Fashion and sacrifice | Inquirer Opinion
Young Blood

Fashion and sacrifice

/ 02:39 AM March 27, 2014

Remark from my good friend: Ail, now you look like a nerd but in the video you were so hot you looked like Eva Fonda.

She said it while she was editing a video for her production class, in which I was a talent. The topic and the concept required me to wear makeup and change clothes multiple times in one shooting day—a far cry from my usual getup of loose T-shirt over shorts and flip-flops.

I understood where the sentiment came from. I even laughed at her candor, but inside I died a little.


I’ve always known that I would never be the epitome of fashion, or of what a lady should look and dress like. I draw mud and stains too much to even bother. I’ve long been on the lowest rung of the fashion ladder. It doesn’t mean I don’t know the latest trend, or I don’t have an eye for clothes. I do. I just don’t practice it often enough to matter.


Growing up in an all-female household guaranteed that the fashion choices I could not make when I was young were made by people who at least knew what they were doing. Back then my cousins encouraged me to wear skirts and frilly dresses, but I would end up hating them for getting in the way when it was time for me to play. By the time I was old enough to choose my clothes, my fashion staples were T-shirts, shorts (or pants, if I had to go to school), and flip-flops. Try as I might, I always hated the confined feeling that sneakers gave me compared to the freedom provided by my all-terrain slippers.

High school limited my choices to occasional pants and T-shirts when I met with classmates on weekends for projects. During school plays and competitions, however, I could choose what to wear. And I often received compliments for them, so I knew that I had made the right fashion calls.

Came our senior year in high school, graduation hung over me and my classmates—and the future loomed. I started looking for prospective universities that I could enter. I didn’t know what course to take or what career to pursue, so instead on dwelling on them, I decided to focus on entering a good institution and work my way from there.

But one fateful sleepover at my best friend’s place led to a conversation on college life. She was set on entering the University of the Philippines in Diliman, and she decided that dragging me down the rabbit hole would be fun. She and her older sister (an alumna of UP Visayas) managed to convince me that there would be no harm in taking the entrance exam. The part of their argument that convinced me to make the jump, though, was the fact that UP students don’t wear uniforms. It was such a fascinating prospect to me that I thought: Why the hell not? And so I took the UPCAT (College Admission Test).

Months later I received a text message from my best friend telling me that I had passed the UPCAT. I had just passed the first test for West Visayas State University then, but after much deliberation, I decided to not take the rest of the exam and instead enter UP.

In time the graduation carpet was rolled back and our togas were returned to the closet (or, more accurately, to the rental shops). And it was time for school again. This time, however, we were the newbies again. Excited by the stories I had heard, I was expecting to see extreme fashion when the semester started: the plainest of the plain and the highest of the high. Instead, I saw the usual garb: tees and pants paired with flip-flops or shoes. I did see a lot who wore shorts and a few who dressed to impress, but reality fell short of my expectation.


Time passing guaranteed that I see fashion fab and fashion faux pas, but it also served as an anesthetic. Before long, I stopped paying attention to what others were wearing, and then, eventually, to what I was wearing. I dropped the façade of caring about what I put on and started focusing on other stuff. It wasn’t long until I was wearing pambahay clothes to school.

I didn’t mind. My friends got used to it, and so did I. Inevitably, though, when I dressed up for productions and activities in school, I would be the butt of jokes about how I was looking better than I usually did. I would laugh a little and forget about it. But some of those remarks, like the one from my good friend who was editing a video for her production class, made me rethink my choice of clothes. So occasionally I would dress up for no reason at all, just to surprise myself and remind my friends that I’m not as fashionably inept as they think.

However, I have come to the realization that the commendation I get for dressing up doesn’t always justify the hassle that I go through. My already messy wardrobe gets messier as I search for clothes that match. I hate the probing stares I get from strangers as I pass by, and I feel helpless when I see the mountain of clothes that need to be washed after just a week of dressing nicely.

If, in the first place, my goal is to feel better about myself when I dress up, but feel uncomfortable and restless when I do, then that defeats the purpose. But that doesn’t mean that I will completely give up the cause. Rather, I would stop basing my self-confidence and self-worth on how people see me.

That would be better. Better for me, and better for my load of laundry.


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Ail Salumbides, 19, is a communication and media studies junior at the University of the Philippines Visayas. She says she passes her time reading books and manga, watching movies and animé, and doing embroidery and crochet.

TAGS: education, Fashion, growing up, UPCAT

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