Episode 42. History of the Terno

Listen to the episode

This week, we're talking about the history of the terno, the national dress of the Philippines. The terno is personal to Nicole and her Philippine heritage, and we're taking the time to do a deep dive on the history and evolution of the garment together.  For show notes and a transcript of this episode, please see: https://asiansewistcollective.com/episode-42-history-of-the-terno  If you find our podcast informative and enjoy listening, you can support us by buying our limited edition merch, joining our monthly membership or making a one-time donation via Ko-Fi: https://ko-fi.com/asiansewistcollective 


Patterns & Designers mentioned

Iris blouse by Fibr and Cloth

Black Beauty Bra by Emerald Erin

Fabric Stores mentioned

Nekoneko Fabric, Singapore-based, carries a large variety of Japanese and other fabrics



Behind the Seams: The history and making of the Terno

Why the ‘terno’ and the SONA are a perfect match

Reimagining the Philippine Terno for Modern Times

Evolution of Philippine Costume

Fashionable Filipinas

Drafting and Sewing the Filipiniana Sleeves / Terno – Shilyn Sews

The Philippine Dress: 500 Years of Straddling Polarities

Show transcript

Nicole: I don’t know any Ilocano, I just didn’t pick it up at all. So…

Ada: Can you understand it?

Nicole: No, none, not a lick. Only the swear words that I hear when someone. Nope, delicious dessert in Tagalog.

Ada: Welcome to the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. The Asian Sewist Collective is a group of Asian people from around the world brought together by our shared appreciation for fiber and textile arts, and our desire to see more Asian representation in the sewing community.

Nicole: In this podcast, we explore the intersection of our identities and our shared sewing practice as we create a space for Asian sewists and our allies.

Ada: I’m your co-host, Ada Chen, and I’m recording from Denver, Colorado. Denver is the traditional territory of the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples. I’m a Taiwanese-American marketer turned entrepreneur and these days you’ll find me running my own natural skincare business called Chuan’s Promise – that’s C-H-U-A-N-apostrophe-S promise – and sharing my marketing tips on my blog. Most importantly, for this podcast, you can find my sewing at @i.hope.sew on Instagram.

Nicole: And I’m your co-host, Nicole. I’m based outside of Chicago, the original homelands of the Council of the Three Fires: the Ojibwe, the Potawatomi, and the Odawa people. I’m a Philippine-American woman, a lawyer by day and a sewing enthusiast the rest of the time. You can find me on Instagram at @nicoleangelinesews.

Ada: Before we dive into this week’s episode, Nicole, can you tell us about your current sewing project?

Nicole: I can. I am wrapping up some gifts for family. Sorry, wrapping, see what I did there. So right now we’re recording in January of 2023. And in my family, we have three January birthdays. So there’s my mom. Her birthday is on the 15th. And I think I mentioned this, I don’t know if this episode is going to come up before or after this one. But I made a Fibr and Cloth Zero Waste Iris blouse, the first time I attempted it. And then when I put it on, I did the wrong size.

Ada: Oh I remember this one, yeah.

Nicole: So I’m going to finish that one up, give it as a gift to my mom. And I’m going to make some sort of satin poly silk drawstring bag to put it in instead of you know, wrapping paper or something like that. And I did tell you yesterday about the belt bag bumbag fanny pack, depending on where you’re from, for my brother in law, and I made a dustbag for that.

Ada: So fancy!

Nicole: It’s out of Superman fabric. So it’s both fancy, and superhero. So, you know, I’m in the spirit of making bad gifts. I’m enjoying that part right now. And yes, it’s January, I didn’t make anybody anything for Christmas.

Ada: Get started Christmas 2023

Nicole: I got other things I want to do. And my brother he and the nice thing about January birthdays is that when you talk to them about what they want for Christmas even kinda like carry it over to January. My brother said he wanted anything you know, Patagonia, he’s a very outdoorsy person. And in the spirit of what I believe Patagonia to be like, I bought a secondhand fleece. Like a really nice secondhand fleece for a great price. And then I’m going to make a tote bag out of like I’ve cut out the pieces out of some Bichon Frise fabric.

