BOY, am I glad my days of doing fashion reviews on the red carpet during all those long, mind-numbing awards nights are over.
At the rate bashers come up with scathing comments and wicked memes on social media these days, any written sound bites, no matter how seemingly fresh and creative, would have gone stale and irrelevant by the time the critique hits newsstands several days later.
Who says only photographers and writers are becoming a dime a dozen? Thanks to social media, anyone armed with a smartphone can now also pass himself off as a fashion critic.
And since users of the platform are largely unaccountable, the viciousness of their criticisms grows exponentially as one citizen critic tries to outdo the other.
What’s it all about, Nancy?
But after all has been said and posted about Sen. Nancy Binay’s two Filipiniana outfits, especially the two-piece embroidered blouse and bolsa de hielo-inspired skirt ensemble she wore to the Senate’s opening last Monday, why did such supposedly expensive and well-thought-out looks cause quite a stir and generate not a few good laughs at the politician’s expense?
By themselves, meaning Nancy and her Senate-opening outfit, the two are perfectly okay. The senator would have probably been one of the most unlikely girls to win a modeling contract during her younger days, but she isn’t a hopeless case. With the right hair and makeup, she can be, well, prettified.
In the same way that Randy Ortiz’s creation, although far from original, wasn’t that bad or totally alien either. Having covered the fashion scene for more than a decade now, I’ve seen various versions of the look before.
But taken together, the combination of wearer and outfit proved disastrous. In fact, you don’t have to be a fashion expert to see that the look didn’t flatter the short and slightly stocky mother of four. Why?
For one, by making the senator wear contrasting tones—off-white top and huge chevron paneled skirt in colors that mirror the Brazilian flag, Ortiz unwittingly cut her famous client into two.
There’s nothing wrong in wearing contrasting colors if you’re as tall and as slim as, say, Tingting Conjuangco, but if you’re on the short and pudgy side like Nancy, it’s best that you limit yourself to single or at least monochromatic tones to achieve the illusion of height and slimness.
Pepito Albert (see above photo sourced by my friend Jude) did a similar contrasting ensemble for a younger, thinner Irene Marcos-Araneta years ago, and she managed to look smashing in it.
She’s no Tingting
What do women like Irene and Tingting have in common?
Both of them are acknowledged fashion plates, who, apart from being adventurous, are fully aware of the risks they’re taking. You have to know what works and what you’re getting yourself into. Swagger, after all, can only take you so far.
I doubt very much if Nancy had a clue. In a GMA News report, the senator took the flak by saying that she failed to tie a hidden drawstring at the back of the skirt to make it look shorter and perhaps less voluminous.
Again, I doubt very much if such a move would have made a big difference. Those chevron panels, perhaps Ortiz’s attempt to deconstruct the Maria Clara’s traditional horizontal panels, would have swamped anyone but the statuesque woman.
And since the skirt’s waist is way up there, it also managed to draw attention to the senator’s chest. Enough said.
Number two: Unless the wearer has a long, swan-like neck, why would you fashion a huge, ’70s-inspired collar to go with her top? Flanked by fellow senators such as Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, Pia Cayetano and Cynthia Villar, Nancy, with her hair worn up, ended up looking masculine.
Notice, too, that while Albert contrasted Irene’s blouse, especially the long, flowing sleeves, with her billowy patadyong, Ortiz, for some reason, opted to echo them. As if the balloon-like skirt wasn’t enough, he also paired it with a top with balloon-like sleeves.
As for the draped terno with skin tone and embroidered linear accents on the bodice and sleeves that Nancy slipped into hours later, the outfit would have looked better on a younger, more daring woman.
Again, why experiment on Nancy when she’s obviously not a fashionista?
And even if she were, she’s now a politician with a certain image to cultivate and expectations to fulfill. In other words, she needs to be taken seriously, from her interviews down to her outfits.
She would have looked better and more dignified in a simple, classic and nondescript piece. Leave the Dysebel-slash-Bugs Bunny peg (sorry, Randy, I’m just echoing what Nancy’s bashers said) to the starlets.
Then there were also cultural and political factors that came into play, which were beyond either Nancy or Randy’s control.
Filipinos, in case you don’t know yet, are a racist lot. We generally tend to make fun of people who are darker than us. Even fellow Filipinos aren’t spared.
My friend Cheche said that this shouldn’t be the case, but I have reason to suspect that part of the brickbats that came Nancy’s way was her decision to wear a huge skirt in such unconventional colors as olive, canary yellow, teal and forest green.
Many people still believe that these shades, together with tangerine, aubergine, ochre, fuchsia and apple green, are to be avoided like the plague by the dusky. Like Cheche, I totally disagree.
Finally, the senator herself admitted that bashers would always hound her no matter what she does or wears. She’s not at all affected, she declared. Well, she has her work cut out for her.
After landing fifth in a field of 12 senators last year, Nancy still has a lot of convincing to do. She would have to work doubly hard to prove to people that a totally inexperienced politician like her didn’t win a national position solely on the strength of her family name.
It’s no secret that a good number of people, especially her father’s detractors, are only too happy to see her fumble–from the way she interpellates other people on the Senate floor, down to her fashion choices on the red carpet. Why should she give them more ammunition?