Wear it to win it: Senate bets and fashion sense

Pia Ranada

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These 9 senatorial candidates seem to be making more than a fashion statement with their campaign outfits

MANILA, Philippines – Fashion and politics have been intertwined since Egyptian pharaohs reserved cobra headdresses for themselves.

Even in recent times, politicians have been closely observed for their sartorial choices, with fashion experts comparing the styles of First Lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney during the 2012 US presidential elections and numerous “best and worst-dressed politicians” lists in circulation.

Many politicians have used fashion — from Fidel Castro’s tracksuits to Kim Jong Il’s khakis to Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits — to distinguish themselves from the crowd, prove a point, or project an image.

In the Philippines, 9 senatorial candidates seem to be taking the fashion cue by adopting a distinct style that sets them apart from other candidates. It can be anything from a unique combination of clothes to an accessory. What can these candidates be telling voters using their fashion choices?

Rappler asked former ramp model and now celebrity and commercial stylist Rey Santos and fashion stylist and costume designer Guada Reyes for their thoughts on election élan.


1. Cynthia Villar (Nacionalista Party)

ROSY TINTS. Cynthia Villar often wears red, orange or pink dresses when on the campaign trail. Photos from the Cynthia Villar Facebook page

She often wears bright solid-colored shift dresses usually in orange (the color of Nacionalista Party), red, or pink.

According to Rey, the color orange communicates power and energy. It’s also a healing color that creates enthusiasm and creativity.

“Red increases enthusiasm and interest,” said Rey. This vital color is also supposed to communicate confidence and courage.

Her fondness for dresses reveals a desire to appear feminine, perhaps even motherly. It projects her as someone you can depend on and confide in.

Does Cynthia inspire your vote? See her candidate profile on Rappler.


2. Bam Aquino (Team PNoy, Liberal Party)

THE GLASSES. Bam Aquino uses one accessory to maximum effect. All photos used from the Bam Aquino Facebook page

Like most of his fellow Team PNoy party mates, Bam always wears a yellow polo shirt. Ray said the color “symbolizes purity, wisdom, joy, and happiness.”

Bam’s signature black-rimmed glasses also brings to mind the legacy of his uncle, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr, who wore similar-looking glasses.

Guada Reyes said: “Obviously, Bam Aquino looks and wants to be identified with Ninoy Aquino. So mission accomplished.”

But she added that in general, male candidates should “keep it simple, keep it identifiable.” A fulfillment of these requirements may work to the young Aquino’s advantage.

To know more about Bam, see his candidate profile here.


3. Risa Hontiveros (Team PNoy, Akbayan)

THE SASH. Risa Hontiveros won't be seen on the campaign trail without her sash. All photos from the Risa Hontiveros Facebook page

Risa’s distinct fashion statement is the sash over her right shoulder. On the campaign trail, she often pairs a purple scarf with a yellow top.

According to Rey, “a sash could symbolize rank” perhaps in the same way that sashes upon dignitaries or members of a royal family symbolize this. However, a sash in the Philippine context can also pertain to the baro’t saya, the traditional dress of Filipinas during the Spanish colonial times that often included a short sash on one shoulder.

Guada pointed out that Risa’s look is “very functional and utilitarian.”

“Her signature sash can be worn multiple ways, such as an adornment on one shoulder or as a scarf or shawl for those chilly indoor session hall days. Breaking it down, this can represent a creative thinker who is willing to do the dirty work herself if need be.”

Does Risa’s outfit say anything about her platform? You be the judge by checking out her candidate profile.


4. Jamby Madrigal (Team PNoy, Liberal Party)

BLAZERS AND COLLARS. Jamby Madrigal likes power-dressing. Photos from the Jamby Madrigal Facebook page

You will usually see Jamby wearing collared, structured tops, blazers, and other long-sleeved blouses. Rey said that she could be using these outfits to give off a well-organized persona, someone who gets things done and is very structured and efficient about it. Newsminer.com also says that many women wear a blazer to feel in control.

Perhaps this goes well with her “palaban” personality and confrontational approach to politics?

See her candidate profile here.