Ada: Oh the one from was it Neko Neko in Singapore?

Nicole: So, yeah, no, I have bought I bought it. I have some from Neko Neko. That is also based on fabric because of our Bichon I gotta get it. But this particular one I had bought when I was in Hawaii in 2021 from a fabric store on Oahu, so we’re gonna make a tote bag for them. So he has he adopted a dog himself. That is a mix of like, Toy Poodle, Bichon and I think Pekinese.

Ada: Oh, cute

Nicole: She looks like Mochi but probably twice, twice the length of legs. She’s very tall, tall.

Ada: She’s a tall Mochi.

Nicole: She’s very tall. I’ll have to share a picture with you in the future but

Ada: Super model leggy Mochi?

Nicole: Yes, exactly. And so I thought I’d make a tote bag because I was wondering I was like what am I going to do with these Bichon fabrics? I love them but I gotta do something with them. And so I’m making a tote bag that will be a good like, you know keeping the car for groceries type of thing. I love it. Gifts, gifts, gifts. What are you working on?

Ada: I made my first bra. Oh right. Only many months after we did our previous episode about bra making I’ve actually been sitting on some bra making supplies actually many bra making supplies because they think I bought them Black Friday 2020 from an Emerald Erin I bought patterns for I think it’s the Jordy bralette and the Black Beauty Bra as well as sets of the kids for both but I think I bought more of the Black Beauty Bra which is an underwire bra. sense. And the thing is, I distinctly remember sending her an email and being like, my boobs are a little weird, like and wide set and kind of like the wire, regular wire shapes don’t work for me. Yeah. And she has multiple wire shapes. And so she was like, Okay, well, if you print out the thing, and it says this, these are the ones you should try, that would probably work. And so I remember getting those. And I think I only had a few, but I could only find one. So I inserted that it worked fine. On the first bra. It’s definitely a wearable fall. But there’s kind of no way to like, stop midway and like do it again, or or pick it apart, because it’s just so delicate, and Lacey and spandexy. And so I have all the adjustments, I only need to make three big adjustments, which is to the center front. And these are not the I think it’s not the power bar, but the side thing that goes to the backstrap in terms of like taking them in each centimeter. And then yeah, I changed the cup shape a little to actually be the right cup shape. Because again, patterns are drafted for an ideal that most of us do not actually fit. Right. And it was like well drafted, though, I will say and like every other aspect. So that was an interesting day long project that I’m very excited to make the translations onto the paper pattern and then try again.

Nicole: A day long, so it took you not that long?

Ada: Yeah I mean, I cut it out. On my little I have like a 12 by 12 rotary cutter mat, like the rotating kind for quilting that I bought before when I started sewing and I didn’t know anything. And I was like, I just need this small cutting surface what a lie. Right. And so I brought that upstairs, and we were watching TV. And I was just cutting and following the directions. And then the next day, I probably took three or four hours to finish it. Wow. And I wasn’t going super super fast. I was definitely being a little more careful, because it was so small and finicky. But I could see how if you got this down, you got the pattern to fit, you could probably whip up like a whole new set of bras within a day.

Nicole: That’s really interesting. I think when we recorded last season, with Lily of Lilypadesigns, I remember really taking a look at like my body and like I would really love to just get something that feels on fits good. And I still have been I mean, I’m intimidated by a lot of things. And also I’m like, there’s other things I want to work on too. But it’s good to know that it’s I guess I assumed I would take like days and days and I would mess it up. But it sounds like you found a good place to start.

Ada: Yeah, definitely. I would say that the pattern instructions are pretty clear. well illustrated, and I managed together. I’d know that there are video tutorials, but I did not watch them. And I still made it through it’s a wearable bra. You know the gaping and the center front means that I can’t really wear it with something too tight because the movies are not the big. You’ll see the booking which is fine, but I’m not the look I’m going for most days but yeah, under a sweater totally fine. And it I would say that for a toile it actually fits about the same as a lot of my ready to wear bras do. And so if that’s the standard I’m holding it to. I’m kind of like oh, like this could be a lot easier to make something that fits truly, really well. Then, like another garment.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s awesome.

