The Philippines’ most famous garment, the Barong Tagalog is a wardrobe staple — especially among Filipino men. Made from delicate piña fabric (pineapple leaf) or jusi material (originally made with banana silk, but now jusi is a polyester and silk blend), it seems like such a simple-looking shirt. But take a closer look and you can see its intricacy and craftsmanship in all its embroidered glory. It’s literally a wearable piece of art as we’ve mentioned in The Rich and Interesting History of the Barong Tagalog blog post.
The beautiful thing about it is it’s so uniquely Filipino, but get this — historically and traditionally, most of the embroidery on the Barong Tagalog is and has been inspired by European or American designs. One of the most famous variations of the Barong Tagalog in 1935, called the “Commonwealth Barong Tagalog,” literally featured the U.S. flag alongside the Philippine Commonwealth flag. You can’t get more American than that.
At VINTA, we’ve always been obsessed with the barong look, including the old-fashioned processes and design transfer techniques used to create the barong tagalog, dating back from the 1920s — age-old methods we still use today at our VINTA atelier.
But us in our Rebel Filipiniana ways, we wanted to turn that “uniquely Filipino” garment up a notch with actual, truly Filipino embroidery, designed by Filipinos to empower Filipinos.
“That's the thing I had always wanted to do — to update the very Victorian, European influence in the barong embroidery motifs on Philippine barongs. It never made sense to me that the embroidery motifs were just these swirls and generic flowers. Here we are with this deep tradition in embroidery, so why don't we decolonize the design and make our traditional garment make sense to us?" VINTA founder Caroline Mangosing said, in our Decolonizing Design: VINTA’s Modern Barongs blog post.
We’ve designed and created a number of Filipino barongs over the years in a variety of colour ways, styles and embroidered themes. Here are our top 10 favourite modern barongs and barong tagalog looks to get you inspired for just about any event or occasion.
We kid you not — every time we would wear this out, we would be stopped. The embroidered designs and symbolism on this barong tagalog is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before on a barong.
Conceptualized and created by our in-house artist, Algagadngsining, this epic design is an embodiment of religious-spiritual semiotics and the ancestral Filipino psyche anchored in history, anthropology, nature, superstition, belief and faith. 100% silk, hand-dyed in an amethyst colour, “Pamamang Paniniwala” literally translates to “inherited belief.” The imagery and symbols stitched on this barong are influenced by indigenous Philippine Kulturang Pagdidiwata (culture of ritual), Catholicism (Latin) and symbols of Animism, Paganism, Orthodox Christianity and Judaism — a version of Philippine folk magic.
The designs embroidered on the Pamanang Paniniwala is created with the intention to give the wearer protection against harm, negative energy and bad spirits; and likewise to illuminate healing, prosperity and liberation (and yes dismantling patriarchy!). Read more about the meaning of each of the symbols and the significance of this uniquely Filipino tradition here.
Fit to wear for men or women, it’s truly a unique and powerful statement piece that’ll have people curious for more.
*Note that The Unisex Biggie Barong (Pamanang Paniniwala) is currently sold out, but another limited run in natural silk organza will be in the shop shortly!
Another uniquely and unabashedly Filipino barong, this time it comes in a full set made with the softest, silkiest 50/50 cotton silk fabric.
So gorgeous and effortlessly cool, the Unisex Bowling Barong and Shorts Set is loaded with meaning and symbolism. You may or may not know this, but the barong tagalog, though a garment of pride and honour of Filipinos, also carries with it a deep history of trauma and discrimination. In the past, it was believed that Spanish colonizers were in favour of the Indios’ (Indigenous) traditional transparent barongs to distinguish them from the ruling class and ensure that they were not concealing a weapon. Learn more about the history of the barong tagalog here.
The Sandata (literally means “sword”) design series turns that history of the Barong Tagalog on its head, and it serves as an ongoing documentation of Philippine weaponry as a cultural heritage. The Sandata design also serves as a metaphor for our ongoing fight for liberation as a people.
You can’t not feel empowered wearing this — and since it’s a much more casual look, the best part is you can wear this barong shirt and shorts set anywhere and everywhere you go. Read more about each of the swords and daggers featured in this barong ensemble here.
One of our most popular barong pieces, over the years we had to keep bringing it back: The New Chinoy Barong. What we personally love about this barong is its versatility — the New Chinoy Barong (“Chinoy” is slang in Tagalog for Filipino people of Chinese descent) has a fully open button up front and a micro Mandarin collar. Made of silk organza (100% silk), slim cut and easy to wear with a relaxed cuff-less sleeve, you can wear it with black pants for a more formal barong suit look or rock it with khaki pants and white sneakers for more of a streetwear vibe. Shop the barong here.
4. The Custom Classic Barong
You can’t go wrong with a timeless classic. The VINTA Bespoke Classic Barong can be completely customized, from the cut, the fabric, to buttons, vertical or u-shaped (or pechera) and collar style. This option is perfect for gentlemen currently looking for wedding barongs or barongs for grooms or a Filipiniana wedding entourage. You can have completely original embroidery, choose your wedding barong lining and/or choose to have your barongs dyed to match wedding motif colours. We can also custom make any of the ready-to-wear barongs you see on our Men’s section to your measurements. Just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss all the endless possibilities.