5. Tingting Cojuangco (United Nationalist Alliance, PDP-Laban)

BLACK OFF-SHOULDER. Tingting Cojuangco keep it simple yet elegant

See original of left image here, right image here. Middle image from the Tingting Cojuangco Facebook page

Married to one of the wealthiest families in the country and a relative of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Tingting wears a lot of black off-shoulder tops while campaigning. Rey said she could be trying to communicate elegance and sophistication.

Guada selected her as a well-dressed senatorial candidate, using simple yet regal black with statement jewelry, like a brooch or a colorful necklace.

Cojuangco is rarely seen in public without full make-up. This points to a desire to look polished and prepared always.

Read more about her here.


6. Ed Hagedorn (Independent, Nationalist People’s Coalition)

OUTDOOR MAN. Ed Hagedorn's cap, aviator shades and utility vest scream 'active lifestyle.' Photos from the Ed Hagedorn Facebook page

A long-time mayor of Puerto Prinsesa City in Palawan, Hagedorn is easily distinguishable with his aviator shades, baseball cap, and vest. 

His accessories may be communicating a love for nature (after all, Puerto Prinsesa is famous for its natural wonders and environmental management programs) and a sense of capability and practicality. His combination of “rugged” accessories could be his way of saying that he is a man of action, always prepared for whatever circumstance, and not afraid to do the dirty work.

Guada partly agreed. “I like his active pieces and how they identify with an active, outdoor lifestyle, reminding us of his work and efforts in Palawan. And then, the gold watch scared me.”

What do you think about Hagedorn? Know more about him here.


7. Loren Legarda (Team PNoy, Nationalist People’s Coalition)

PRIM AND PROPER. Loren Legarda pairs ethnic accessories with lady-like blouses. Photos from www.lorenlegarda.com.ph

See original images here.

This former broadcaster always looks prim and proper with blazers and collared blouses. She likes to add elements of traditional Filipiniana or tribal costume to her outfit. You’ll find her wearing beaded jewelry from indigenous tribes or a shawl reminiscent of the baro’t saya.

Rey said Legarda may be trying to channel the ideal Filipina and love of country. Guada selected Legarda as one of the best-dressed senatorial candidates with a classy, elegant look. With never a strand of hair out of place, tastefully chosen jewelry, and Patrician features, Legarda looks distinguished and affluent.

What do you think of Legarda? Visit her profile here.


8. Sonny Angara (Team PNoy, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino)

CAMISA DE CHINO. Sonny Angara dons the shirt worn by the working class when on the campaign trail. Photos from the Sonny Angara Facebook page

You can expect Sonny Angara to wear a camisa de chino whenever he shows up for sorties or campaign-related press conferences. This long-sleeved top with two to 3 buttons down the neckline is often worn by Filipino farmers.

Could the congressman from Aurora be saying he is a champion of the farmer or the working class? Perhaps the 120 farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous peoples who marched from Casiguran, Aurora, to Manila to stop APECO (Aurora Pacific Ecozone and Freeport Authority) will disagree. APECO is a project by Sonny Angara and his father Senator Edgardo Angara.

That said, a camisa de chino is also practical as a light shirt to wear on the hot summer days leading to elections.

Find out more about Sonny Angara here.


9. Grace Poe (Team PNoy, Independent)

PUMP IT UP. Grace Poe puts together collared white tops, jeans and black pumps. Photos from the Grace Poe Facebook page

Grace Poe-Llamanzares, daughter of actor and one-time presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr, often wears crisp white polos, jeans, and black pumps while on the campaign trail.

Rey said Grace could be trying to embody femininity and the polished quality of someone who values both comfort and style. The collared white tops send a message of capability and a professional attitude, while jeans breathe in some casual lightness and a nod to the popular appeal of denim among the masses.

According to Newsminer.com, many women wear high heels to express self-confidence. Poe’s no-nonsense, black pumps serve this purpose while adding a touch of femininity.

What do you think her style tells voters? Poe’s candidate profile is here.

All senatorial candidates have a profile on Rappler. They contain basic information about each candidate, a timeline of their political career, their survey standings and links to Rappler articles about them. Click each one to help you decide who you’re voting for this May. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.