Ada: Hey, podcast listeners, looking for a way to support the Asian Sewist Collective? Well, we have a great way for you to do that now and we are excited to announce our first set of merch. We’ve launched a limited edition set of woven labels on our Ko-fi page – so, K-O-dash-F-I-dot com-slash-asian sewist collective – and you can get a pack of five woven labels custom designed by our very own producer Mariko with some cute things from seasons one through three, like, “This was a panic sew”, “Forgot to prewash”, or, “Made with fabric purchased while traveling”. And they all have really cute designs on them that you should definitely go check out on our Instagram and on our Ko-fi page. And to get your very own set of five labels, you will be supporting the podcast and helping us bring you new content and new guests week after week. So head to K-O-dash-F-I-dot com-slash-asian sewist collective.

NICOLE: Today’s episode will be about the history of the terno, the national dress of the Philippines. The terno is personal to me and my Philippine heritage. I have written an article for Seamwork about how I learned to connect with my Filipino culture through learning how to sew the terno, linked in our show notes.

ADA: If you’re not familiar with the terno, modern day ternos are versatile, ranging from two-piece outfits to gowns, and are recognized by flat, oversized butterfly sleeves. These sleeves are the key component in these outfits.

NICOLE: Now these butterfly sleeves aren’t the regular butterfly sleeves you might see in patterns or fashion books, which are the flowy, drapey sleeves flaring out from the shoulder. And visually, some people mistake the terno butterfly sleeves as just large puff sleeves. But puff sleeves are gathered at the shoulder to create fullness to puff out, having no defining structure to it.
Modern terno sleeves are large, pleated sleeves that are pressed to have a defined, structured arch shape. (And again, we’ll have pictures in our show notes for our listeners) But the terno didn’t always look like that.

ADA: During pre-Spanish colonization from 900 to 1565, there was no one specific individual Filipino dress. Indigenous groups across the archipelago had their own distinct mode of dress, depicted in the Boxer Codex paintings around the 1590s. The Boxer Codex is a Spanish language compilation of illustrations and paintings from the Philippines.

NICOLE: Filipino clothing in some parts of the archipelago consisted of two pieces: the baro, meaning blouse – which was a simple, collarless shirt or jacket with close-fitting long sleeves which covered the breasts – and a lower garment that came in a few different forms: the Tagalog tapis – a short, rectangular cloth wrapped around the waist and secured with belts or braided material; and the Visayan patadlog or Mindanao malong , a tube-like garment that can be girdled around the waist or knotted over the shoulder. These were made from locally woven material, such as abaca, to material traded from China, Japan, Borneo, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Abaca fabric is an organic fabric made from the abaca plant fiber; the abaca plant is a species of the banana plant and native to the Philippines. It is a sturdy fiber that holds its structure consistently.

ADA: When the Spanish arrived in 1565, they deemed it to be immodest, introducing the long skirt, or saya, that was to be worn under the tapis. That’s where the baro’t saya comes from – shortened from “baro at saya,” literally meaning blouse and skirt.

NICOLE: The baro’t saya is considered to be the predecessor of the modern day terno. It traditionally consists of four pieces. Now, before we continue, I want to note that there’s a few interchangeable terms. This is because Tagalog adopted Spanish loanwords during Spanish colonization.
For example, the first piece of the baro’t saya of course includes the baro, which is the Tagalog term, or the camisa, which is the Spanish loanword.
The next piece, which is a piece of fabric worn over the shoulders like a neck scarf is called alampay in Tagalog or pañuelo if we’re using the Spanish loanword.
There’s the saya, again, that’s a skirt, and, depending on the region, it ranges from a full length skirt to a slightly shorter midi-length skirt.
And finally, the tapis or a rectangular piece of cloth wrapped over the saya.
To make it easier, we’ll only be using the Tagalog term for the remainder of the episode.

ADA: The baro and alampay were made from light, thin, delicate fabrics known as nipis . These were things like piña, sinamay, and jusi, due to the hot tropical climate. These were locally woven materials. Piña cloth is a textile made from pineapple fibers, but is so laborious to weave that only the most privileged class were able to afford piña cloth. We talk more about piña cloth in a later episode this season. Sinamay and jusi are woven from abaca, a specific banana native to the Philippines. Silk or cotton were also woven into the fibers to create contrasting stripes. Because of the light, sheer nature of the fabrics, an enaguas or slip was used under the baro, for more modesty. The tapis and saya were made from brightly colored opaque fabric in cotton, sinamay, or imported silks usually from China. They were generally woven in plaid or stripes.