Get inspired by one of our favourite bespoke wedding barongs — a stunning, 1970s-inspired custom VINTA short-sleeved black barong with the groom Noel’s own embroidery designs.
“For many years I’ve studied and practiced tattoo, which was primarily inspired by Pacific Island art and culture,” Noel said, in our VINTA Wedding Diaries blog post. “Motifs from the Northern Ilocos region speak to me because that is where my family is from. My garment represents our modern and ancient roots. The flow and symbols are inspired from the Chaklag warrior chest tattoo of the Kalinga. In general, it represents our connection to our people and ancestral lands.”
Do we have your attention? This Unisex Art Deco Short Sleeved Barong holds nothing back.
Hand-dyed in wisteria with a watercolour effect, this headturner of a barong boasts an epic batok embroidery pattern, meaning the design is not only in the front chest area and extended up towards the shoulders, but is also across the upper back (in a v-shape) and the upper sleeves. Super extra.
The first of AlagadNgSining’s Filipino Deco series, this barong embroidery design features the Philippines’ most fragrant ornamental flowers, set on a backdrop of a slim cut and fully open button-down modern classic short-sleeved barong.
Sweetly scented flowers native to the Philippines, including Sanggumay flowers, ylang-ylang and flowers of Dama de Noche (Night Blooming Jasmine), grace this barong. The wearer can proudly don this beautifully designed Filipino barong empowered by knowing it’s not just any random floral print, but one inspired by the flora and fauna of their native country. Read more about the inspiration behind the Filipino Deco embroidery design here.
We are restocking this unique barong this summer (2021) in a surprise new bold colour! Wait for it!
Filipino Robert DeNiro, anyone? The Linen Gardan Barong adds that too-cool vintage vibe to your look — no matter how old (or young) you are.
The Gardan Barong cut is a new interpretation of the 1970’s redesign created by Pierre Cardin for the infamous dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. The dress shirt style was very much part of the disco period, trickling down to street fashion very quickly and became known as the Gardan cut (“Cardin,” but with a Filipino accent). It features a fully open covered button placket up front (with a coconut wood visible top button), shoulder yoke and shaping darts in the back that open up to double back vents.
On sale right now, it’s the perfect spring/summer outfit to help you come out of hibernation looking fresh and so clean.
One of our favourite looks, VINTA’s Black Tunic Barong keeps making a comeback, always reviving and evolving into something new.
Super sleek and edgy, this Tunic Barong is made of black, silk organza (100% silk) hand-dyed in house and has a longer cut, featuring a fully open button up front, with a curved hem.
There are so many ways you can wear this barong, which is why those looking for a more modern style barong tagalog can’t get enough of it. Try it with our handloomed Unisex Malong Skirt for an epic statement ensemble.
Kilig me softly. The Relaxed Classic Pechera Barong is completely and utterly swoon-worthy.
Made with cotton-silk blend fabric, it’s drapey and softer than your typical barong tagalog. This barong features the traditional half-open cut, with a new modern silhouette, cut closer to the body.
If it’s not already romantic enough, this barong is gorgeously embroidered with AlagadNgSining’s Filipino Tropico IV design, featuring endangered flora and fauna that can only be found in the Philippines. Some of the species you’ll see include the Kalaw hornbill, Kibatalia puberula evergreen plant with white flowers, Paphiopedilum ciliolare from the orchid family and so much more. Read more about each species featured in these embroidery designs here and revel in its intricate beauty.
9. The Unisex Striped Linen Weekender Barong
Ugh, this barong. You know those annoyingly chill, free-spirited Sagittarius types who just seem to always go with the flow? The Unisex Striped Linen Weekender Barong was made for them.
Breezy linen, collarless and 3/4 sleeve barong comfy, it’s a barong made for the weekend, hence its name. A flawless look for both women and men, we absolutely love this piece for its casual, easy-to-wear, easy-to-pair versatility.
Take a closer look and it’s actually much more detailed than you think, with its Filipino Tropico II design — the Tamsi, Traveller’s Palm, Venus Slipper and Kapa-kapa line the front of this barong. It’s currently on sale NOW, so snag it up just in time for Spring/Summer 2021.
10. The Natural Jusi Tunic Barong
Our founder Caroline’s personal favourite, the Natural Jusi Tunic Barong is simply perfection, in our humble opinion.
The Tunic Barong features a longer cut and a nehru collar, fully open button up front, with a curved hem. Made of natural coloured jusi (silk/polyester blend), the Tunic Barong features combination hand and machine embroidery and has coconut wood buttons. Slim cut and it just falls so nicely on the bod, it’s really an irresistible look.
If you’re a first-time barong wearer, you may have some burning questions on how to wear a barong tagalog properly, what do you wear under a barong and what goes best with it. While there are traditional ways to do it right and look impeccable, choose a barong that fits your essence and vibe and you can’t go wrong.Just so you know how the women at the VINTA Gallery atelier make your embroidered garments, check out this video below.