couture Gowns for Pageants

Today’s #FashionFridays post is all about five standout haute couture gowns that, if re-imagined creatively, would be standout pageant gowns.

I have been complaining (okay to some extent, whining) about the lack of fashion-forwardness of pageant gowns used in the Philippines. And unlike the exorbitant and crazy pageant gowns used in Miss Venezuela, the pageant gowns used in Binibining Pilipinas or Miss Philippines Earth are still a far-cry. In order to help feed the creative juices of our designers, I listed down 5 Spring-Summer 2018 gowns from haute couture shows that could easily be a good pageant gown if they are interpreted correctly. While this list may show you photos of the gowns, I do suggest that you try to look for the actual shows on the internet and see them in motion.

1. Ralph & Russo – this black velvet gown with draping that evokes those of Charles Frederick Worth or Charles James makes any pageant girl a bombshell… a true “Jessica Rabbit” or Marilyn Monroe with a dash of a red lip. Of course avoid the mistake that Demi Leigh Nel-Peters in doing one in lime green velvet (that didn’t photograph well on her). Imagine this in rich saturated jewel colors of red, purple and deep indigo blue. Throw in some opera gloves and you get old world sex appeal in spades.

2. Valentino – if you wanna go the “showstopper route”, then you gotta wear something in red.  And nobody does red like Valentino. This ballgown in layers of silk organza would just be eye-popping on-stage. It moves as you walk, it brings tons of drama and it will be perfect for those perpetually tanned. Just a little bit of editing on the silhouette, especially on the upper torso and you will have a fabulous gown for any pageant.

3. Armani Privé – it’s silk, it’s ombré, it’s beaded, but more importantly it’s Armani. Nobody knows sartorial elegance as well as Giorgio Armani and this gown brings a healthy dose of that. What makes this design standout is how very on-trend satin gowns are for this season. If you can imagine this in a negligé / serpentine silhouette with ombré effects then you can see how this would be a good pageant gown. More so if you do it in shades of pink, purple and blush… the dash of purple being the 2018 color of the year would make it more modern.

4. Christian Dior – Maria Grazia Chiuri’s  Dior collection may seem lackluster but her homage to Surrealism and Dali offers several gems.  This optical illusion gown is just one of those that can be mined for pageant gowns. It can create optical shapes and curves, it can make you look taller and more statuesque, it can be an eye-popper. This type of black & white gown has been successful for Andreina Goetz, Carolina Gomez and Lola Odusoga in Miss Universe… all of whom made at least top 6.

5. Zuhair Murad – yes I know it’s a caftan gown but hey look at how transparency and feathers are cleverly translated into the design. Plus no more of those tacky lace applique’s! Instead it relied on beadwork and embroidery to add something new to the transparent gown trend that has been overdone in pageants.
For designers and pageant girls out there, if some of these designers sound new to you, I encourage you to look at their work to get a feel of the latest trends in fashion. Aside from these names, I also prompt you to look at designers like Marchesa, Oscar de la Renta, Monique Lhuillier and Carolina Herrera for more inspiration.

Pageant Gowns that Needs to be Obliterated in 2018

It’s national pageant season ahead and I can’t help but cringe at what fashion faux pas I am expecting to see in both Binibining Pilipinas and Miss Philippines Earth. So to save ourselves from bleeding our eyes out come national pageant season, I’m listing the types of gowns that we really should stop seeing.
Warning! Strong sarcastic language ahead! Stay away if you are of weak-heart. This is definitely not for the egoistic designers as well.

6. The Satin gown with slit & exaggerated drapes – Laura Lehmann wore two versions of it: one in MWP and the other in MW. Chanel wore a version in yellow for MS. Karen Ibasco wore something similar in gold for ME. Even Pia has worn one without a slit in the 65th MU pageant. This is a good gown silhouette but has to be retired because its novelty is wearing off fast!

The original from the Elie Saab Perfume ad…

5. Permutation of  this Elie Saab’s gown – in the finals of ME 2013 I’ve seen it worn by Misses Korea and France in two different colors. Rachel Peters even had a permutation of this design at BBP2017. But this gown has seen its hey day several years ago. Time to retire this gown as it has seen action way back in WWI (rolls eye with sarcasm).

4. This paneled gown in satin – sorry Edjelyn and Chanel that I really had to be specific on gowns you have worn. Because this gown silhouette has had a full run in pageants from BBP to MPE to MWP and back to BBP. Seriously, this should have retired sometime ago.
3. Mermaid gowns with 2 meter long hemlines – unless this is a wedding gown, pageant gowns don’t need to have 2-5 meter long hemlines at the back. Be considerate of the girl behind you when you line up! There are other better ways of creating drama onstage than having you trip because someone stepped on your gown.(Did I just give other candidates an idea on how to sabotage a competitor? *wink wink)

2. Contrast Color Applique gowns – ‘fer crying out loud! This pageant gown has already been skinned to death a million times over. This one really has to die like 4 seasons ago. Its like every zombie movie that refuses to die… Or if you wanna resurrect it, do something that we’ve never seen before. Like for example, it catches on fire upon contact with air, ala Catniss Everdeen in Hunger Games.
1. Applique on Nude/ See-Thru gowns – been there, done that, retched at the sequel, bled my eyes out at the remake. Designers please a little imagination and creativity please! We have already seen every permutation of this design  in every pageant from the baranggay level to the international stage. I hate it all the more if it’s with contrast color lace applique!

Time for local designers to really come up with something original. Look out to haute couture for inspirations. Just do something different. This also is a lesson for the girls to communicate with your designers on what you want. Don’t just accept a gown design because your handler assigns you to a designer. Have a working relationship with them and communicate your personality to the design. Ultimately, this just boils down to one thing: Level up! Nobody will notice you with tired age-old designs.

