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Literary Review: Philippine Fashion Essay


For this research paper, I decided to dig deeper into my Filipino heritage. The history of the Philippines has been an up and down roller coaster. From being colonized by the Spanish for 300 years in 1565, to being captured by the British in 1762, to being in Japanese hands, to being under the power of the United States, the Philippines eventually established their independence on July 4, 1946. Considering the Philippines is somewhat “new”, their government system hasn’t had nearly enough time to advance and develop like other countries in the world. One third of the Filipino population lives below the poverty line. This lack of independence has had a huge effect on the Filipino economy. Their economy is based solely on their agriculture. The Philippines has a very tropical climate with a long rainy season, and an incredibly mountainous landscape. Important crops include rice, corn, coconut, sugarcane, abaca, and tobacco.

The Philippines also have an endless list of tropical and tasty fruits. Although the Philippine islands have been through a more than complicated time, the people inhabiting the land have stayed strong and taken advantage of their land’s newly gained independence . After gathering this general information, that was when I developed my thesis: How has the unstable history of the Philippines affected their overall fashion and textile industry? I chose this topic because not only does it give me a chance to expand my knowledge in textiles and fashion, but it also allows me to further educate myself in my own personal ethnic background.


When I first began my research process, it wasn’t very difficult to get started considering the abundance of resources FIDM provides us with. My first step to developing a stable basis of sources was to sit at the computer in the FIDM library and gather as much material as possible using the help they give us such as EBSCO, the Berg Fashion Library, Culture Grams, and of course books from the shelves themselves. The first source I found that initially helped me develop my thesis was an article

I found using the Berg Fashion Library entitled “‘Ukay-Ukay’ Chic: Tales of Second Hand Clothing Fashion and Trade in the Philippine Cordillera”. This was the source that helped me make the decision to center my paper around Filipino fashion. Not only was this source credible due to the process I used to find it, but it was also extremely beneficial. Once I knew exactly what I would be writing about, I knew that I needed to dig deeper into the history of the Philippines. I initially started by using Culture Grams, which helped me gather some information, but I needed more. That was when I came across the article “Nation Building and the Crafting of a Usable Past in the Philippines” using the EBSCOhost database. This source really came in handy because it gave me an incredibly detailed and dramatic breakdown of everything the Philippines went through, and how being tossed around by other countries for hundreds of years has had an effect on the land today.

Next, I wanted to learn more about the people of the Philippine’s, and their lifestyle and values. I had no luck finding this using the library sources, so that was when I switched to google. I found a website called contriesquest.com. After browsing the information the site gave me, and relating a lot of it to information I had seen before, I decided that it was a credible source to use. The section I used was called “Population, Way of Life”. This brief article really helped me understand how a regular Filipino person lives. It covered everything from the food they eat the the sports they play. The next source I found was more specifically about the history of filipino fashion. I found the article using the Berg Fashion Library.

The was when I came across the amazing article “Snapshot: Revival of Piña Cloth and Dress: Southern Luzon and Central Philippines”. This was one of my favorite articles because I learned about an amazing way that the people of the Philippines used their natural resources to create a beautiful fashion trend. For my last source, I decided to use the most credible source of all, a book. The book I chose is entitled the Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. I flipped to the section entitled Asia, Southeastern Islands and the Pacific: History of Dress. I used this source to get a breakdown of the development of filipino fashion throughout the years.

1. Milgram, B Lynne, “‘Ukay-Ukay’ Chic: Tales of Second Hand Clothing Fashion and Trade in the Philippine Cordillera.”


This article focuses on the new and upcoming bargain shopping trend in the Philippines called “Ukay-Ukay”, which when translated means secondhand clothing. The Philippine’s have been receiving exports of used goods and clothing from America, and Europe since the 1990’s. Milgram, the author of this article, talks about how the people of the Philippine’s have brilliantly taken these exported used goods and repurposed them to their own advantage. The article also discusses how this new shopping trend has benefitted the sales women of the Philippines, and has helped modernize their way of consumerism and trade. The article then expands on Ifugao, an area in the Grand Cordillera mountains, the area in which the people of the Philippines decided to set up their “Ukay-Ukay” system.

The author tells us that this setting was chosen due to its economic activity. Considering that agriculture is the main component of the filipino economy, Ifugao is unable to produce many crops due to its climate and landscape. Instead, the people inhabiting this area focus on producing other sorts of goods such as crafts for the tourist market, operating dry goods stores, and now engaging in the sale of second hand clothing. The next section of this article focuses on the process in which the exported clothing is distributed from the hands of clothing brokers, regional suppliers, to the citizens of the Philippines. The last part of the article talks about the people who make a living off of the sales of second hand clothing, and how the market is slowly beginning to get more and more competitive.

