Ethnic Patterns Woven Into Modern Filipiniana Wear
What are the ethnic patterns woven into Filipiniana wear?
- Abel Iloco
- Cotton Hablon and Hablon Silk
- Habi Collection
The baro’t saya was a staple outfit for Filipino women way back before the 80s. Since being known as a dress for special occasions, the classic Filipiniana dress has evolved into a modern Filipiniana version that can be worn for work every day. Despite the adaptation to a more modern style, they are still mostly weaved with local fabric and embellished with symbolic ethnic patterns. These include fabrics that originated in historical places such as Vigan, Negros Occidental, and the regions of Ilocos. Enrich your knowledge on some of the ethnic patterns still used to weave modern Filipinianas today.
Despite being used interchangeably, abel and inable have different translations. In Ilocano, Abel translates to “weave”, and inabel to “woven”. Abel is a traditional woven product of the city of Vigan. It is known to have premium quality standards for clothing: strength and durability. Some families pass the abel on as an heirloom, its strength allowing it to last as long as other antique possessions.
Abel is made of yarns of cotton (sagut) sourced from northern Luzon. The yarn is dyed in vibrant colors before being woven into different designs. The patterns on the abel cloth vary from plaid, floral, zigzags (ikat), fruits, and even animals. Today, local designers continuously innovate the colors of abel to be updated with today’s fashion.
T’nalak or tinalak is a traditional and highly sacred cloth woven by the T’boli people. The t’nalak consists of three distinctive colors: white, red, and black or deep brown. White is for the pattern itself, red is for relief elements, and black is for the background. The t’nalak pattern is said to be gifts given by the spirit of the abaca, Fu Dalu, to the weavers through dreams. The patterns are then woven based on the images received by their “dreamweavers.”
The fibres used to weave t’nalak come from harvested abaca trees. The raw material is prepared using a process called kedungon, which separates the filaments from the pulp. The t’nalak is dyed using beeswax and natural pigments. The basic colors of the t’nalak include red, brown, white, and black. For merry and festive occasions, they use the colors yellow, orange, blue, and violet.
In Maranao, balud means “weave”. The balud is composed of individual threads and silk yarn. It is woven into patterns that represent geometric shapes, waves with soft curves, and angular shapes with sharp corners. Other traditional balud patterns include bands of tiny ikat weft motifs. Ikat weft is a dyeing technique used to make designs that are arranged in between multi-colored stripes. Turtle designs are also typically seen on a balud.
Cotton Hablon and Hablon Silk
In Hiligaynon, Hablon translates to “habol”. In Miag-ao, Iloilo, the hablon is also referred to as sinamay. Sinamay means both “to weave” and “woven”, pertaining to the process as well as the finished product. It is made from pure piña, abaca, and cotton. The hablon is then hand-woven into multi-colored patterns with symbolic geometrical designs. Cotton Hablon and Hablon silk differ only in the type of material used to weave the piece.
The Habi collection is created through the process of inabel weaving. It makes use of cotton and polyester. Sinukitan, brocade, and kundiman are patterns fashioned unto the fabric. Sinukitan, also called insukit, is from Paoay, Ilocos. It is a plaid design that consists of stripes arranged in the middle or on the sides of the fabric. Brocade is an embossed design consisting of two-headed frogs, rivers, mountains, and other aspects of nature. Kundiman has very fine and subtle patterns of a combination of tiny diamonds and other geometric shapes.
Modern Filipiniana dresses are now essential in a women’s wardrobe. As much as they are worn as statement pieces or as elevated basics for semi-formal occasions, they can now also be worn as an effortless daytime look. No other fashion item can strongly represent the rich history and culture than the terno dress of the Philippines.
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