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Filipina Tiana and Friends: What If Disney Princesses Were Filipina?

To celebrate AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Heritage Month, myself and a group of women decided to pay homage to our Filipino Culture by dressing up as the Filipino version of our favorite Disney Princess.

What began as a sketch 2 years ago when the pandemic started has finally become a reality!

Meet Filipina Tiana, or the Filipino version of Tiana.

Tiana is easily one of my favorite Disney Princesses. She reminds me so much of myself, because in the beginning of the Princess and the Frog, you see her transition from one job to another. Which is kind of like how I am currently living my life - always working hard and non stop to achieve my dreams.

Another great trait Tiana has is that she can cook! And I absolutely love cooking. I share my love for cooking with my friends and I often post and send recipes, especially if it's Filipino food! So since my version of Tiana is Filipino - instead of my favorite, beignets - I am serving up bibingkas!

Bibingkas are a very popular street food that is sold on the streets in the Philippines, especially outside churches during Christmas season. There is nothing like a fresh-cooked bibingka. And just like with Tiana's gumbo and beignets, these are meant to share with everyone.

For those interested, bibinka are made of rice flour, coconut milk, butter and often topped with salted duck egg, cheese and butter. It is cooked lined with banana leaves and a special terracotta "pot", topped with hot coals to bake the top. If you ever want to make one, I love this recipe the best from Panlasang Pinoy.

The pic below is bibingkas I bought from Valerio Bakery near Seafood City in Chicago, IL.

The Build

My original sketch back in 2020

Of course after 2 years, I have changed a lot of aspects from my original sketch due to adding more creative and meaningful aspects and due to material availability. But I hope you like the final version.

The Butterfly Sleeves

This is what makes the costume/cosplay look or have the Filipiniana touch. This sleeve is part of the Filipiniana attire, which is our national garb in the Philippines. I was able to keep the shape of the sleeves using a really stiff stabilizer. The sleeves are also detachable.

This was the hardest part of the build, next to the corset. I followed this tutorial (below) and modified it to make my pattern more slender and taller. I added faux lotus flowers and the same details with the green trim, mesh and trim as the main skirt.

1st Skirt Layer

There was nothing too special about the first layer. Ok, maybe a bit. I did make a standard ballgown skirt and sewn a green/gold trim and this plastic mesh that reminded me a lot of "jusi" (hoo-see) - which is fabric made up of pineapple fibers, commonly used in Philippine National attire. I wanted to add some texture to the bottom of the dress.

2nd Layer

The second layer was made of sheer fabric I bought at Joanns (the name of which I forgot, unfortunately). I folded the fabric in half, then wrapped it around a large cardboard and slowly cut out leaf/petal shapes with pinking scissors. Then before carefully removing it from the cardboard, I ended up doing a basting stitch to keep them in place. I sewed a waist band to hide the raw edges and added a ribbon on both ends of the band to help tie it around my waist.

3rd Layer - The Lotus Petals

This one was one of my favorites from this build because it represents the white lotus flower petals. This was achieved using a 19 gauge wire to keep the shape of the petals (and I can bend the petals into interesting shapes to add more character), and this off-white, opaque Sheer Voile Gasa fabric I bought from Fabric Wholesale Direct.

I incorporated lotus flowers all over this layer. And if I had more time, I could have covered it with more! The best part of this layer is...

My "Fireflies"

This was achieved by sewing fairy lights into the "petals". I had to sew it in random spots around each petal so that it would achieve a more organic and random "twinkle". I hid the battery in a custom made pouch/pocket that I also accented with lotus flower and the same trim, mesh and ribbon as the main skirt.

I just knew I had to add my "fireflies" into the dress. it was just reminiscent of Ray or Raymond, the firefly and the fireflies in the swamp.

The Corset

Corsets are always hard to make. But with more practice, you end up making them faster. I was amazed I made this in 6 hours. This was made using the same material as the main skirt and corset pattern 6242 New Look by Simplicity.

Accessories: Headband, Hair Clip, "Anahaw" and "Bakya"

All these pieces have the same trim I used for the main skirt. I accented these with lotus flowers as well.

The "Anahaw" or palm fanis made just of that - a fan-shaped, palm leaf. The "Bakya" is a wooden platform sandal that women used back in the day with their Filipiniana attire. The trim on the Anahaw was hot- glued. But all the lotus flowers were sewn and then hot glued to all their bases - even for the sandals.

Meet Some of Tiana's Pinay Princesses Friends

To celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, my friends and I created a group that reimagined Disney Princesses into Filipinas.

Led by myself, @MaweezyCosplay and @GladzyKei, we have put together and invited amazingly talented Filipinas from all over the US and Canada to participate.

Shout out to Maweezy Cosplay for editing this amazing video, with song by Maris Racal - Simulan (Starting Now).

Just like my story, all these women have something to share not only about their build process, but also their story and details behind their character and builds. And they talk about how much they rave about being Filipino and what they love about our culture.

There are more "prinsesas" you can meet in our group page on multiple social media platforms.


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