NICOLE: Now with Spanish colonization and Catholicism, the Philippine dress was influenced by European and Western aesthetics. By the 1700s, we see artist depictions of the traje de mestiza, translating to the “dress of a mixed-race female”. This was later referred to as the Maria Clara dress, named after the mestiza protagonist of the controversial novel Noli Me Tangere, written by the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal in 1887.

ADA: You can still see these garments worn in Filipino cultural dances such as the cariñosa or the tinikling. In the cariñosa, a couple typically dances a courtship ritual, with the male in a barong – the male’s blouse – and a female wearing a formal Maria Clara dress, or, more recently, a balintawak, which usually refers to a country version of the baro’t saya. That is to say, it’s a less formal, more casual baro’t saya. The tinikling is a barefoot dance done in time with rhythmic tapping of two or more bamboo poles. Due to the nature of the dance, the dancers similarly wear a barong tagalog and a balintawak.

NICOLE: One of our pod’s producers, Shilyn, who is also producing this episode, has an example of the baro’t saya on her Instagram feed, @shilynsews S-H-I-L-Y-N-S-E-W-S. She also owns Creatures of Kwento, @creaturesofkwento C-R-E-A-T-U-R-E-S-O-F-K-W-E-N-T-O, which sells a plushie of the Filipino mythological creature Manananggal wearing a balintawak.

ADA: The baro’t saya saw many changes during the late 1800s into the 1900s as global trade and Hispanicization continued to influence fashion. The baro of the mid-1800s had bell sleeves that reached down to the wrist, reminiscent of the popular pagoda sleeves. These pagoda sleeves, common in the Victorian Era, were inspired by Chinese architecture of the same namesake. The sleeves start out gathered and narrow at the shoulders, flaring wide at the wrists in a swooping triangular shape.

NICOLE: Fashionable Filipinas: An Evolution of the Philippine National Dress in Photographs, 1860-1960, showcases this evolution well. Philippine fashion mirrored European fashion. For example, bustle skirts–which created volume in the back of the waist–inspired the backward thrust of the sayas de cola or the additions of trains; and later, draped overskirts in Western fashion turned into the dalantal, an elaborately embellished apron resembling an upscale tapis.

And while the skirts continued to change, so did the sleeves. The large pagoda sleeves slowly shortened in length . Then when the large leg-o-mutton sleeves came into fashion around the 1890s, the baro’s sleeves further emulated it. Leg-o-mutton sleeves are characterized by voluminous amounts of fabric that were gathered or pleated at the sleeve, tapering down narrowly to the wrist. The baro mirrored the sleeves, with pleating at the shoulders and heavy starching to keep its exaggerated shape. There was no tapering at the wrist due in part by the shortening of the sleeves, and likely due to the hotter climate of the Philippines.

The baro also became more complex, not just with the new pleated sleeves, but with heavy embroidery on the bodice. A matching alampay of the same material and embroidery usually accompanied.

ADA: By the 1890s, Filipino people of all social classes recognized their common identity as a nation, and the image of Inang Bayan –or Motherland– was dressed in the traje with colors of the Philippine flag. After the Philippine revolution of 1896-1898, the Philippines gained independence from Spain but the U.S. immediately took control of the Philippines, leading to turmoil within the country.

The U.S.’s colonization led to sweeping changes and further evolution of the Philippine dress. The trumpet-shaped Gibson Girl dress led to the similarly-shaped serpentina skirt. The serpentina skirts fit snugly at the waistline, flaring out dramatically toward the hemline, using local inspiration for different variations. These include the zigzag after the winding Pasig River; the dove shape or paloma; the flower shape or camia; and the butterfly shape or mariposa. Local material like sinamay was still used and dyed to create completely matching outfits.

