Filipino Street Style: An analysis

Filipino fashion and style has always been something that interests me because it directly reflects on their rich history and culture development over time. In my auto-ethnographic account: Filippino Street Style and my first impressions, I encountered the Filipino fashion world two ways; first through the black market in Manila and then again online through fashion icons on Instagram.

Within my autoethnographical account, I followed Ellis et al’s methodology of showing “which is designed to bring readers into the scene—particularly into thoughts, emotions, and actions.” Whilst doing this, I came across different epiphanies that at the time I didn’t realise were major turning points until I explained them on my blog.

My first epiphany was my surprise to see the abundance of fake/ knock off goods in the market. Anything from bags to shoes to phone cases, there was a knock off for it. When I think of knock-offs I think of bad quality, ripped seams and red lights screaming “I’M NOT REAL.” But the counterfeit goods at Greenhills were almost identical!

Creating and selling counterfeit goods has become part of the Filipino fashion industry. In 2014, authorities raided eight fashion warehouses in the Philippines to find $22 million worth of counterfeit goods.  “The warehouses were creating imitations of bags from high-end labels, such as Hermès, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Burberry.” (Wolf, 2014)

When big brand companies sell authentic goods, they are selling it with the guarantee that it is of the best quality, meaning they have the power. However, when consumers turn to the black market, they know the goods they are purchasing are counterfeit and are not of the same quality. Although, consumers compromise their need of quality for their need to have the brand. Thus, counterfeit items alter the distribution of power causing the consumer to hold the power because having the brand symbolises status within the community–which is something that is sought after highly in the Philippines. (Coo, 2014, p. 4)

Then my next epiphany was the clothing and style where I was suprised to see so many long skirts and button up shirts,initially, I thought it had something to do do with trends and what was in fashion at the moment in the Philippines. I had no clue that this style was linked to colonial fashion and oppression.

The Philippines was first colonised by Spain where they ruled from 1521 to 1898. During this time, the Spaniards introduced a new style of fashion which drew attention to the persons status and class within society. Women wore a baro (blouse) with a saya (skirt) and were forced to have their baro’s un-tucked to signify them as a lower class citizen. Thus, this centuries old custom is still seen today where fashion and style highlight a person’s status.

Traditional clothing during the Spanish Era in the Philippines (National Clothing)


The hierarchy of citizens in the Philippines during the Spanish era which deemed a person’s status by the clothes they wore. (Coo, 2014)

Not long after the Spanish rule, America had a huge influence on the Philippines. When many Filipinos speak English, they pronunciation their words with an American accent because of the over saturation of American goods and shows within America. In terms of fashion, a lot of American slogans, sayings and westernised memes were printed on T-shirts, making it hard to find a staple T-shirt. This communicated the cultural flows from America into Asian countries like The Philippines where they have a huge influence.

According to Alison Kass, American fashion during the late 20th Century was a tool used to make a statement. During the late 80s and 90s, “denim, most often ripped and distressed, was at the forefront of the grunge fashion movement.” (Kass, 2011, p. 32) Whilst walking through the market, I struggled to find a plain and basic pair of jeans, all I could find were an overflow of variations of ripped and distressed jeans. I also thought this was just a normal trend that comes in or out of fashion like it does in Australia. However, I was intrigued to learn that it is the cultural flow of the American grunge movement into Filippino fashion. But what intrigued me the most is that the state of these distressed jeans had evolved to include patches and colours–thus a Filipino spin on the movement to appeal to their customer demographic.

After coming home and trying on my new clothes from the market, I found that the button up collared shirts I had bought didn’t sit how they should have. I found this strange because I rarely have issues with tops that I buy. I soon came to realise that the stereotypical’ ‘Asian’ body type in the Philippines was  skinny and short in height so the collared button up shirts work perfectly for their body type. However, collared shirts are more than just a fashion piece, it is an item of clothing that stems from the fashion of villagers who used to wear camisa de chino (chinese shirts) thus symbolising the cultural flows and influence from other Asian countries nearby.

