'Baro at saya': more than just a garment

Posted at 07/08/2011 11:46 AM | Updated as of 07/08/2011 3:53 PM
Filipiniana dresses ('baro at saya') from the costume collection of the UP College of Home Economics give viewers a peek into the lifestyle of women in past decades. Photo by Eric Guazon courtesy of UP

MANILA, Philippines - What's in a dress?

If it's the Filipino "baro at saya" (traditional blouse and skirt), it's more than just textile sewn to fit a person.

For Tessa Maria Guazon, faculty member of the University of the Philippines Art Studies department of the College of Arts and Letters and alumna of the College of Home Economics (CHE), a dress is much more than a garment. 

The traditional Filipiniana dress called baro at saya evokes much charm. Photo courtesy of University of the Philippines

"Dress embodies a multi-faceted charm. This enchantment stems from its combination of material surface and the inventiveness of pattern design and tailoring. As dress is donned by its wearer, it is rendered a distinct character. Dress thus can be understood as material and effectual surface, a second skin that covers and reveals the body. Worn close to the body yet seen from outside, dress fashions a public persona," Guazon wrote in the exhibition notes for "Sulyap sa Baro at Saya: Silayan ang Saya de Kola (A Glimpse of Celebration and Dress)".

The said exhibit is currently on view until August 27 at the Bulwagan ng Dangal, Gonzalez Hall of UP Diliman.

Over 30 Filipiniana pieces from CHE's costume collection are shown in the exhibit which was mounted to celebrate the college's 50th year.

According to Guazon, the costume collection was started as a donation pool.

"It started as a donation pool of dresses for a costume laboratory class so unlike the typical collection and acquisition of objects," said Guazon, curator of the show. Dr. Leonarda M. Jurado is credited for starting the collection in 1958.

The exhibit frames the dress as "science, technology, and art," and gives viewers a glimpse of the multi-faceted lifestyles of Filipino women over the years.

The collection also attests to "the nascent inventiveness and productive collaboration between couturier, dress maker and wearer," said Guazon.

According to Guazon, some of the owners and creators of the dresses are anonymous, "but they eloquently evince resourceful ingenuity and meticulous making."

The baro at saya dresses are exhibited alongside paintings on loan from the UP Vargas Museum and the CHE Library. Also featured is a sound piece by DJ Mark Zero.