Reader Davrie Caro sent photos of a special family gathering in San Diego. His great grandmother, second from right in the photo above, visited the United States for several months in 1992-93. The photo above shows a surprise birthday party for her daughter, Fely, in the center. Two of her other children stand at opposite ends.
Great Grandmother Caro, called Nanay Luming by her family, was born in 1919 in the shoe producing center of Marikina City in the Philippines. The mother of eight children, she took care of her family and worked outside the home, sewing the uppers of shoes. Fely was the only one of her children to make their way to the United States, forming part of the Filipino diaspora in this country.
In her early seventies in the photo above, Great Grandmother Caro is by far the most conservatively dressed. Two elements in her outfit look quite old fashioned to me—the lace collar and the small scale, dark print of her dress. These were common components of older women’s style in the early to mid- twentieth century. The lace collar was frequently recommended to older women as a way to bring soft color and texture near the face. The small, dark print was intended to make the older, wider body appear smaller. By the 1960s many older American women had given up these styles. By contrast, her daughters look much more up to date. The one on the far left wears bright separates with the big shoulder style of the era. The birthday girl in the center wears a dress with a brightly colored bold print.
But did Nanay Luming change her look for the party? Maybe she chose her dressiest and most conservative look for the special occasion. In other family photos she is dressed much more casually in brighter colors and bolder prints. In the photo on the right, where she poses with two of her cousins, all the women wear colorful large designs. Great Grandmother Caro stands on the left. Compare her colorful, big shouldered blouse to the daintier print of her party dress.
I get the sense that the bolder, brighter style represents her true self. Look at how she dressed for her own 70th birthday party back home in the Philippines. No lace collar here, and there is nothing dainty about her hot pink dress.