Critical Evaluation: This article is an incredible source of information for my essay. The author of the article convinced me that she was very educated in the topic by using personal examples, facts and statistics, pictures, quotations, and citations throughout the article of other sources she collected material from as well. Another thing that really made this article easy to break down was that the author put a notes list at the bottom of the document. This contained a list of words and terms that were mentioned throughout the article that a person that wasn’t well aware with filipino slang could find the english translations. The sole purpose of this article was to break down and educate the reader on an amazing and rapidly growing fashion trend in the Philippines and the world behind it.

2. Hazard, Elizabeth. “Nation Building and the Crafting of a Usable Past in the Philippines”.


This article provides me with a detailed breakdown of the history timeline of the Philippines. This paper examines the uses of history in the Philippines over the past century as it was enlisted to serve varying social and political agendas. In the first part of this article, the author discusses the long awaited time when the Philippine’s finally gained their independence. Hazard elaborates on the celebratory ceremonies that took place, and the development of the Centennial Commission. The centennial commission is a group of elected filipino people with one mission-to revive the love of the country, and true appreciation for the filipino identity. The article then continues on to discuss the background of its current weak economic state. The author makes sure that we know that the Philippines took a very hard beating throughout the years.

The author then goes on to breakdown the confusing history of the Philippines before they gained their independence. She covers the 300 years they were under the rule of Spain, the Japanese occupation in 1943, and when the Americans granted autonomy in 1946. The second purpose of this article was to focus on how the history of the Philippine’s is being displayed today. The author focuses on the textbooks that students in the Philippine’s are given, and states that the authors of these textbooks are excluding important details. This article is a good source of information that discusses the brutalities that the Philippines went through, and their eventually gained independence.

Critical Evaluation: I believe that this is a very reliable and educational source to use for informational purposes for this essay. Although I am focusing my essay on fashion, the history behind the Philippines is equally as important. Considering how intense their history is, and the state that their never ending battle left them in, it is safe to say that this has had a direct effect on their fashion industry. This was a very credible source. Not only did I find it using one of the search engines that the school provides us with, but it was actually a conference paper written for the

University of Maine. The author wrote this essay to persuade the listeners and readers to have hope that the Philippine’s can be restored and modernized. The author provides us with lots of statistics and factual information. She also gives us direct quotes from people that she talked to personally, and for those reasons, I decided that this article would help improve my essay.

3. “Population, Way of Life”.


This website was full of small paragraphs about every single aspect of the Philippines. I decided that I wanted to gather more information on the daily life of a Filipino person, so I chose this section to use for my paper. This section gives us a straightforward description of their society. The author starts off by mentioning Filipino’s emphasis on on family and building a strong community. Filipino’s are very big on traditions. They use the traditional concept of “utang na loob”, the concept in which voluntary acts of kindness towards others creates an obligation in which the receiver must reciprocate. The article goes on to discuss how the concept of “utang na loob” is what shapes almost all Filipino relationships. The article then continues to talk about important Filipino values such as respect for the elderly, loyalty, and trust. Paragraph two talks about the average Filipino living conditions. In tradition Philippine villages, houses are mainly constructed of bamboo or wood.

Excluding rural areas, most houses are equipped with standard electricity and plumbing. In the more modern parts of the Philippines, it is mentioned that there is a very obvious Western influence. The standard Philippine diet consists of fish, rice, veggies, fruits, and ground corn. They also have a drink called tuba, which is a fermented coconut wine. The next part of the article talks about how most people in the Philippines work as farmers and fishers. Middle class citizens in more urban cities usually work as teachers and small business owners. The last part of the article focuses on certain sports that Filipino people participate in such as arnis (similar to fencing) and (much like volleyball).

Critical Evaluation:

I was unsure about the credibility of this source at first, because I couldn’t find an author or any sort of publishing information to begin with. Then, after I clicked on the “Privacy” link in the bottom corner of the page, I learned that the website was published by

Microsoft as a sort of search database for information on different parts of the world. Knowing that it was developed by such an elite corporation made it much more credible. This website provided me with well-defined information on the Philippine’s and made it very easy to understand. When I went to the homepage of the website, I learned that you could click on any region you want and it would give you a list of sections on that area that you could click on. For these reasons I felt like it was an appropriate source. I was also able to relate a lot of the information I found on this website to prior research I did with other sources.

4. Milgram, Lynn. “ Snapshot: Revival of Piña Cloth and Dress: Southern Luzon and Central Philippines”


This article focuses on piña, filipino cloth woven from the fibers of the leaves from a pineapple. It is believed that the pineapple, a very popular fruit found in the Philippines today, was brought over by Spanish settlers in the 16th century. Piña cloth first started producing when the spanish realized that philippine artisans were already skilled at utilizing other local resources, such as the banana, and making into cloth. This was when piña weaving began to spread. The main items of dress tailored from piña cloth include the baro (woman’s blouse), worn with a detachable pañuelo (shawl collar), the saya (skirt), the barong Tagalog (man’s shirt), and handkerchiefs. The next paragraph of this article discusses when piña production reached its peak in the early 19th century when people started realizing that it had a similar appearance to luxury lace.

