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Dress codes

When my daughter went to the Department of Foreign Affairs last week to apply for a passport for her little girl, she was almost barred from entering. Alas, she was in shorts – nice to know that DFA is more strict about “proper attire” than your regular Sunday parish priest. But for the kindness of a lady who lent her a shawl to double up as a sarong of sorts, my daughter would’ve had to miss her appointment and the five-year-old to cut classes a second time. As for me, a mere chaperone, I was asked to remove my shades to give the guard a chance to appreciate my a.m. face.

Just as strict, the rule in Malacañang is no jeans except on Fridays.

Dress codes were invented to give flesh and substance to the theory that “clothes make the man,” as well as to add a semblance of dignity to the time, place, and occasion requiring a person’s presence. No dress code is more strict than a personal audience with the Pope, where nothing less than formal wear will do. Ladies are to be dressed modestly in black with long sleeves and closed collar, with a veil covering the hair and stockings covering the legs to go with black pumps (not open-toed sandals). Short skirts, short pants and trousers are simply not allowed.

What a dressed-up intro to recall how our President’s “debut on the international stage” at the ASEAN summit in Laos was marked by a wardrobe that, consciously or not, played up his image as an iconoclast. When everybody else linked arms to show unity and solidarity in Vientiane on Tuesday, RRD was the only one not in a formal dark suit. Did he break protocol? (You can almost hear him, “I’m not fashion-conscious, leave me and my barong alone!”) The next day, see how different he looked in coat-and-tie, under the coat a baby-blue shirt with white collar and cuffs – how presidential! But when he visited a market in Jakarta on Friday, did your eyes not pop out of their sockets? He was in a classic barong, and underneath that see-through pineapple silk was a pair of suspenders!!

This is the same Digong who during the campaign posed for a magazine cover wearing a nicely embroidered barong over blue jeans and black boots. That was cool, Mr. President! But barong with suspenders? Whoa, were you set to start a trend? (Jullie Y. Daza)