The Baro’t saya is the unofficial national dress of the Philippines and is worn by women. The name is a contraction of the Tagalog words baro at saya, meaning "dress (blouse) and skirt".
Pre-Hispanic clothing of Tagalog
nobility in the 16th century Boxer Codex
, featuring a woman dressed in a prototype to the Baro't saya
This indigenous mode of dressing of the natives of the Philippines was influenced during the Spanish Colonization of the archipelago. In early pre-history, the half-naked style consisting of only the saya (long wrap-around) or tapis (knee-length wrap-around) covering the lower half of the body with bare upper torso, was gradually covered with a collarless blouse called a "baro", which is the Philippine cognate of the Malay "baju". Early Pre-colonial clothing of groups such as the Tagalog and Visayans included both the baro and saya made from silk in matching colors. This style was exclusively worn by the women of upper-caste families, while those in lower-castes wore baro made from pounded white bark fiber. The closest living clothes in the Philippines that still resemble the early baro't saya include the clothing of the Tumandok people of Panay; who are the only Visayan group to have not been hispanized, the clothing of the various Moro groups, and those of the Lumad tribes in interior Mindanao.
Under the Spanish colonization, the basic outfit had evolved into a many-layered ensemble of the: kimona or inner shirt; the baro outershirt with its usually gauzy materials, fine embroidery and wide sleeves; the pañuelo or piano shawl, starched to achieve a raised look; the naguas or petticoat (derived from enagua, as in the song "Paruparong Bukid, naguas de ojetes refers to petticoats decorated with eyelet patterns visible underneath the saya); the saya proper, laid over the starched petticoat and bunched at the back to mirror the polonaise which was in fashion during that period, sometimes fashionably as de cola or with a finely embroidered train; and the tapis, a wrap covering the upper half of the saya.
Some variations of the baro't saya are the Maria Clara gown, the ensemble having the addition of the alampay or pañuelo, a large kerchief or shawl wrapped around the shoulders, and the more daring ternó (which sometimes disposed of the pañuelo altogether), having the butterfly sleeves and streamlined look which mirrored the then current tastes and influences of the American colonists. This design was especially popularized by the former First Lady Imelda Marcos.