By JOHN LEGASPI
In the past years, there has been a resurgence among Filipino icons—including the terno. The stiff, bedazzled pieces complete with butterfly sleeves came to be seen as cultural appropriation, while the rise of loving everything local came back to the retail floors. From being the usual dress code for formal and political events and events fit for history junkies, the terno evolved into something casual and wearable, making it appealing to a broader market.
Today’s Filipino fashion scene is now grooming new visionaries to follow the footsteps of Salvacion Lim, Ramon Valera, and Patis Tesoro, incorporating local textiles and mastering the age-old techniques of producing the classic symbol of a dignified Filipina.
The Filipiniana, the terno, and the ‘butterfly’ effect
First, let’s get one thing straight. Filipiniana and terno are two different things. Filipiniana is a term that encompasses all manner of indigenous wear in the Philippines, including the terno. Based on the book Fashionable Filipinas by Gino Gonazales and Mark Lewis Higgins, the term terno, as used in the late 1900s, refers to the use of sinamay and jusi for the camisa, panuelo, and saya. In the Philippines of the 1920s, fan-shaped pleating was used on the dress sleeve, causing it to rise upward, creating the “butterfly” sleeve look. This became a reflection of Filipinas’ confident air in a period of women’s emancipation.
The book also states that a butterfly sleeve should have: (1) eight to 12 pleats to ensure a perfectly rounded shape, (2) an added easing under the arm to facilitate movement, and to allow the sleeve girth to accurately fit the armhole of the bodice, and (3) three inches for height.
The 21st century terno
Adding a contemporary chapter to the long history of Philippine fashion, Ternocon 2020 will be showcasing the reimagined terno staying true to its traditional aesthetic. Ternocon 2020 is a terno-making convention and contest for regional designers initiated by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) through its Cultural Exchange Department and its partner, Bench (Suyen Corporation). It will take place this Jan. 26 at the CCP Main Theater.
The 14 finalists will present their three-piece collections at the CCP after months of workshops and studies on the art of terno-making.
“What’s interesting about this year’s batch is that we have fewer finalists. They are required to do three pieces but they are all skilled and innovative,” says Inno Sotto, noted fashion designer and chief mentor of Ternocon. “What we look for in these designers is the appreciation of and curiosity about many things outside fashion. You can’t just be in fashion. We want someone who has an interest in theater, art, and film, anything that exposes their eyes to changes, helps these see interpretations of things then and now.”
The CCP and Bench are also partnering with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to support the ongoing relief efforts for the victims of the Taal volcano eruption. Donations in cash, check (payable to Philippine Red Cross), or thru credit card, G-cash, & PayMaya will be received by the PRC team at the CCP main theater lobby before and after the program.
“The essence of our ‘love local’ advocacy is focused on the community,” says Ben Chan, chairman and CEO of Suyen Corporation. “Community reinforces identity. When we say ‘love local’, it means to love ourselves, to love our identity, to love who we are—that’s culture.”