If you are doing cape gowns in 2018, your designer needs to be fired!

If you still insist in wearing a cape gown, then your candidacy needs to be revoked!

S/S 2018 Fashion Trend Series: Silhouette and Details

For the final post of this #FashionFridays series, we look into the silhouettes and details that would be fashion appropriate for pageants this 2018.
Note that this summary includes some crossover trends from the Fall/Winter 2017- 18 season.
* The Ball Gown – the swish of tulle and yards and yards of organza is making a comeback! Think Swan Lake and you’ll get the picture…

* The Bustier dress – a definite throwback to the Tom Ford Gucci of the 90’s, a flattering silhouette any (whether bussom-y or not).

* Statement Sleeves – if you thought Pablo Galicia Mendez’ statement sleeve design for Charmaine Elima in BBP2017 was fab, be happy as that trend continues this year.

* The Slip Dress – think Princess Diana circa 1997 when she wore the John Galliano negligee dress…

* Asymmetric, Single-shoulder dress – Miriam Quiambao, Minorka Mercado, Joyce Giraud and Lara Dutta knew what this is all about…



S/S 2018 Fashion Trend Series: Fabrics and Embellishments Pt.2

Continuing our scheduled #FashionFridays in this 3rd Friday of January is the 2nd part of the fabrics and prints portion of the series.
This coming Spring/ Summer 2018 expect a lot of glitters to come out of everyone’s wardrobe. And show a little (or a lot) of skin as we go into the hot summer months.

* Disco Redux – Sequins as resistance, how about that? At Paco Rabanne, Julien Dossena responded to the terror of the world by looking to Paris’s discotheques for inspiration, sending out catsuits and minidresses dripping with sequins.

* Lamé – Sparkles, sequins in gold and silver shine brightly with a resolutely contemporary energy, reflecting a desire for a dazzling elegance, made all the more magnificent when worn as a full look.

Tulle – It’s festive, it’s glamorous and it’s sheer! Tulle was the fabric of preference at the Milan shows.

Satin and Shine – Satin was the dominant fabric during the London shows for two great reasons. First, its sheen instantly elevates any silhouette; second, its inherent fluidity and lightness makes it comfortable to wear all night long.


S/S 2018 Fashion Trend Series: Fabrics and Embellishments Pt.1

Just a clarification on this #FashionFridays series, these trends presented here are a summary of all the Spring/ Summer 2018 trends that were sifted as to those that could apply to pageants. I have also included several crossover trends from Fall/ Winter 2017-2018 that could still be very apt for the upcoming pageant season.

* Ostrich Feathers – A flurry of feathers for a touch of couture, the common denominator at Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and Sonia Rykiel. White only, and soft, stylish and poised.

* Polka Dots – A simple but effective motif, polka dots zere all over this season. Use and abuse on one condition: stick to black and white.

* Galactic Prints – From flying saucers to stars via the all-over astronaut prints at Chanel, fashion took flight for new frontiers with interplanetary inspirations. Think little 60s-style dresses, silver-studded denim and silk as light as zero gravity.

Fringe – The Italian runways were brimming with a quintessential celebratory element — made livelier with party pieces that can be shaken from dusk till dawn.

* Ruffles – The spring catwalks are cascading with ruffles and it’s neat to think that perhaps it’s an antidote to all the smooth, languid silks and long, lean silhouettes we enjoyed last season.


S/S 2018 Fashion Trend Series: The Colors

Fashion trend adoption in pageants tend to be a little late. In fact, the reason why I didn’t do a “best of” among pageant gowns of 2017 is because I felt that all the gowns I have seen were permutations of previous pageant gowns before. In the exception of Maxine Medina’s emerald green fringe dress and Kevin Liliana’s powder blue exaggerated sleeved gown, I didn’t find any new groundbreaking look among pageant gowns in 2017. That is why for the month of January during #FashionFridays, I am out to help poor fashion-unaware pageant girls of the incoming trends for Spring- Summer 2018.

First off are the fashion colors of 2018. Of course the age-old white, nude, gold, silver and red won’t be out of style in pageants. But if every girl are using those colors wouldn’t you want to experiment on something different, color-wise? Here are the colors that you might want to try from the Pantone color NYC forecast…
* Meadowlark – Pantone 13-0646, The bold and lively Meadowlark, a confident and outgoing bright yellow shade highlights the spring 2018 season, glistening with joy and illuminating the world around us.
Cherry Tomato – PANTONE 17-1563, Impulsive Cherry Tomato is a tempestuous orangey red that exudes heat and energy. Demanding attention, this courageous, never to be ignored, shade is viscerally alive.
Little Boy Blue – PANTONE 16-4132, With the expectation of the clear blue sky, Little Boy Blue is no longer for little boys only. Suggestive of expansiveness and continuity, this azure blue shade reassures us with its promise of a new day.
Pink Lavender – PANTONE 14-3207, Pink Lavender is a soft and romantic violet rose that charms with its soothing sense of quiescence.
* Arcadia – PANTONE 16-5533, Hinting at retro yet at the same time modern, Arcadia is a cooler, cleaner take on green that with its tinge of blue undertone takes us into a new direction for the spring 2018 season.
Ultra Violet – PANTONE 18-3838, Conveying originality and ingenuity, the magical Ultra Violet is a distinctive and complex purple shade that fascinates and intrigues.
There are more S/S ’18 colors on the link provided on the source below. My personal pick would be Meadowlark as it has a very come-hither appeal to it. But I would want you to pay closer attention to the color Ultraviolet as it is Pantone’s 2018 Color of the Year. You might want to try this color to stand out among the rest.
More Spring/ Summer 2018 fashion forecast in the upcoming weeks ahead, so you better stay tuned!