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Sassa Gurl's 'Drag Den' Filipiniana dress draws mixed reactions online. Here's what fashion experts think of it

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Mar 19, 2024 9:41 pm

Content creator Sassa Gurl's outfit was definitely a head-turner during the finale of the second season of Drag Den with Manila Luzon.

The drag reality competition television series aired its finale on March 7 in Pasay City wherein Sassa Gurl attended in a white Filipiniana dress by Prisco Doculan. 

While the classy outfit seems to boast the traditional design of a Filipiniana dress, the twist came as the TikTok star turned around to reveal an extremely low back that teases a part of her butt.

In a separate post, Sassa Gurl shared that her ensemble was inspired by Maria Clara from Jose Rizal's novel Noli Me Tangere. The said character is used as an image of a traditional Filipino woman.

"[Throughout] history, we have seen how pieces of fabric [were] used to control women and their bodies," she wrote. "[Through] this outfit, we hope to liberate the woman by showing that there is no one way to view and appreciate women and their bodies. Some like their bodies covered and it’s okay."

"Some like showing their bodies and that also has to be okay. There is no one way to be a woman and the way you dress your body is not one of it," she continued.

Sassa Gurl stressed how women are capable of making choices, especially about their bodies, and that people "should simply respect that."

In the comments section, many of her fans expressed their amusement at her eye-catching look and praised her statement on women's bodies.

"Admiring you for that! Indeed. Women are capable to [wear] whatever they [want] to wear and no one should stop them [from] expressing themselves," one user wrote.

A few have also likened it to actress Ara Mina's look in the film Mano Po, where she wore a similar backless dress that bared the top part of her butt.

However, some criticized the social media star for supposedly disrespecting the "class and elegance" of the Filipiniana dress.

"Not funny at all! 'Filipiniana embodies values, customs, and traditions of the Filipino people. By wearing it, Filipino women can definitely showcase their culture and heritage with confidence and elegance.' Hindi po dapat binababoy!" one critic stressed on Facebook.

Other users in the comments section found fault in how Sassa Gurl's dress "exposed what should be covered," commenting, "Huwag ka na lang sumuot pag ganyan. Nakakadismaya sa mga tunay na Pilipina. Hindi binibilad ang katawan."

What do Filipino fashion experts think?

PhilSTAR L!fe spoke with a few fashion experts in the Philippines regarding Sassa Gurl's daring take on the traditional dress. 

While celebrity fashion designer Ehrran Montoya understands the inspiration behind Sassa Gurl's look, he said that this may shed a bad light on the LGBTQIA+ community.

"We live in a society where we still fight for the acceptance and rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. Not everyone will appreciate us and the way we present ourselves. I am an advocate for the rainbow rights and the best we can do is to show the majority that we deserve respect, and we can only get that by respecting traditions and everyone that has come before us," Montoya told L!fe.

"We all have the freedom of choice in our clothing but for this look, a Filipiniana being presented in a different manner is somehow revolting," he continued.

According to Montoya, Sassa Gurl's Filipiniana dress can somehow harm the social fabric of the queer community, noting, "There are still transphobic citizens that we need to please and with the look being presented that has our traditional national clothing, which is the Terno, it would be hard to defend this look."

Fashion designer Mikee Andrei found the dress offensive, reasoning that she has always been a fan of the terno and its sophistication since she was a child.

"There are other garments that we can manipulate and turn them into sexier and flamboyant pieces. But this one was beyond insensitive," she said.

In contrast, fashion designer and Drag Race Philippines judge Rajo Laurel defended Sassa Gurl's dress and emphasized that she was merely having fun with the concept.

"It’s self-expression and fashion should be fun and should not be taken so seriously.  I don’t see anything wrong with that she did as she was just literally being cheeky," he said.

With such importance placed on the Filipiniana dress, is there an etiquette or unspoken rule that designers need to follow when it comes to putting their own twist into it?

"I believe that the Filipiñana is our way of presenting our culture. There may be no rules but presenting it in a respective way is already a good etiquette," said Montoya, who frequently designs for drag artists.

"Sad reality in fashion, globally speaking, it is hard or close to impossible, to trademark a look or piece," Andrei said. "So anyone can really do things their way according to their taste and creativity. But not because you can do it, means it is always right."

Fellow designer Jamela Reginaldo, who described Sassa Gurl's look as "kinda slay, off and funny," said that Filipiniana dresses are often associated with a modest display of skin.

"We’re in the modern era now, so it’s like we’re free to wear that kind of style or revealing clothes... but a it's bit off because wearing such clothes like that is given in a certain event," Reginaldo said.

She suggested, "Maybe it would be better to add beads at the back to make it look less provocative, or perhaps, it would have been better if it were just backless. Especially since the Filipiniana is our traditional wear, we need to respect it."

Laurel, on the other hand, underscored that fashion is about "breaking rules and self-expression."

"I would rather have our National costume evolve and transform rather than wither in die in some museum.  I think we should not take this too seriously as we as a nation have bigger and more important issues that warrant our attention and concern," he said. (With reports from Yoniel Acebuche)