Shirt (Philippines), 19th century
Medium: piña (pineapple) cloth Technique: whitework embroidery. Gift of Joseph Howland Hunt. 1919-11-1.
Why is this important?
This intricately embroidered piña cloth camisa from the Philippines is a testament to the unique textile traditions of this former Spanish colony. Piña cloth is made from the leaves of the pineapple plant (specifically the Red Spanish variety) that are grown and cultivated in the Visayan region of the Philippines. The leaves are hand-stripped to reveal gossamer-thin fibers that are painstakingly hand-knotted to create longer filaments for weaving. The weaving of piña threads is an equally lengthy process due to the almost microscopic diameter of the fibers and warping the loom can take up to twenty days. These delicate fibers cannot withstand power looms; handlooms with foot-operated treadles must be used.
Due to the laborious cultivation, extraction and production processes involved in making piña cloth, the fabric was primarily enjoyed by the upper classes. During the nineteenth century, the traditional costume for well-to-do women comprised of the camisa and the panuelo, (an embroidered scarf also made of piña cloth worn over the shoulders), over full western-style skirts enhanced by petticoats. Today, piña is largely reserved for special occasions, such as high society events and government functions.