Reinvented 'terno' stars on Dubai runway


Posted at May 13 2010 11:52 AM | Updated as of May 13 2010 11:32 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The iconic Filipino native dress terno with its distinctive butterfly sleeves gets a new look--and global appeal--from Dubai-based Filipino designer Ezra Santos.

At his first solo gala couture show in Dubai held recently at the glamorous Madinat Jumeirah, Santos showed that limitations on the terno's form and construction cannot restrict him.

Santos revolutionized the terno's butterfly sleeves, and, using masterful cutting and precision tailoring, did away with the cumbersome pleats that stiffen and form the semi-oval sleeves.

The result is a softer, much more feminine edge and universal, global look.

A softer look for the terno. Dress by Ezra Santos. Credit: Eros Goze


"I adore the butterfly sleeves and it's been a challenge for me to create something that will be wearable at this time and be remarkable internationally. It’s the right time because big shoulders are so in fashion at the moment. I just want to see it being worn not only in formal affairs, as it can be worn at the office or for semi-formal occasions in a smaller scale version," Santos said. 

The terno's butterfly sleeves are still retained in the new look by Ezra Santos. Credit: Eros Goze


"That's why I combined these sleeves with more structured jackets and voila! They came out really nice. Interestingly enough, my Imeldific collection was widely appreciated by the fashionistas in Dubai, so much so that we have already received orders from this collection straight from the catwalk," revealed Santos.

The terno with structured jacket as designed by Ezra Santos. Credit: Eros Goze


The terno has long been associated with former First Lady Imelda Marcos who wore it to state dinners, official foreign visits, and just about any formal event here and abroad. Its butterfly sleeves are stiff, upright and protrude where the shoulder blades end. The fabric is often made of pineapple fiber indigenous to the Philippines, and lined with cana maso for the standing effect. The complete ensemble is usually cut empire-style to achieve a soft, voluminous draping in the bodice, perhaps to contradict the sharpness of the sleeves.

Santos graduated from the Philippine Women's University and trained at the Central St. Martins in London. He honed his fashion skills in the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and now the United Arab Emirates, particularly Dubai.  

The designer, one of the top fashion designers in the Middle East, is known for his refined style, muted elegance and subtle aesthetics. His pieces do not attempt to make extreme style statements.

Among his clients are royals and prominent ladies in the region.