La Traje de Mestiza

La Mestisa y La Mestisa Española
by Justiniano Asunción


The Traje de Mestiza—translated as the “dress of a half breed,” evolved through the years, which indirectly reflected the changing of the guards in Philippine history. Between the 1900s and 1940s (American Period), when the sajonista (Americanized Filipino) started to show affection for the Americans and interest in pop culture, the Traje de Mestiza—which was then already referred to as the Terno, evolved further. Ladies of Manila began to let go of the sobrefalda or tapis, and instead started wearing stockings, seemingly to make up for flouting the conservative mestizo costume. The young girls then, took more interest in western collections that were promoted by fashion magazines from the United States.

During this period, the male provincianos could still be distinguished by their Camisa de Chinos while the Manileños had graduated to the Americana cerrada (closed-necked collared shirt), with their sons beginning to wear the white drill suit with tie.

American ways perhaps, among other reasons, had influenced the slow “stripping down” of the Traje de Mestiza ensemble. After all, laundering and making these garments ready to wear, was a tedious process for modern times. The camisa, for example, had to be dismantled, washed, and starched—then stitched together again. The babarahin (rengue)—a coarse piña cloth or starched tulle, which was used for the pañuelo, was cleaned by getting it wet and stretched tautly on a wooden embroidery frame called the bastidor. Home-cooked starch was spread all over its underside, to avoid damaging its delicate embroidery. The bastidor was then left under the sun to dry, waiting for its re-assembly. For the upperclass and the bourgeoisie, these chores were left for the house aides to do. Altogether and despite these, they were not the only factors for the pañuelo’s demise.