NICOLE: This is when the beginnings of the modern-day terno can be seen, as the word “terno” comes from the Spanish word “to match.”
So, Philippine fashion continued to mirror Western fashion, this time, from the U.S. – the shape of the saya continued to follow popular shapes of the time, again from the Gibson Girl dress, to Art Deco styles of the 1920s and 1930s. As for the sleeves, they stood away from the body. But by the end of the 1920s, the sleeves featured triangular pleats that allowed the sleeve to fall 45 degrees away from the shoulder. They were shortened to the elbows, and gradually stood closer to the body, almost flattened. By this point, the sleeves generally stay the same, with the rest of the outfit changing through the decades.

ADA: As rapid urbanization of the Philippines occurred, the youth preferred wearing vestidos – or dresses – over the traje de mestiza. Zippers became more accessible by the 1930s, allowing designers to combine the bodice and skirt of the terno. By the 1940s, the Second World War caused many to give up luxuries. Ternos were put away or recycled into other garments for family members, and the terno didn’t resurface until after the Philippines gained its independence from the U.S. in 1946.

NICOLE: The sheer baro started disappearing, and in its place, the slip became an opaque bodice, attaching to the skirt. The youth also began removing the alampay from the terno, seeing it as a cumbersome accessory. The alampay, if you remember, was a sheer neck scarf or shawl that was meant to obscure the breasts. Designers leaned into this, creating ternos without the alampay, and lowering the neckline on the bodice. They also began using more modern materials like crepe and jersey.
Of course, this was met with outrage by the older generation, seeing the terno incomplete without the alampay. While the youth wore the terno without an alampay, the elder continued wearing the complete ensemble. Our producer, Shilyn, mentions that she continues to see this in social gatherings, where the alampay is worn by older women, seeing it as a more conservative style. And this is true, since brides donning the terno were still expected to wear an alampay conforming to the traditional image of purity and modesty. This expectation kept on until the 1950s.

ADA: By the 1950s, couture versions of the terno led to experimental designs, still keeping the butterfly sleeves unaltered. This is what we see and recognize as a terno nowadays. Modern styles with the distinct shape of the terno sleeves.

NICOLE: But with the vestido quickly becoming dailywear, the terno eventually became viewed as formalwear. It became rare to see anyone continuing to wear the terno. This discrepancy became more prevalent when the former First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, dressed in full-length ternos as day and eveningwear. Designers began creating more extravagant ternos for the privileged elite. The costs of making a terno similar to Western attire also skyrocketed, leaving it even more difficult for the lower and middle class to acquire a terno. This contrasts with previous decades where the traje de mestiza was universally worn.
Even when the Marcos regime, known for their corruption and extravagance, ended, Filipinos continued to see the terno as an aristocratic dress and costume. It is widely believed that people were unable to dissociate the terno with the Marcos regime.

ADA: After the People Power Revolution in 1986, when nonviolent protests led to the end of Ferdinand Marcos’ 20-year dictatorship, the Philippines’ first female President Corazon Aquino chose to wear suits and feminine versions of the barong rather than the terno. Many women followed, choosing to wear other forms of filipiñiana.

NICOLE: Now, filipiñiana is a term used to describe all types of Philippine dresses, ranging from the baro’t saya, the traje de mestiza, and the terno dress. The word terno, while literally referring to a complete matching outfit, is sometimes used to describe the distinct sleeves.
Since the Marcos regime, the terno has been considered a “costume” rather than a national form of dress. Efforts have been made by designers and entrepreneurs to reclaim it. Ben Chan, chairman and founder of Suyen Corporation and executive creative director of Bench, sponsored the Terno Ball of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila in 2003. This national conference celebrating the terno stood as a design competition for young designers and as a tribute to the ailing couturier, Joe Salazar, known as the King of Philippine couture and a terno master, who passed the next year.

ADA: This led to Gino Gonzalez, the designer for the 2003 Turns of the Terno exhibit for the Metropolitan Museum of Manila; and Mark Higgins, son of another terno master, pitching the idea for a photobook of vintage photographs of women wearing the terno. Chan loved this idea, embarking on a more ambitious project, leading to the Fashionable Filipinas book mentioned earlier in the episode. This was released in 2015, along with Bench’s platform “Love Local” which advocates to buying and wearing more Filipino. With the book’s release, Gonzalez also held a 3-day workshop on the history of the terno and its construction, which proved to be very popular. With that, the first TernoCon was dreamt up, with the first one occurring in 2018, and the second one in 2020, having its own photobook called TernoCon 2020: Reimagining the Philippine Terno.

