Kate Middleton wears Maria Clara inspired gown

Kate Middleton wears Maria Clara inspired gown

Maria Clara inspired gown or Filipinina dress is formal wear for ladies in the Philippines.  During the Royal Southeast Asian Tour of September 2012, Kate Middleton wore colourful Asian-inspired gowns.  One of these is clearly a Maria Clara type gown that is a traditional dress in the Philippines.  I was delighted and excited to see this.

Maria Clara terno gown – its modern adaptation
Terno is a Spanish term for a matching set of clothes made with the same fabric.  The Maria Clara gown, also known as the Filipiniana dress  is usually made of flimsy, translucent fabrics like Pineapple fibers and jusi.   It is considered a mestiza (hybrid) dress,  because it combines indigenous and Spanish influences.  A very distinct feature of the dress is the thin delicate fabric and its butterfly sleeves.  Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines owns several Maria Clara gowns. Kate Middleton’s gown is a modern adaptation.    It is indeed an honor for the host countries to see their native costumes re-invented.  The Royal Family always make it a point to show respect and honor for local culture and traditions.  

Who is Maria Clara?
Canadians may wonder who Maria Clara is. Maria Clara de los Santos is the childhood sweetheart of the main character in the historic Filipino novel by Jose Rizal called “Noli Me Tangere”. She is the illegitimate daughter of the Spanish priest Father Damaso with a native Filipina. Maria Clara later became the name for the Philippine’s national dress women called the Maria Clara gown.  The gown  symbolizes a maiden who is delicate, feminine, self assured and with a clear sense of identity.


The designer
Kate Middleton’s gown was designed by British designer Alexander McQueen for her 2012  Southeast Asian tour.  Alexander McQueen was the chief designer of Givenchy from 1996 to 2001.    The design was criticized by some westerners as “Halloween type” or “too Bollywood”. Clearly, some people have no understanding of Asian history or culture.

Today’s Maria Clara terno gown has evolved, but its distinct characteristics stay the same.   This Filipiniana dress is a strong symbol of the history and culture of the Philippines.

(This blog was originally published in 2012, and was updated in Dec 2019

evolution of the Filipiniana dress
Maria Clara terno also known as mestiza gown, Filipiniana dress