What would a Filipina Disney Princess look like?
On Philippine Independence Day last year, I wrote a blog about finding inspiration and hope in the Disney Princesses despite never quite finding one that looked like me growing up. Though the qualities and morals of each Princess have helped shaped me into the person I am today, and though I strongly believe that we are all the same where it matters, I wanted to bring my love for Disney and my love for my country together.
So I decided to start #DisneyPrinsesa – a campaign to promote Philippine culture by showcasing local textiles and design elements through what I know best – Disney Style.
Weeks were spent planning, sketching, gathering materials, and sewing eight different ensembles (and even Mickey ears) to come up with the Disney Prinsesa lookbook I would have loved to see as a young girl. And finally being able to see it all come together was definitely a dream come true for my Filipina heart.
But as a little birthday celebration this year, I wanted to take #Prinsesa one step further. Instead of Princess inspired looks, I wanted to work with the actual costumes of my favorite Princesses, and come up with Filipina versions of each of them.
So before my birthday month ends, I am sharing 3 blogs – one for each of the Princesses who have most influenced my childhood, and guided me in adulthood.
And I am starting this series off with –
Before moving to the home I spent most of my life in, I spent my childhood in a townhouse. All the houses in our village opened up to one large open garden that we shared with several other families. So you could actually say that despite being a city girl, I grew up in our version of a “little town”, where everyone knew everyone.
The garden that we shared with several other families was where all the kids would gather to play every afternoon. But here’s the funny part – I never really played with them. Not because the kids were mean or because I was singled out. It was just because I was always too busy reading.
I’d sit on our front porch with a book and my iced tea, and my way of participating was just to keep score for my friends playing patintero. And that’s exactly how I liked things – me with my hands in the air showing each team’s score, but with my eyes completely immersed in Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings. The other kids were always nice to me and would always invite me to play, but truth be told there was a part of me that knew I was a little bit odd for not really wanting to join.
And then, I watched Beauty and the Beast – and all my worries about being considered strange or even considering myself strange went away. Here was this smart, brave, and kind girl who loved reading just as much as I did, who walked with her nose stuck in a book just like I did, and who longed for adventure, just as I did.
She represented everything that I felt was weird about me, and celebrated it. I saw so much of myself in her, and that was so important for me growing up. But the older I got the more curious I became as to how she would look if she was exactly like me on the outside too – brown skin and all.
So I decided to try it out – my version of Belle if she had grown up in my “little town” in the Philippines.
Working with her live action costume, I decided to change out the top for a modern wrap around Filipiñana top. I chose this cream-colored one inspired by our traditional baro’t saya (the Philippines’ national dress), and opted for a more modern fit, since Belle’s live action dress is also modern. I also made sure to pick one with floral embroidery, that I thought went perfectly with the designs on Belle’s skirt.
For accessories, I kept the hair piece and the rosetree necklace from the original costume, but added a special little Philippine touch. The live action Belle had a gold ear cuff with a floral design, which I decided to switch out for a Philippine flag ear cuff, made famous by our 2018 Miss Universe Catriona Gray.
As much as I love wearing Belle’s live action dress, there was something truly special about getting to wear a Filipina version of it. I didn’t know what to call it until I had spent a good 5 minutes smiling from ear to ear and twirling. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then I realized what it was – it was pride.
The next time I dance to Beauty and the Beast, you best believe I’m wearing my Filipina top instead. Who knows, maybe I can even choreograph a Philippine version of the dance too. I loved this experience so much, and I cannot wait to share the next two Prinsesa looks I did with you!
So stay tuned til tomorrow everyone!
“And for once it might be grand to have someone understand, I
want so much more than they’ve got planned”
**If you guys would like to wear versions of your favorite Princesses in your national dress, please let me know! I’d love to see different cultures represented through our beloved Disney characters. Just send me a message on Instagram if you’d like to be featured on the blog and on my IG page. Or just simply use the hashtag #PrincessWhereItMatters. It would be amazing to see the Princesses represented by different nationalities!
*You can read my first Disney Prinsesa blog here