NICOLE: Of course, other designers have showcased the terno to the world. Some notable designers include Andre Andrada whose designs for 2015’s Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach and Jearson Demavivas whose designs for 2018’s Miss Universe Catriona Gray have both propelled the terno into the limelight. Recently, Michael Cinco became the first FIlipino to showcase in Paris Fashion Week, with his terno-inspired collection.

ADA: Bernadette Banner’s Youtube video reviewing period costumes in movies and shows in 2022 mentions a Filipino show, Maria Clara at Ibarra, which received a very good rating from Maria Maranan, a history student at Ateneo de Manila University. The show’s production designer was overseen by Gino Gonzalez, focusing on period accuracy, and even sourcing from as many local designers and weavers. For those interested, the show is available on GMA Network, but there are tons of snippets of it on YouTube.

Now, Nicole, you mentioned your Seamwork article earlier in this episode where you dive into the history of the terno and make your own. Can you tell us a little bit more about that process of connecting to your roots through making the terno?

Nicole: Yeah, I think I mentioned a few times on the show, you know that part of my sewing journey has been learning how to do this craft something that as a child that I associated with garishness, and ugly dresses, and of being forced to learn and perform cultural dances. And I just never really thought of it as anything more than that. And interestingly, I never actually used the word terno until I started sewing.

My mom isn’t even familiar with it. I think when I asked her what are those flat sleeves with a with the arch top and the flat bottom, she’s like, filipiniana. That’s what she calls it.

So I’m now obviously more familiar with using the term terno. So you know, everyone’s experience is different. Even though I grew up wearing some of the stuff. I just did never heard the word terno. And, you know, around the same time I started sewing, I decided I wanted to reclaim my Philippine heritage by learning more about its history, you know, the pre colonization times what happened with the Spanish and the the Americans and learn about art, support Philippinx creators and businesses learn about, you know, our complex history with colonization and how it impacts the way that we think part of it’s part of it was a desire to better understand my parents, and my grandparents and decisions they made how they are.

And it’s not that, like, I’m not reducing them to the history of the Philippines, just, you know, some context, I think is helpful. But tying it into sewing was sort of a natural first step. And I, I met Shilyn. And I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this on the podcast, because I googled how to make a terno. Because I was like, I don’t know where to start. Her video popped up. And I remember like, following her on Instagram, and then being like, oh my gosh, you’re the person with a YouTube.

So I decided that I was going to make a terno for my birthday of the September 2020, which was the year I started sewing. And it wasn’t it was not great. Shilyn is great. The video is great. But my final product was I’m so proud of it. I was actually trying to find it before the recording. But typically, you know, typical, I was like two minutes before the recording when it occurred to me that I should put on it there. No, I don’t wear it anymore. But I still love it as like the first thing that I did and and the reason why it went all wrong is because I sewed in interfacing which caused the fabric to curve.

And Shilyn was like oh, no, you got to starch that. I should have used a lighter interfacing and then starch and press that ish. So the second one that I made was for that same article, which came out in 2021. And, again, Shilyn. She’s like, try making it removable. I’m pretty sure she gave me the idea because storing it was very confusing. Like how do I store this thing that has like these giant sleeves. And so I did and it’s pretty simple. You can probably make a turnout out of any jacket that has sleeves and just replaced the sleeves with turnout itself. And you want one that with sleeves because the armscye is then drafted to have something on it. And it was a really fun project. I did a two piece set a real terno with a two piece matching shorts. Probably not traditional but I was really proud of it.

