The two women standing face to face above had one thing in common–they were both passionate advocates of women’s suffrage. On the right is Sofia de Veyra (1876-1953), renowned advocate of Philippine independence. On the left is First Lady Florence Harding (1860-1924), wife of one of the most corrupt American presidents. In this 1922 photo, Harding was congratulating de Veyra on her service to the American Red Cross during World War One. De Veyra brought a group of colleagues to the event, women who also supported suffrage and independence for the Philippines. These goals took decades to achieve. Filipino women did not get suffrage until 1937. Full independence did not come until 1946.
Although everyone wore light colored clothing, there is a stark contrast between the American and Filipino women’s dress. Harding had on a version of 1922 styles, with dropped shoulders and a dropped waist. The black band around her neck was a signature style. Did she long for the high necked blouses of her youth? Her companion on the far right looks less up to date, with her waist barely dropped. Maybe she recognized that the current style would bring more attention to her hips.
By contrast, the Filipino women came wearing the terno, the Filipino national dress. The outfit consisted of a skirt and blouse combination, with the waist line at the natural waist. The blouse traditionally had very wide shoulders. Some women wore a lacy apron, called a sobrefalda, over their skirts. De Veyra’s outfit, made from embroidered organza, is particularly elegant.
Reader Davrie Caro sent me the photo as well as information about Sofia de Veyra and the terno. Like Western clothes, this outfit also changed over time. Several of the women in this photo wore blouses with peaked shoulders, a style more in fashion a decade earlier. For beautiful historic photos of the terno in the 1910s, take a look here. For more photos from the 1920s, look here.