Pre-Colonial Traditional Filipino Clothing 

Clothing and fashion sense has changed so much in past years so is in southwest Asia. Pre-colonial traditional clothes were so fashionable as sometimes they were embodied and sometimes just printed.

For formal occasions, Filipino men wear barong Tagalog. But for regular uses, traditional Filipino dresses were bahag, lufid, saya, butterfly sleeve dresses, etc. Maria Clara herself made a huge impact on Filipino fashion. Barot saya got updated by her and introduced as traje de mestiza.

In this article, we will discuss the traditional dresses of Filipino people and how they are made and worn.

Pre-Colonial Traditional Filipino Clothing

So let’s get started.

Pre-Colonial Traditional Filipino Clothing


It is a type of traditional fabric that is exclusive to Mindanao and is woven by hand using three major colors: red, black, and the natural color of the Abaca fibers. The T’boli people created it.


Bahag is a piece of cloth that measures 4-5 meters and is ornamented. It is worn by Filipino men and is often the natural color of the fabric; however, if a man had personally killed an enemy, he was qualified to wear deep red ones.


The inhabitants of Maranao and Maguindanao use a tubular garment called a malong for a variety of purposes. You may wear it as a turban, a wrap bag, a sarong, or even a skirt, depending on how you tie it. Kappa Malong Malong, a traditional dance, features moves that highlight the many ways the malong can be worn.

The Maranao and Maguindanaon people use clothing for everything from cradling babies to wrapping the bodies of the deceased.

Clothing of this type is typically woven by hand on a backstrap loom, a portable loom consisting of sticks and rope with a strap linked to the weaver’s waist. Weaving materials can vary by purpose and season. Silk thread is braided into intricate motifs for special occasions like ceremonies. Cotton thread is used to make commonplace fabrics like plaids and stripes.

The fabric of the malong in pre-Spanish Mindanao varied not only with respect to the occasion but also social standing. Yellow, the color of local royalty, was reserved for the upper classes, while crimson and purple were more widely available to the populace. It’s no longer the situation at present. Yellow is a popular color for women, while red is favored by men.


Patadyongs were worn by ladies in the Visayas, particularly in the province of Panay. Similar in shape to the malong, these rectangular one-piece skirts stand out thanks to their distinctive checkered or plaid patterns. In the same vein as the malong, they serve multiple purposes, including as workwear when growing rice, a curtain when washing in rivers, and a baby carrier.

Hablon, derived from the Visayan word habol (meaning “blanket”), is the fabric used to make the patadyong. Weavers utilize the habulan, a giant wooden loom operated by a foot pedal, and a variety of colorful threads to create hablon.


Women of the Bontok ethnic group in the Mountain Province wear a wrap skirt called a lufid. Women used only to wear these skirts when they went topless to show off their elaborate tattoos.

Women’s lufids come in a wide variety of styles and colors to suit any event. They wear the more functional kinarchago, a knee-length skirt made of two panels when they’re out in the fields. The informal, a longer, more elaborate skirt with three panels, is reserved for formal events. The deceased also have their own unique skirt—a dark Kayin—that they wear when they go out.

The fabric of the skirt conveys meaning in addition to the cut and the panels. In an essay for the Philippine Tatler, Franz Sorilla IV explained that the central motif in Bontoc textiles represents stability, harmony, and equilibrium—all of which play an important role in the daily lives of the Bontoc people. Weavers show this concept by weaving from the outside in, creating symmetrical fabrics, and reusing a motif of vertical warp stripes.

The barong Tagalog

It (lit. “Tagalog clothing”) is an embroidered long-sleeved formal shirt for men and the national dress of the Philippines. It is also popularly referred to as the barong or baro.

The barong Tagalog fuses traditional Filipino dress features with traditional Filipino dress with those of Spanish colonial garb. Sheer textiles (nips) woven from pia or abacá have traditionally been utilized, but cheaper materials like organza silk, ramie, or polyester are also employed these days cheaper materials like organza silk, ramie, or polyester are also employed.

It is worn untucked over an undershirt with belted pants and dress shoes and is considered appropriate for formal or semiformal occasions in Filipino culture. Maria Clara gowns are the formal version of the more casual barong Tagalog, and baro’t saya is the female equivalent of the male version. The Philippine Spanish word for “outside shirt” was Camisa fuera, which was another name for the barong Tagalog.


Luzon-based Filipina women traditionally wear tapis, a lightweight fabric, as a wrap skirt. The wrap can be worn around the waist or under the bust, and it is fastened by tying the ends together in a simple knot. Historically, the tapis has served merely as a slack covering for women to conceal their privates. With such a warm atmosphere, the skirt is typically made from a light, sometimes see-through fabric.

This garment is still widely used, but now as an accessory to contemporary Filipiniana dresses worn as an overskirt. Beginning in the early colonial era, it was commonly worn as an overskirt. Because the Spanish considered it impolite for Filipina women to wear the tapis by themselves, they mandated that they also wear another garment.

Cordillerans still wear the tapis in a traditional way today, but they now refer to it as an alampay.

Kinna-inno or Ginayan

The ginayan, or kinna-inno in Bagobo Klata, is a skirt unique to the Bagobo of Mindanao. It consists of three panels: a center “line,” or mother piece, and two sides “bata,” or kid pieces.

It takes a lot of work to make the ginayan. The line, which serves as the garment’s focal point, is woven independently from the bata pieces and typically features very intricate motifs (with a count of 20 to 100). Due to the labor-intensive process involved in creating a ginayan, the skirt has the potential to become a treasured heirloom.

Female ginayan master weavers were highly respected in Bagobo villages and given specialized work due to the complexity of their craft. In “From the Rainbow’s Varied Hue: Textiles of the Southern Philippines,” an illustrated book exploring the textile traditions of Mindanao, Cherubim Quizon writes, “the most senior weaver in a Tagabawa Bagobo community was the sole person traditionally entitled to reply to the war cries of a returning raiding party.” She knew how to make the highest quality ginayan skirts, the ultimate proof of a weaver’s mastery and authority.

Final Words

The timeline of events in Philippine history demonstrates how indigenous forebears, Spanish colonizers, and American colonizers have had an impact on current Filipinos’ clothing style and fashion sense.

In addition to the aforementioned causes, Filipinos nowadays are influenced to wear a certain way by what they see on television, fashion shows, and other forms of mass media. Apart from colonial influences and media influence, the Filipino style of clothing had been dictated by the climate in the Philippines.

With a tropical climate (dry and rainy seasons), early Filipinos – as well as the still extant tribal groups in the Philippines – wore colorful woven clothes, often with intricate beadwork and other ornam a type of collarless shirt – which later became adorned with laces, trimmings, buttons, and a collar.

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