Sunday Cinderellas: Dress and the Self-Transformation of Filipina Domestic Workers in Singapore, 1990s–2017

  • Mina Roces (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


Singaporean female employers subject their Filipina domestic workers to strict rules governing their dress and behaviour, in the name of de-sexualising them and maintaining their status as invisible servants at the employers’ beck and call. This paper suggests that the fashionable attire that Filipina domestic workers don for their day off is also a symbol of rebellion and a rejection of their employers’ desires to render them plain and unattractive. In this sense, fashion is more than just a coping strategy: it is a way of expressing a sexual self, a beautiful and feminine self that is not allowed to be exhibited during workdays. Although these fashion makeovers only last less than 24 hours, in their leisure time Filipina domestic workers transgress the weekday restrictions of their employers while marking their own personal self-transformation as ultra-modern, independent women with consumer power and cosmopolitan tastes.


Singapore, Philippines, migration, domestic workers, cultural capital, beauty contests, dress, self-transformation