I’ve spent the past half hour helping a milliner source sinamay, the principal material used in the confection of hats. It is made using small quantities of silk and the fibres of the abacá, a species of banana from the Philippines. Joaquín Martínez de Zúñiga (Estadismo de las Islas Filipinas, researched 1803-5) writes that the village of Táal, being unable to feed itself, has dedicated itself to commerce and to textiles, including sinamay, which they sell in Manila at a good profit. John Bowring (A visit to the Philippine Islands, 1859) writes of Chinese urban mestizos that “Many of them adopt the European costume, but where they retain the native dress it is finer in quality, gayer in colours, and richer in ornament. Like the natives, they wear their shirts over the trousers, but the shirt is of piña or sinamay fastened with buttons of valuable stones; and a gold chain is seldom wanting, suspended round the neck. The men commonly wear European hats, shoes and stockings, and the sexes exhibit no small amount of dandyism and coquetry.” Manila hemp doesn’t sound terribly comfortable to me. Maybe they used nipple pads.

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