Filipino Costumes-Then and Now

 Get insight from this page about our Filipino costumes for men and women, their past with our ancestors and their modern versions with us now.

National Costume

With over 7,000 islands in the country, it won’t be amazing to have many different dialects, traditions and costumes. However, the country has selected national symbols such as Filipino for the language, sampaguita for the flower, barong for male costume and baro at saya for female Filipino costume.

Early version of baro't saya. Photo courtesy of peacay/Flickr

Barong Tagalog for Men

Barong is short for barong tagalog which is a thin, translucent and long-sleeved upper garment usually made from jusi or piña cloth. It is worn with collarless shirt called camisa de chino which can be seen through the barong. The inside shirt is tucked in but the barong is worn loosely or tucked out.

Traditional and modern barong tagalogs. Photo credit:GroomEd's quarter Tailor Shop by Eddie M. Consigna

Barong’s beauty varies with its differing embroidery designs, buttons, colors and collars. Its cream color or white has been modernized ranging from pastel to dark colors. Its main embroideries surround its front opening. Embroidery designs used to be of small patterns of beige or white threads. Modern designs now use matching colored threads and bigger patterns.

Barong tagalog has very much evolved for many centuries since its original use by Tagalog people before Spanish colonization. Tagalog people are our major tribe living in Luzon. Wearing of barong was even more encouraged with the Spanish rule in the country. It differentiated the native Filipinos from those with mixed and pure Spanish blood. Its use was associated with wearers belonging to the lower class.

This Filipino costume is reflective of our history as a people. Barong has stood the tests of time. Its cloths, jusi and piña, are also special undergoing painstaking processes and are definitely Filipino products. From a lowly costume of our ancestors, barong now is garbed during special functions and ceremonies by many Filipinos, even by the President of our country.

We give credit to our late President Ramon F. Magsaysay for setting the best example of patronizing our own product, popularizing and giving honor to the wearing of our lowly barong during his various presidential functions.

Barong tagalog has also evolved into polo barong, which is usually a short-sleeved version of the upper garment but made from linen or cottony cloth for office uniforms.

Baro at Saya-Filipino Costume for Women

Baro at saya are Filipino terms for blouse and skirt. Just like barong, the blouse is made of thin and translucent cloths like piña with embroideries. It is also worn with undershirt or sewn with lining cloth. It has wide sleeves usually with embroidered edges and is collarless. The skirt is made of thick cloth.  Baro’t saya is originally very long even touching the ground and goes with wooden clogs or “bakya”, veil or scarf and fan.

Filipino costumes fashion show. Photo Credit: Pitoy Moreno Facebook

Baro’t saya gave way to Maria Clara then to terno and Filipiniana dress which retained its wide sleeves. Prestigious ladies especially our beauty contestants to world pageants and also our country’s First Ladies wear this dress during the contests and for special functions representing our country.

Popular Fashion Designers

Designing female Filipino costume has also discovered the talents of our many world renowned fashion designers like Pitoy Moreno, Inno Sotto, Rajo Laurel, Patis Tesoro, Christian Espiritu, Auggie Cordero and Monique Lhuillier besides many budding artists.

Other Ethnic Costumes

Some of the Filipino ethnic groups in the rural areas are still wearing their colorful costumes with accessories, especially during fiestas and parades. These are the Igorots, Manobos, Bagobos while rich Muslim families are preserving their culture by wearing their costumes during special occasion such as wedding ceremonies.


Bukidnon ethnic girl during Kaamulan Festival. Photo credit: Rory G. Divino, Sr. from Bukidnon My Home album.

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