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The gift of wrapping

By Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 08, 2021 5:00 am

It’s the season of giving and just as we spend time in carefully selecting the right gift, we also have to make an extra effort in wrapping it as well. It’s the first thing you see, after all, so it’s a pity if something so judiciously chosen would not be given the wrapping it deserves.

The late Chona Kasten comes to mind whenever we have to wrap gifts at Christmas. Just as she had created our “Class Oh!” dinner get-togethers when our group of friends would try to be as interesting and creative as possible with dinner settings as well as our outfits and conversation, she decreed that our gift wrapping also had to elicit that same “Oh!” of surprise and delight.

 Gift-showing time with Chona Kasten during one of our group’s Christmas parties.

It became an annual contest for the best wrapping—no prizes were given but the benediction of La Divina herself and the pleasure of creating and receiving beautifully wrapped gifts were enough to make the act of giving such a joy. It would be a riot, commenting on each other’s wrappings and gift choices, as well as contesting the results—all in a spirit of fun.

If you look around the house, you will actually find many recyclables like fabrics, paper, costume jewelry components, buttons, ribbons and passementerie.

Since ancient times, wrapping gifts has always been a way to bring happiness as well as good luck. In China, where paper was invented during the Eastern Han period (25-220 AD), red wrapping denoted these good tidings because of its strong, vibrant color.

The Koreans from the Three Kingdoms period (57BC to 668 AD) believed that keeping things wrapped in bojagi cloth was a sign of affection and bestowed protection. They created embroidered silk versions for special occasions.

The Japanese furoshiki from Edo times was also a wrapping cloth that had many aesthetic iterations, from frayed edges to hand painting. These reusable cloth wrappings are actually very current because of their environmental sustainability.

 Our “Miniature City” made from Christmas gift wrap

If you look around the house, you will actually find many recyclables like fabrics, paper, costume jewelry components, buttons, ribbons and passementerie. You will also be surprised with the wonders you can do with available supplies like aluminum foil and Saran wrap from the kitchen.

The planning alone is part of the fun, taking many factors into consideration, from the item being wrapped to the personality of the recipient, even shared experiences or private jokes. The result will be a very personalized statement and a heartwarming connection that will be remembered long after the holidays.

Here are a few wrapping ideas that we created without leaving the house or even ordering anything online:

Le Bal

For the belle of the ball or the bon vivant, this masquerade ball-themed wrap was made with Saran wrap that was draped into a bow and accented with a metal filigree mask from a party.

Aside from the fact that the person we are giving it to is a party animal, we also watched Phantom of the Opera together when tickets were sold out in New York and he had to secure black-market tickets from a friend who had mafia connections. Reminiscing about that incident would certainly elicit a hearty laugh and bring back many happy memories of Broadway.

My fair lady

A fashion designer friend just loves this movie, particularly the scene where Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle is at the Royal Ascot, Britain’s most prestigious horse race.

The black and white production design and costumes designed by Cecil Beaton are always sources of inspiration, but what is most unforgettable is the moment when Eliza shocks the members of high society by yelling “C’mon Dover, move yer bloomin’ arse!”

This gift wrap is a tribute, with white wrapping paper embellished with thin white satin ribbon stripes, a white cake doily used as a ribbon and black passementerie and rose brooch as trimmings.

Rodin goes surreal

A bronze drawer handle that reminded us of Rodin sculptures has been left unused since we couldn’t find the right place for it, so we decided to use it as the highlight of a gift for an art collector friend.

Since he loves Dalí and the other surrealists, we positioned the bronze legs on top, struggling to get out of a box that was covered with aluminum foil, which was fashioned to look like sculpture as well.


For a friend who just loves everything Victorian, we took cues from the favored gift wrapping of that period using lace and ribbons: Bordeaux ribbons alternating with cording over a white paper box was crowned with layers of lace and silk flowers.

The craft lover

For a friend who likes arts and crafts and does surface design with unusual textures, we used paper with Turkish marbling as the base. Instead of the usual bow, we saw a leftover cabinet pull from the workshop that made a nice accent but we oxidized the center medallion to create verdigris, which is one of her signature finishes. A chocolate brown ribbon tied through the pull’s ring made the final touch.


Our travelling partner who just loves Orientalia would be delighted with this creation using leftover material from a Japanese obi that we used to make cushions. Embroidered patches from Nepal, another shared favorite destination for crafts, punctuate different sides of the box.

Imperial Rome

Imperial Rome and military exploits are obsessions for a graphic designer friend and we thought of indulging him when we found this silver medallion with the image of a Roman soldier. Placed on top of an embroidered military patch with silver rays, it was the centerpiece of the gift wrapped in a black and white cord-patterned paper we printed for a decoupage project.

The hopeless romantic

A floral print from a pattern book that we rejected last minute for a project was ideal for a friend who always dreams of the perfect fairytale romance and wedding. A velvet ribbon and miniature nosegay will make her dream of that moment when she walks down the aisle with Prince Charming.