Tapis (Philippine clothing)

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Among cultures in the Philippines, Tapis may generally refer to a single rectangular piece of cloth one wraps around oneself as clothing, but usually specifically applies to a colorful hand-woven wraparound skirt which was commonly used by women throughout the Philippines before the arrival of Spanish colonizers, and which is still used today as part of the Maria Clara gown and also by culturally conservative tribes.

The tapis worn by the Cordilleran women of Northern Luzon, known locally as the alampay, are the most prominent surviving example.[1]

It is worn by wrapping the cloth around one's waist and holding the ends together with the use of a tightly tied sash. It generally reaches down to knee length, and the weaving pattern of tapis describes the culture and temperament of the wearer's tribe.[2]

Broader usage (verb)

Another use of the term, as a verb, simply means to wrap a piece of cloth around one's body to cover it up. A person who does so is said to be nagtatapis ('putting on a tapis'). This usage of the term does not require that the piece of cloth that you wear in the Philippines should be traditional tapis.

In historical record

The Tapis has been in use in the Philippine archipelago since at least the indigenous period that came before the arrival of European colonists. Those colonists would take note of this particular mode of dress, considering it immodest. Spanish chroniclers from the early period noted that this mode of dress remained common on many islands despite Spanish efforts to introduce what they considered more suitable clothing. The felt that the tight profile of the tapis on a female wearer was revealing, and made even worse by the often sheer fabric of the cloth. One noted that the tapis became even more revealing whenever the wearer was caught in the rain, or had just taken a bath. The locals, however, did not consider the revealing properties of the tapis to be immodest.[3] Among the lowland peoples who came under the full influence of the Spanish, this would soon change as Christianization and Hispanization forced a much more conservative cultural imperialism, and along with it, a mode of dress that emphasized christian-colonial sense of subjective modesty. The tapis would continue to be worn, but not in public venues, and usually only in more intimate locales such as one's own home. The tapis saw continued use among upland peoples, but as their upland environments were colder, their variation of the tapis tended to be thicker and thus less revealing.

See also


  1. Ifugao Province: Clothes Archived 2004-12-07 at the Wayback Machine
  2. So, Michelle. Caught in the Net: ‘Tapis’ cops(editorial column) Sun Star Cebu. April 17, 2008 Archived April 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  3. Scott, William Henry (1994). Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. ISBN 971-550-135-4.