The Terno and Its “Snobbish” Butterfly Sleeves

The Philippines Richest (1960s) in their Finest of Filipinianas


The first time I saw an old black-and-white photo of my lola donning a white terno, I was totally smitten. She looked so regal, her chin up, her eyes looking down and her hair all coiffed. The photo was dated in the early 60s. I later found out that even as late as the 70s, Filipina women from all social classes still opted to wear the traditional Filipiniana terno.

But if there’s anything that gives the terno its distinct edge or uniqueness, it would probably its butterfly sleeves. The sleeves give off an aura of pedigree, pride, if not, snobbery. It gives edginess and sheer power to the dress, which gives emphasis on the shoulders. Even before the shoulder pads became a rave in the 80s, Filipinas, since the Spanish regime, have been wearing these over-sized sleeves to the delight of foreigners. It was constructed in order for the breeze to easily cool the shoulders of Filipinas. Of course, a good Spanish abanico was still another accent that helped in this cause.

Today, Independence Day, instead of donning those Lady Gaga like shoulders, try incorporating the terno’s iconic (thanks to Madame herself!) into one’s dress. Leslie Mobo, the London-based Filipino designer, has also featured the butterfly sleeves in one of his collections.

A Happy Independence Day to all Filipinos!

Doña Bea Zobel de Ayala, Doña Imelda Ongsiako Cojuangco and Sofia Zobel Elizalde

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About hechoayer

Things made yesterday still influence us until today. Things made today will influence us tomorrow. Things of the essence such as faith, culture, food, music and values should never disappear nor eroded by the times. Instead, these must be recorded, lived and shared. Such are things hecho ayer - made yesterday.
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6 Responses to The Terno and Its “Snobbish” Butterfly Sleeves

  1. KC says:

    i actually don’t like how some modern ternos look: low necklines, exposed backs. the shawl which was supposedly made stiff and hard with the use of cornstarch served as protection and cover up for the woman’s breasts as bras were still non-existent during the spanish time. so the terno is not just fashionable, it’s also functional and symbolical of the filipina’s prim and proper image. but some TV personalities are clearly unaware of that.

    • hechoayer says:

      a good observation. however, designers like Inno Sotto and Rajo Laurel still come up with pieces that evoke the traditional terno despite their minor innovations. Filipino designers should do justice to this national dress.

  2. Soleil says:

    I would like to know how to pattern draft and sew a Filipina terno with clipped butterfly sleeves. Can not find a pattern.

  3. Karen says:

    Just looking at the SONA 2011 and Talking about Filipiniana in Global scene. Fashion designer Lesley Mobo designed these dresses below (click link for photos ) worn by HOLLYWOOD celebrities (Anne Hathaway) AND BRITISH STARS. This is what MODERN Ready- to- wear FILIPINIANA should be!!!! MODERN FILIPINO TERNO! VERY FILIPINO! Making it even more GLOBAL “The Butterfly Sleeves” . This definitely Global! Click here https://skydrive.live.com/?cid​=762b8662207ec93a&sc=documents​#!/?cid=762B8662207EC93A&id=76​2B8662207EC93A%21124&sc=photos​!cid=762B8662207EC93A&id=762B8​662207EC93A%21124&sc=photos

  4. Karen says:

    Just looking at the SONA 2011 and Talking about Filipiniana in Global scene. Fashion designer Lesley Mobo designed these dresses below (click link for photos ) worn by HOLLYWOOD celebrities (Anne Hathaway) AND BRITISH STARS. This is what MODERN Ready- to- wear FILIPINIANA should be!!!! MODERN FILIPINO TERNO! VERY FILIPINO! Making it even more GLOBAL “The Butterfly Sleeves” . This definitely Global! Click here https://skydrive.live.com/?cid=762b8662207ec93a&sc=documents#!/?cid=762B8662207EC93A&id=762B8662207EC93A%21124&sc=photos!cid=762B8662207EC93A&id=762B8662207EC93A%21124&sc=photos

  5. Pingback: 2012 Golden Globe Best Dressed | Vintage Bruha

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