When the movie Devil’s Wear Prada came out, there was a scene that resonated so well with me. In that scene, Andy Sachs (portrayed by Anne Hathaway) smirked when the editorial team of the Runway fashion magazine became so serious in deciding between two belts with almost identical hues of blue to use in the fashion shoot.
Noticing the little smirk, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) gave a clap back, pointing out that while the new intern thought fashion has nothing to do with her, the lumpy blue sweater she was wearing “represents millions of dollars and countless jobs.”
It might be just a movie scene, but it reflects how some people dismiss fashion as something insignificant. They couldn’t grasp the complexity of the way fashion has been entwined in our lives.
More than just the style and aesthetics, fashion encompasses history, economy, socio-political movements, social issues such as fair labor practices and environmental effects, not to mention the new technologies and new strategies in marketing.
Take, for instance, women’s jeans and the historical and social context of how they became an everyday wardrobe staple. Before the war, wearing jeans or trousers was unheard of. Pants-like garments were used for work or sports, but always out of the public eye.
While some wanted it for practical reasons, the concept of wearing pants has been tied to women’s rights movement during a period when society was so fixated on dresses with bulky and heavy long skirts. It represented freedom and rights.
Our very own terno and its evolution reflect our history. The way it evolves coincides with the chronological events that happened from the Spanish occupation to American and Japanese colonization, World War II, and up to the present.
From the Hispanized version of terno to modern-day Filipiniana, it showed the social realities of the time. The Maria Clara, with camisa and full-wide skirt with a long train, introduced panuelo and tapis because of modesty.
During the American occupation, it became Traje de Mestiza with huge sleeves and a narrower skirt, reflecting the Edwardian fashion prominent in the West. Simpler clothes characterized World War II and Japanese occupations because of shortages in textiles and limited trading activities. In 1950s, Barong Tagalog came into the picture. Our terno has evolved into what we know today.
If you want to see physical representations of the fashion changes through the years, you might want to visit the Farrales@Benilde exhibit at the 12F Main Gallery of the College’s Design and Arts Campus, located at 950 Pablo Ocampo Street, Malate, Manila. The exhibit is on view until September 10, so you better catch it soon.
The exhibit features the late fashion designer Ben Farrales’s Filipiniana creations, traditional ternos, and Muslim-inspired pieces, all demonstrating his outstanding craftsmanship and range of artistry – showing why he was given the title “Dean of Philippine Fashion.”
Farrales was considered an artist ahead of his time since he stepped into the industry in the 50s. His 60 years of success introduced signature Muslim-inspired gowns, traditional ternos, and sophisticated traje de mestizas as well as a series of contemporary loungewear, cocktail dresses, and draped frocks.
“The range of styles shows the creativity of Farrales as well as the high regard and affection he had for his muse, as they traversed their lives and careers through the years. The colors of the ternos nearly complete the rainbow spectrum, from the deep red of the Indian style piece to the cool blues and greens of the Grecian draped number,” shared Center for Campus art director Gerry Torres.
The exhibit was born when Cynthia Pendatun, a relative of the designer, donated 40 ternos and evening gowns, all designed by Farrales, to the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde for the safekeeping and preservation of these artifacts of fashion history.
When Bambi Harper visited the exhibit and saw the displayed printed clippings with her donning a Farrales checkered kimona for the cover story of a magazine printed in 1959, she decided to donate select Farrales ternos and evening gowns and fabric drapes with unusual color combinations from her own personal wardrobe.
The pieces were soon incorporated in the ongoing exhibit. The added pieces showed the diverse influences that Farrales had – a Grecian-inspired chartreuse terno, with soft drapes commencing at the bust and falling gently to the hem; an Indian-style terno with one-shouldered sari-like detail on the edges and the bodice with an embroidered gold trim; and a Japanese-inspired ensemble with skirt and dinner jacket in ecru and gold.
“When I walk through the Ben Faralles show, I get the same sense of creativity and deep thought in the process of putting together the gowns. In fact, the other thing that shines through in his creations is the love with which he created the gowns – meticulous and highly detailed. In this way, he spotlighted and highlighted our regional cultures and designs,” said Bro. Edmundo “Dodo” Fernandez.
The DLS-College of St. Benilde is currently planning more permanent storage and exhibition area for the Farrales creations, and I’m hoping they will find the right space.
For those who wish to share their Farrales gowns for exhibit and safekeeping, please contact Gerry Torres and the CCA email@example.com.