Camisa de Chino (Barong Warehouse)

Whilst looking at different fashion icons on Instagram I had an epiphany about how Filipino women styled their outfits. I was surprised to find three different types of clothing– leather, pattern and lace/crochet–all in one outfit as well as more than three types of patterns in one outfit. However, this combination is quite common in the Philippines due to the abundance of cheap clothing as a result of the industrial revolution. In 1996, “more than 60 percent of world clothing exports are manufactured in developing countries. Asia is the major world supplier today, producing more than 32 percent of the world’s clothing exports.” (International Labour Organisation) During the 1980s, in an effort to cut costs, major clothing manufacturing were relocated to the Philippines as it was known as a low- cost production country. This means that Filipinos have the opportunity to experiment with new styles with different kinds of materials and experiment with their clothing.




Coo. S 2014, ‘Clothing and the colonial culture of appearances in nineteenth century
Spanish Philippines’ (1820-1896) https://tel.archives-ouvertes.fr/tel-01126974/document

2007, ‘Philippines Boys Clothing: Chronological Trends,’ Historical Boys Clothing <http://histclo.com/country/oce/phl/phl-chron.html&gt;

Kass. A 2011, ‘The 20th Century of American Fashion: 1900 – 2000’ <http://library.wcsu.edu/dspace/bitstream/0/592/1/ALISON+KASS.AMERICAN+FASHION+THESIS.pdf&gt;

International Trade Organisation, 1996 ‘Globalisation Changes in Face of Textile Clothing and Footwear Industries’ <http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_008075/lang–en/index.htm&gt;

Wolf, 2014 ’22 million worth of fake designer bags seized in the Philippines,” The Complex, 14 October, viewed 7 September <http://www.complex.com/style/2014/10/22-million-worth-of-fake-designer-bags-seized-in-philippines&gt;




6 thoughts on “Filipino Street Style: An analysis”

  1. Wow, I really enjoyed your blog post! I felt like I was going down a rabbit hole of Filipino fashion history, a topic that I initially probably wouldn’t have been drawn to, but it really engaged me. Throughout my digital Asian autoethnographic research, I have found that globalisation plays a very prominent role in the culture, which also seems to be true for many other subcultures like yours too. It’s fascinating to see how many influencers play a role in fashion and furthermore Filipino culture. Your post really engaged me with a linear depiction of fashion history, and I’m thrilled to see how your project evolves.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Would just like to say I too am focusing on somewhat of a similar topic when it comes to garments and purpose of clothing, which is why this is so interesting to me! You’ve really done ahead and dug in deep with your autoethnographic process in this piece. It’s crazy how much trends on Instagram play a role in swaying fashion trends and fads. After reading your post I couldn’t help myself but have a sticky beak on Instagram and it is SO vast within those three categories you identified! Also, the element of trying on an actual garment, and juxtaposing that to your own experiences really ties together Ellis et al’s notion of submerging yourself within a culture to develop an understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such an interesting topic and one that I hadn’t even known really existed. Your background research really confirms what you experienced in your first blog post. It’s really interesting how garments are actually made to fit a stereotypical body of that culture, something that I wouldn’t have ever thought about. You’ve really immersed yourself in the autoethnographic experience by trying on these garments. Your analysis into Instagram was also very fascinating and probably a more accurate representative of Filipino street style today.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I suppose many places consider themselves to have a very unique style of fashion, but I wonder if they ever consider the history of influence associated with that. The Philippines is such an interesting area due to the various cultural influences over time. As Kayla also mentioned in a comment, I wouldn’t have put much thought into clothes fitting differently over there but the obvious physiological differences would mean they need to. Looking towards the future for Filipino fashion, social media will no doubt play a massive role. Do you think the influence will be more western or eastern going forward?


  5. Dear Sir/ Madam,
    Good day ! I’m Soledad Donoso. I would like to ask a permission to use this photo/photos for educational purposes. I’m making a book that tells about the history of our country , the Philippines. Hoping for your kind consideration on this matter . Thank you .

    The one with this caption: Traditional clothing during the Spanish Era in the Philippines (National Clothing)


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