“IF that is her national costume, I dread to imagine what her gown would look like.”
These were the words of two of my friends who saw and were underwhelmed by Miss Philippines Ariella Arida’s vintage-looking (read: hastily pulled from the baul) terno with huge oversized butterfly sleeves and loose neckline.
And they weren’t alone. After waiting for weeks for the big reveal, countless fans in this beauty contest-crazy country were beside themselves yesterday. Their collective disappointment wasn’t only real and palpable. It was further fuelled by Megan Young’s recent win in Miss World.
Expectations are high that Ariella, like Megan, has got what it takes to bring home honors to the Philippines by clinching for the country its third Miss Universe crown after 40 long years.
But while Megan, the first ever Filipina to bag Miss World, looked polished in her carefully selected outfits from Day 1 up to coronation night, Ariella is on an ongoing hit-or-miss affair in gowns and dresses that are at best passable.
We’re not blaming the poor girl, as she is really doing her best with the outdated and borderline tacky wardrobe given her. It’s a good thing Ariella has a beautiful face and toned figure going for her.
If clothes make a Miss Universe, then I’d advise her this early to throw in the towel. There are plenty of girls in this year’s current crop of hopefuls that are more deserving than her.
You don’t need to be an expert in fashion to come to the conclusion that the number she wore did a disservice to the terno, the Philippines’ answer to Japan’s kimono, India’s sari, Korea’s hanbok and Vietnam’s ao dai.
Nothing much, really
Why is it so important that you get the terno right? As a national dress, it’s one of many national symbols that define us as a people. Iyun lang naman. (That’s all there is to it—nothing much, really.)
If you’re exposed to fashion, you’d even come to the conclusion that the piece with a partially beaded ivory lace top and electric-pleated gold skirt wasn’t made by a Filipino designer.
Not only were the proportions wrong. The overall look was totally blah in an ocean of colors, layers, nuances and details worn by Ariella’s rivals.
The butterfly sleeves and scoop neckline, two elements that define the terno, were atrociously executed. I wouldn’t put it past local pageant organizers if they again tapped some has-been South American designer to do most of Ariella’s clothes this year. You’ll know in a bit why.
The national costume event, which is said to have no bearing on a contestant’s chances, is a time to go a bit crazy in a tasteful and even entertaining way.
Nothing to lose
What is there to lose if you go a bit exaggerated? If you get it right, you don’t only gain kudos from fans. You might even get the judges to take note of you come preliminary judging time a day or two from now.
“Dapat sa costume pa lang, ariba na,” said one of my friends. (She should start making an impact in her costume.)
Again, from where I sat, Ariella’s ice queen look gone vintage failed to heat things up for fans and fashion watchers alike in frigid Moscow.
If you’re a woman, you’d even wonder why the hell did Ariella nearly kill herself for at the gym only to swim in fabrics that only succeeded in hiding her Coca Cola figure.
To top it all, Ariella’s electric-pleated skirt was reminiscent of what Janine Tugonon wore during last year’s finals. Who in her right mind would do a repeat of a so-so detail this early?
Show that body!
Since beauty contests are all about face and figure, she would have looked amazing in a terno with a classic fishtail silhouette. To update the look and further draw attention to her face and figure, the butterfly sleeves should be several sizes smaller.
Colors, too, should be carefully studied to match not only her skin tone, but also the public persona she wishes to project.
If her handlers, specifically former Miss International Stella Marquez-Araneta, Colombian by birth, wanted her to look demure and elegant, then the look flopped as well.
The piece did very little in evoking a genteel and bygone time. At the same time, it also fell short of people’s expectation of what a modern, amped-up terno should be.
As examples, just look at the current costumes of Misses Vietnam, Korea and Japan, three Asian countries we Filipinos are fairly familiar with. While the looks were anchored on tradition, their designers didn’t forget to update and have fun with them by incorporating unexpected details, twists and colors.
Scene from a bad dream
Lest Araneta and her cohorts forget, it was a costume show in 2013 that Ariella took part in, and not a dream sequence from some badly made period movie.
How did Binibining Pilipinas, the local contest responsible for choosing the Philippines’ representatives to a number of leading global beauty pageants, including Miss Universe, fail to keep up with the times?
After all, during Binibining’s heyday, it was instrumental for making then obscure designers such as Auggie Cordero, Rudy Fuentes, Rene Salud and Louie Mamengo, to name a few, into household names.
Smarting from a boycott by local designers in 1993 after Araneta and her posse allegedly allowed a late Ruffa Gutierrez to join the contest, La Colombiana was said to have completely turned her back on Philippine fashion the year after by supplanting the candidates’ wardrobes with cheap, hand-me-down-looking rags from Latin America. It has been like that ever since.
At the same time, Araneta also began beefing up Cumbia, formerly known as Binibining Pilipinas Boutique, her store in Cubao, with dresses, separates and swimwear from Latin America.
Even her good friend Pitoy Moreno, “Asia’s Fashion Czar” and Araneta’s perennial sidekick during those annual events, was reportedly powerless to put some sense into her head.
“She (Araneta) should realize na runners-up are definitely not THE winners (apologies to the runners-up, just emphasizing a point),” wrote a friend of mine on Facebook. “We have not produced a Miss U for 4 decades now. Shouldn’t she step down and let others take over?”
Who is Barraza?
The ailing Moreno has since faded from the scene, leaving Araneta in her dealings with Alfredo Barraza, her Colombian paisano and the designer responsible for the recent gowns and national costumes of Filipino beauty queens.
If that was Ariella’s national costume, not a few fans dread what her gown—which, unlike the costume, has a bearing on final results—would look like.
Well, guys, prepare yourselves to be further underwhelmed. You won’t have to wait long. Who knows? Ariella Arida may even surprise us yet.
(Majority of photos used in this entry came from The Huffington Post)