The Maria Clara is a traditional gown worn by women in the Philippines. It originated from a baro’t saya, an ensemble stemming from the time of the Spanish influence in the Philippines. Because of this, it is considered a mestiza dress, or a dress of mixed race, as it combines both Philippine and Spanish influences. The dress normally worn for classy occasions, and it is normally adorned with feminine accessories such as a pañuelo (matching neck scarf) or an abaniko (fan). As a piece of girly attire, you’d kind of wonder why it has the name Maria Clara, right? Is it just a pretty name for a pretty dress? Actually, Maria Clara is the name of the mestiza protagonist in the novel Noli Me Tangere, written by the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal. She was also known as Maria Clara de los Santos y Alba the local beauty and celebrity of San Diego. She’s described as being delicate, feminine, and beautiful, with large black eyes and fair skin. She symbolizes the purity and innocence of a sheltered native woman during the time of the Spanish occupation, having shown her love to her sweetheart Ibarra with such modesty that remained unsullied of impure ideas. Known for her strong sense of identity, she held in high esteem her parents’ honor and a promise she had given to Ibarra. Because of this, Maria Clara was said to be the ideal woman of her time, being a faithful lover, a good friend, and an obedient daughter. Additionally, Maria Clara often wore dainty dresses and religious artifacts. She carried a silk pouch holding Ibarra’s farewell letter as well as a fan to hide her face when she’s embarrassed. This traditional Philippine dress was connected to Maria Clara because of her beauty and feminine qualities, and it is the only piece of Philippine attire named after a literary figure. Understanding where the name comes from really ties in with how the dress is worn, especially in terms of cultural dancing. The Maria Clara dress is worn in the Maria Clara suite of Philippine dances, with moves that incorporate grace and poise, with props such as fans and dainty umbrellas. What a beautiful article of clothing, and what a story behind it!
Published on Jun 23, 2014