When crafted with attention to fit and form, the barong Tagalog can instantly elevate the look of the wearer. It’s de rigueur at weddings and most formal occasions, and is traditionally paired with dark pants and black formal shoes.
One designer whose name is synonymous with the barong is Barge Ramos. For decades, the Manila-based designer has been the go-to maker for barong and other formal wear. Because he has mastered how to make this quintessential men’s wardrobe piece, he has experimented by pairing traditional weaves like piña and jusi with inabel fabric or large graphic prints.
Filipino men generally tend to prefer conservative looks and styles for the barong Tagalog, unless one is an artist or a balikbayan who wants to stand out in a gathering.
“Dressing up and looking good in a suit or barong Tagalog is all a matter of proportion, good fabric and cut,” Ramos told Lifestyle in an email interview. “If one is short and paunchy, never have a coat or barong cut too close to the body. Ease the proportion a bit for a more relaxed fit. If you’re tall and lanky, like a male model, you are blessed and can get away with more trendy, contemporary looks.”
Having unusual body measurements like wide shoulders but a short torso will require a few “sartorial tricks,” like taking in the shoulders and adding a few inches to the length of the coat or barong.
“It definitely takes a trained eye for a tailor or designer to see the right proportion for a client,” he said. “Sleeve length and jacket length are also tricky matters. There are some clients—and they will tell you—that their right arm is longer than their left or vice versa. Getting the correct
measurements is basic. Usually it’s about 5” difference from the cuff to the jacket length.”
While some people might see the barong as a piece of Filipiniana one can wear once or twice to formal events, Ramos said one should think of it as an investment. Try to imagine yourself wearing it for the next five or so years.
“Tailoring a barong Tagalog is not as easy as it looks. The cut, the way the collar frames the face, the ease of the sleeves, the choice of elegant buttons, the flat bar of the button opening—no puckering please—plus the correct length of the barong are all top considerations.”
Different body types
In the decades that he has been designing, Ramos has met with hundreds of clients and dealt with their different body types and their many idiosyncrasies.
“What to do if the client has a ridiculously short neck, almost no neck? You cut the collar a little lower than you should, to give the illusion of a longer neck.”
He once met with a client who wanted a barong that could be worn with the ease of a T-shirt. “I just looked at him and smiled. In my mind I was thinking, ‘Can the terno sleeves also be worn with the ease of a T-shirt?’”
When it comes to the question of wearing an undershirt with the barong, the designer puts his foot down. “Wearing a regular round-neck t-shirt under a barong Tagalog is de rigueur. For transparent barong, it is proper to wear a long-sleeved camisa de chino.”
In 2019, the designer presented “Perfume and Incense,” a barong Tagalog collection in New York, where he came out with contemporary pieces that the modern-day Filipino or non-Filipino male could relate to.
Standout pieces included a batik handpainted jusi barong with the “Nada Te Turbe” (Let Nothing Disturb You) prayer of St. Teresa of Avila in the saint’s distinct handwriting; bright splashes of red, black and gray on ecru jusi; and the colorful patterns of the jeepney.
“My book ‘Pinoy Dressing: Weaving Culture into Fashion’ defines my design aesthetics. I also believe that what is Filipino is also universal.”