And a lot of the stuff that we talked about today something is a lot of what I delved in I love the Fashionable Filipinas book is just fun to flip through. It’s fun to learn about. If you can find a copy somewhere I ordered mine from the Philippines so it’s not super accessible. But look online. There are some Filipino owned bookstores particularly in California that might carry it and I think that you know, I don’t have to have worn and love and been like Pinoy pride my whole life to feel connected to it. And I think that was part of it. You know, growing up, I thought that, you know, it’s all or nothing, you know, or you’re not. And I grew up and I’m like, well, I didn’t do enough to be Filipino enough. So I’m not going to try to be Filipino.

And then the older I got, and I guess the more mature I got, I was like, I don’t care what other people think like I’m Filipino enough if I want to learn about it if I want to, you know, express and honor my heritage through something that I love my sewing craft, like why not. So it’s been interesting experience, I never thought I would. A great regret of mine is not picking up sewing sooner and getting interested in it. So that before my Lola passed, I think in 2021, she could have taught me we could have sewn together. But you know, you can’t always account for these things. And she’s seen she saw my work. And the first thing she said is that I look fat, something makes me look fat, cool, classic Lola, I just remember she said, “Don’t wear that you look fat.”

Ada: Oh, classic.

Nicole: But she was the seamstress in our family. And so I wish I could have done that. But I think part of you know, her legacy is, you know, me making these things connect, make me feel more connected to Lola. And then third time, I’ve made it was for Frocktails, and I did a straight panic. So I should go back. And like I was at the airport hand sewing like the little hook and eye closure is like onto the armscye and on the airplane, and then a little bit at the hotel.

But I decided to wear terno then because part of me was like, why am I saving this for a special occasion? You know, the idea of conservative dress and professional dress is something that I have complex feelings about. Maybe it’s because I’m in nonprofit now. But I want to wear it wear terno more as like day wear or to like have the quote unquote bravery to wear it at a work function. You know what I mean? Like I just, that’s something that I want to grow into. And yes, there will be questions, there will be looks, but I don’t really care about the looks, I will I’m happy to answer questions and talk about like what it is, but I don’t know, I just think it’s being able to make it and wanting to make more, I kind of want to make little ones for my nieces. Just makes me feel more connected. And it’s something I’m really proud of.

Ada: I love it. Thanks for sharing. And I think you’re not alone in kind of the evolution of your experience and your relationship to your heritage and your culture, and ethnicity and all of those complex identity questions like I think that is also a common thing that you hear about. Not only just like, Asian American people across the board, no matter like where your family comes from, but in general, like if you are a group that has moved somewhere else, and then you have had to assimilate like, what does that mean? And how do you carry it forward? And so I’m I’m really glad that you shared that. Shilyn also said that in preparation for this, I mean, you mentioned, we’ve mentioned Shilyn a lot.

Nicole: She’s great.

Ada: She’s fantastic. She’s making this entire episode happen. And you should definitely follow her on all the things but she said that she also had the same experience and how she perceived the terno growing up, and then eventually learning and making her own was a way to kind of feel closer to her roots. She mentioned that her start in diving into her roots as a sewist didn’t start with the terno. It actually started with textiles and symbolism. So similarly it wasn’t until she understood its part in history and seeing others reclaiming the terno that she decided to learn more about it and share it. And we thank you Shilyn for having fantastic resources on the internet for it.

Nicole: Sidenote, have you seen the live action, Beauty and the Beast stage production with HER? Yeah, so what Shilyn said about textiles on symbolism there is a system of writing called by Baybayin and if you take a close look at hers H-E-R, her countryside Belle I forget what it’s called or town town Belle the blue with a white apron. She has by Baybayin written on it. That spells B E L bell as a nod to her Filipino culture. So she is mixed race Filipino and I think that’s just really cool. And I don’t know if that’s like way off topic but when you said textiles and symbolism that’s also for me a part of what I’m learning like I’m buying, learning about fibers I’m reading about and supporting businesses in the Philippines that support folks who are local weavers. I have abaca silk that I have no idea when I’m so excited to have it. So I just wanted to throw it out there. Check out the apron. It’s really really cool.