People then began to realize that there were cheaper garments out there that looked similar to piña, which was very expensive due to its complex weaving process. Pinã began to fade away and become a smaller business again. The next paragraph discusses the labor inducing process of extracting the pineapple fibers and weaving the piña cloth. The next paragraph talks about the development of “piña-seda”, the use of silk yarns in the weft instead of piña in order to meet growing demand. Filipino’s also incorporated piña cloth in religious garments. Critical Evaluation: I found this source using the Berg Fashion Library, so its credibility is easy to prove. Not only did the author use accurate historical information, but she also mentioned popular Philippine designers.

This source educates the reader on such an interesting and beautiful invention developed by the Philippines, and really shows you how resourceful they really are. This author also proved her credibility by citing her sources at the bottom of the page, and including pictures to give you a visual of what a piña garment really looked like. I also noticed that the author Lynne B. Milgram is the author of numerous articles found using the Berg Fashion Library. The author makes this article fun, and educational at the same time by relating the art of piña to the early ages of the Philippines. The article was published in the year 2010, but considering it is about a topic that was developed in the 16th century, I don’t believe that needs to be taken into much consideration.

5. Arthur, Linda. “ Asia, Southeastern Islands and the Pacific: History of Dress”


This article focuses on the evolution of fashion garments throughout the years. It starts by mentioning the earliest fashion staple, the bark cloth. The bark cloth was made from the bark of a mulberry tree, and originated before Spanish settlement. As years continued, Philippine dress transformed due to multicultural influences from the portuguese, the dutch, the spanish and more. When the spanish settlers came, they were shocked by the philippine people’s lack of clothing, and helped them develop the modesty they have in their dress today. The article then continues to mention the names of certain garments worn by regular philippine people such as the baro’t saya, an ensemble of a loose, long-sleeved blouse over a wide skirt that fell to the floor. This article mainly focuses on the impact that westernization had on their clothing.

The author mentions that the Spanish also taught filipina women embroidery, cutwork, and threadwork. The use of piña cloth, hand loomed using the fibers of pineapple leaves and jusi cloth, machine made using the fibers of pineapple leaves, were also mentioned as the favorite choice of fabric throughout the 20th century. Critical Evaluation: I found this information in a book called The Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. Considering all of my other sources were found using credible databases provided by the school, a book found on the library shelves has to be 100% credible, especially since it came from an encyclopedia. The encyclopedia covers almost everything in the fashion world from ancient egypt, to famous runway moments, to the technology behind design, to the worlds most admirable designers today.

Not only does the author of this section, Linda Arthur, provide us with the evolution of traditional dress in the Philippines, but she also mentions the other westernized areas such as the rest of asia, the southeastern islands, and the asian pacific islands. She covers as early as the beginning of the 16th century before the Spanish colonized the Philippines, all the way up to the 20th century and present day traditional dress. This source was a definite contributor to my research because the author provided me with fascinating facts and terms that have helped me further my understanding and knowledge of Filipino fashion. Although this encyclopedia was published in 2005, the time period the text covered was large enough to extract information from.


Before I began breaking down the information I needed to gather to form my thesis, all I knew was that I wanted to relate this essay to my Filipina heritage in some way. Once I began my literature review research, I began to develop the desire to focus my paper more specifically on the Filipino fashion. When I had the main structure of what I wanted to write my essay on, I thought that I would just travel through the years and discuss the fashion evolution. As my research continued, and the FIDM databases provided me with more and more information, I realized that that the Philippines have been through so much throughout centuries, and have advanced and developed so much, that I had to focus on more than just the fashion itself.

Before the Philippines gained their independence, they were under the rule of multiple different countries. From each and every one of those countries that the people had to abide to, the Philippines adopted small aspects of their cultures, and ways of life. How has the unstable history of the Philippines affected their overall fashion and textile industry? After writing this Literature review, and expanding my knowledge on the aspects behind this topic , I feel as if I am prepared to answer that question.

Works Cited

Arthur, Linda B. “Asia, Southeastern Islands and the Pacific: History of Dress.” Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. Ed. Valerie Steele. Vol. 1. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2005. 93-97. Print

Hazard, Elizabeth. “Nation Building And The Crafting Of A Usable Past In The Philippines.” International Studies Association. EBSCO, 2004. Web. 3 Aug. 2014.
Milgram, B Lynne “Snapshot: Revival of Piña Cloth and Dress: Southern Luzon and Central Philippines.” The Berg Fashion Library. The Berg Fashion Library, Sept 2010. Web. 3 Aug. 2014.

Milgram, B Lynne, “‘Ukay-Ukay’ Chic: Tales of Second Hand Clothing Fashion
and Trade in the Philippine Cordillera.” The Berg Fashion Library. The Berg Fashion Library, 2004. Web. 4 Aug. 2014.

“Population, Way of Life.” Countries Quest. Microsoft Corporation, 2004. Web. 4 Aug. 2014

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