Bernardo M. Villegas
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Fashion Trends

           As the Filipino middle class expands more rapidly in the coming years, one of the sunrise industries catering to the domestic market is that of fashion.  Filipino fashion designers and fashion companies will have a reasonable chance to compete with the foreign brands that are increasingly appealing to the large youth market.  Having been nurtured in a multicultural society, Filipino fashion designers are among the most creative in Asia and can actually influence fashion trends in the whole of the Asia Pacific region.  There is an opportunity for such cities as Manila and Cebu to follow the examples of fashion capitals in Europe like Paris, Milan, Madrid and Barcelona.  Leadership in fashion, however, will not be handed to the Philippines on a silver platter.  Another strong contender for fashion leadership is Jakarta where the fashion industry faces an even larger domestic market of 250 million consumers. 

          In my frequent trips to Jakarta, I have been impressed with efforts of the Indonesian fashion designers to set trends that go against practices in the Western world of fabricating clothes for women that show too much of the female body, provoking the easily aroused males to look at women as sex objects.  Thanks to the modesty inherent to the Islamic culture, Indonesian women can be extremely fashionable and highlight the beauty of the body without overexposing the skin.  In fact, such fashion trends greatly benefit the textile industry because modesty in dressing leads to a much greater quantitative use of clothing materials. In Indonesia, there are no Madonnas, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera or Jennifer Lopez who seem to think that they can improve their singing talents by showing more skin than material in some of their performances.  Unfortunately, these singing idols set fashion trends among young girls in the West.  As I tried to follow the fortunes of Jessica Sanchez in the current American Idol show, I was increasingly impressed with the kindness and motherly concern of JLo, one of the judges.  Unfortunately, she spoiled it one day when the show featured a video of one of her recent performances where she appeared in different forms of undress.

          As an American mother, Patricia Dalton, wrote in an article in the Washington Post (November 20, 2005), "One of the most unsettling sights today is that of little girls dressed in teeny bikinis at the pool, or walking around in low-rise pants with midriff tops, or in heels and skimpy dresses, sometimes complete with makeup and jewelry.  And this doesn't occur only at dance recitals.  It can be everyday attire.  Have we come a long way, baby?  The Lennon Sisters and Gidget of girlhoods gone by are light-years from today's Britney Spears and Lindsay Logan.  The bridge between these two generations of stars was Madonna--before she had children and cleaned up her act.  Sometime over the past couple of decades, while we adults weren't looking, class went out and trash came in."

          This message of an American mother is especially addressed to Filipino high-income and middle-class parents who may neglect their very important duty of guiding their daughters about manners of dressing.  As Ms. Dalton remarked:  "Women once complained about being reduced to sex objects.  Now, their daughters are volunteering to be sex objects.  And while parents register disapproval, they often fail to take action.  In that failure, they unwittingly place their daughters at risk by allowing them to bypass girlhood.  When a daughter moves straight from little girl to woman, she's playing a role rather than gradually learning to live her own life. These girls may seem whole, but they aren't.  There is often a lost girl inside

          Oftentimes, women who dress immodestly have no bad intentions of arousing males to think of them as sex objects.  These women, however, can be accused of ignorance and naivete.  They fail to realize that there is a great difference between the psycho-sexual makeup of males and females.  Women are ordinarily not attracted to the sexual characteristics of the opposite sex.  What appeal to them are such features as gentleness, affection and a caring attitude.  Men are quite different.  The physical attributes of the female body are quick to arouse them.  Women who dress immodestly should, therefore, realize that they are occasions of sin for the males who look at them.  For those who have the Christian faith, they should always remember what Christ said:  he who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery. 

          Dressing modestly for women is especially important in university campuses where males are going through their adolescent or teenage years when their hormones are especially superactive, making them very susceptible to sexual provocation and not to mention to distractions from their main task of focusing on their studies.  That is why university officials should exercise their responsibility of promulgating dress codes.  Even more important is a dress code for attending Holy Mass and other liturgical functions in Church.  It is good that most Catholic parishes have promulgated a dress code. This should also apply to wedding ceremonies.  It is ridiculous to see brides and their bridesmaids looking like they were going to the beach with their backs totally bare and breasts unnecessarily exposed.  In fact, the concern for the modesty of the bride should be first and foremost a duty of the parents and, not to mention, the bridegroom who should be ashamed that his future wife is showing too much of what he alone has the right to see in the intimacy of the bedroom.

          As the fashion industry in the Philippines takes the leadership in influencing trends in the Asian Pacific region, I hope we will have fashion designers and fashion companies who will be very conscious of their responsibility to help Asian women retain their customary modesty and not succumb to the excesses of some forms of Western fashions.  I am glad I have friends and relatives who are very much in the forefront of setting the appropriate fashion trends.  Among them are Bernie and Alice Liu of Penshoppe, a fashion company that is already holding its own against the European and other brands.  Let me also cite my own niece, Ma. Eugenia  B. Villegas, Image Consultant, member of the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI),  who advises women on how to dress elegantly without being immodest.  She conducts Image and Style modules and workshops that are "geared toward empowering women with the knowledge and techniques needed to unleash their inner beauty, exude elegance and style build confidence and improve fashion sense."  She can be contacted at or cell phone no. 0915 278 5088.  The culture of dressing in a business organization can be enhanced positively through these modules and workshops.  For comments, my email address is