So with this be a history of episode if we didn’t talk about cultural appropriation? I promise it’s not gonna it’s not going to be long because, you know, it’s, this is going to be from my perspective. I know some of you are listeners have already heard me talk about cultural appropriation in the terno, maybe you remember me railing against the Great British Sewing Bee which came back to my mind when, when there’s I was you know, we have this note in our outline. And I want to go back to earlier when we mentioned that some people mistake puffed sleeves for terno. And there have been some recently released sewing patterns with a puff sleeve and the flat bottom which somewhat resemble a terno and I have conflicting feelings about these designs. So my initial reaction is usually “Oh, where did you get the inspiration from looks a lot like a terno.”

But then I think, you know, do I have the energy to ask if they were inspired by the terno? And if so give credit? Definitely not. Then I go back and say to myself, well, a gathered sleeve is not the traditional terno. Right, it should be pleated, that’s what we’ve learned is that that’s what gives its distinct butterfly shape. And, and a bright, Great British Sewing Bee right I’m raging against it because they’re the terno contest. The top was a gathered sleeve. I went back and I looked at the finals. And I was like, ah, like don’t call that a terno. It’s not. But you know, I don’t have answers here. I just wanted to share my feelings on cultural appropriation as I see it with regard to terno. It’s not widespread, like the appropriation of the kimono. But when I see a puff sleeve with a flat bottom, I do wonder, it’s totally conceivable that someone want, you know, wanted a gathered puff sleeve and a flat bottom and not know about the cultural significance of the shape. Given that it’s not as ubiquitous as other cultural garments. I mean, at least in Western fashion consciousness. But again, do I have the energy to inquire and ask designers to kind of be influenced? No, I don’t.

So with cultural appropriation, it’s important to remember the three P’s people power and profit. Where does the terno fit in here? I challenge listeners, especially those who liked the style and want to make it or see it out there in the community. And it’s not credited properly, to really think through his framework and step up as an ally where necessary,

Ada: Agreed. It’s, yeah, now that I know what a terno should look like and what it is, and like the pleats and how much searching goes into it. And like really how difficult the construction is, especially if you’re gonna make it removable. I’m like, I look at some designs, and I’m like, where did that come from? And I think, especially since starting the podcast, it definitely impacted the way that I think about design and design influence. And a lot of that goes back to how we’re taught to take influences, and then do you know, new designs with them and whether or not we’re taught to not appropriate or correctly attribute where we’re getting inspiration from and thinking about, like, is this inspiration? Or is this appropriation? Like, am I someone of the dominant culture profiting from this, and it definitely takes more of like a eye towards fashion, if you will, to kind of sit there and look through designs. Just consider like food, for example. That one’s a really easy one to be like, is this appropriation? Or is it not feel like appropriation to me? So, again, we bring the episode back to cultural appropriation, but this is definitely a history of the terno episode. So if you would like to, which I highly suggest you do, we have a lot of photos and links to resources and articles in our show notes, which is at asiansewistcollective.com. And so we highly encourage you to check those out. And if you’d like to share your experience with a terno, we would love to hear from you on Instagram or by email.

Ada: Thank you so much for joining us on this week’s episode of the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. If you like our show, please consider supporting us on Ko-fi by becoming a one time or monthly supporter or by buying our stickers and our very funny sewing labels. That’s right, we have merch. Buy the labels, they are hilarious. Your financial support helps us with overhead expenses and will allow us to give back to our all-volunteer team who work so hard to provide you with new content each week. The link to our Ko-fi page is ko-fi.com/asiansewistcollective, and you can find the link in our show notes, on our website and on our Instagram account. 

Check us out on Instagram at @AsianSewistCollective, that’s one word, AsianSewistCollective, and you can also help us out by spreading the word and telling your friends. We would also appreciate it if you could rate, review and subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, PocketCasts or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Nicole: All of the links and resources mentioned in today’s episode will be in the show notes on our website, that’s asiansewistcollective.com. And we’d love to hear from you. Email us with your questions, comments or even voice messages if you want to be featured on future episodes at asiansewistcollective@gmail.com.

This episode was brought to you by your co-hosts Ada Chen and Nicole Angeline. This episode was researched by Aarti Ravi and Cindy Chan, produced by Shilyn Joy and edited by Clarissa Villondo and Henry Wong. Thank you so much to the other members of our collective for making this week’s episode a reality. This is the Asian Sewist Collective podcast and we’ll see you next week.