These ‘bakuna-ready’ fashion pieces help keep vaccine conversations going

Published April 19, 2021, 4:22 PM

by John Legaspi

Let’s admit it, sleeve-rolling or disrobing on vaccine day can be quite awkward

Last March, American country music icon Dolly Parton got her shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Apart from sharing the importance of getting vaccinated, the singer also demonstrated the power of dressing for the occasion. She wore a custom Steve Summer knit top made of sparkling navy blue material, much like the star-filled sky in early dawn. But the key element of the piece is its cold-shoulder cutout, which is quite practical for someone getting injected by a syringe on the shoulder. 

Soon enough, everyone took notice of it, even former US first lady Hillary Clinton, who posted an old photo of her wearing a Donna Karan piece with the same cutout asking, “Shall we make this a trend?” 

In this time of crisis, with all our concerns about vaccines, should we even bother to think of what we should wear on that day, or generally speaking, what fashion has to do with vaccinations? The answer is no. But it sure does keep the conversation about vaccines going, whether it is about supplies, people not partaking in any of it, and about our leaders getting a dose of the medicine. 

That is what Cebu-based designer Ia Coca wants to achieve with his latest line, the “Cold Shoulder” collection. With it tagline “Pabakuna but make it fasyon,” the collection aims to bring awareness about ongoing vaccination in the country and to give Filipinas ideas on what to wear when it’s their time to get their shot, avoiding the yanking of the blouses collar and the pulling up of the sleeves.

“The idea came to me after the viral photo of Dr. Flordeliza Grana wearing a ‘bakuna blouse’ in which she was mistaken as vice president Leni Robredo,” the designer tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “People were quick to judge that the vaccination was staged because her blouse sleeve was not rolled up. What the photo didn’t show was that the blouse has arm slits. I think wearing the ‘bakuna blouse’ was really smart and fun. That moment reminded me of the power of fashion.”

Dr. Flordeliza Grana taking her vaccine shot (Photo from ARMMC Facebook page)

According to him, the primary thing he wants to achieve is to craft pieces that can be most efficient in administering the vaccine for both the recipient and the healthcare professional, sans the awkward sleeve-rolling or disrobing. The collection does just that by incorporating design elements such as cold-shoulder cutouts, off-the-shoulder neckline, one-shoulder silhouettes, and arm slits. Thanks to its cotton-based fabrication, the pieces are also perfect for summertime dressing as they are lightweight and breathable.  

“With the textile design, I took visual cues from what has now become the biggest fashion accessory this vaccination season: band-aids,” Ia says. “I really liked wearing these checkered band-aids back in the day and thought that using a similar print with bold and bright colors could add a fun factor to the collection.”

Photo from Ia Coca

A lot of research was done before the creation of the collection. In the span of its six-week process, the designer consoles former medical colleagues for their input about it, making sure that the designs and even the idea of it are sensible.

“I was in a medical profession before I ventured into design. I initially pitched this idea to my previous colleagues who have already been vaccinated to get their medical opinion and personal opinion about this collection,” he says. “I felt it is only right for me to get fully informed before I campaign for this movement.”

“I understand that getting a vaccine can be an intimidating or a scary moment for most but it doesn’t have to be,” Ia continues. “If people wear something they feel good in, it lifts their spirits and alleviates anxieties. Getting that vaccine shot is a momentous occasion and I want people to use fashion to celebrate that.”

Of course, making the collection is more than just a fad for the designer. Ultimately, through his work, he wants to spotlight “vaccine hesitancy as a real issue that could hinder our ability to get COVID-19 under control.”

“I want to help keep the conversation going about vaccines so people will take the time to seek information from the medical experts and be able to trust the science,” Ia muses. “This is also a call to action to our government to step up and speed up the vaccine rollout.”

This collection is available on