Of Another Fashion

An alternative archive of the not-quite-hidden but too often ignored fashion histories of U.S. women of color

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It’s 1956 in San Francisco and this is my grandmother, Encar Villanueva. She’s standing next my grandfather’s cadillac. Today, my grandmother or lola (in Tagalog) lives in a nursing home in San Francisco in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. But when this photo was taken, her personality was very strong. Because she was the eldest of her sisters and a stay-at-home mother raising two boys, she definitely was the disciplinarian in the home. (My grandpa was often overseas working as a cook for the US Navy).  Although Lola was opinionated and religious, she always knew how to have a good time and throw a great party. She often had her friends over for food, dancing, and praying the rosary - like any good Filipino Catholic.

Her style was always on-trend. In all her pictures with her girlfriends, church friends, relatives, grandma Encar always stood out. She was never scared of wearing bright colors and accessorizing her outfits with jewelry, bright purses or shoes. As a child I remember going through closets (seven closets to be exact) of her clothes, jewelry, shoes, coats and purses. I still have a number of things of hers to this day. She had impeccable style.

In 2011, I wrote a play about my grandmother and have performed it several times as a one woman show called Forgetting the Details.

Submitted by Nicole Maxali (San Francisco, CA)

These three women wearing their Sunday Best are singing at the Father’s Day Banquet at the Filipino Christian Church in Los Angeles, California in 1955.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

These are my maternal grandparents, Teddy and Olive Dimayuga. The photo was taken on a family vacation in Baguio, Philippines between 1972-73. At the time my grandparents had recently moved back to the Philippines from England, where my grandfather had been temporarily assigned for his job. It was in England that my grandpa grew the ‘stache and got really into wearing tweed, so I guess Baguio’s cool climate provided a good excuse for him to get it back out of his closet. When I asked my grandmother where she got her clothes, she waved off the question. ‘Oh, somewhere. It’s just a t-shirt and bell bottoms.’ Simple, but fly is fly. My grandparents immigrated to the United States in 1998 or ‘99, and shipped over many of their possessions from the house in Paranaque, Manila where they’d lived for decades. A few years ago, they moved in with my parents, so I’ve been able to find some lovely photos and have slowly started archiving them.

Submitted by Yael Villafranca (San Francisco, CA)

This is my mother, Norma. She left for Canada in 1969 for professional reasons, but also to get away from any potential transformation of the Philippines into a communist state. At the time, a communist movement had established its identity there, and like some other Filipinos she didn’t want to risk waiting to see if the movement became fruitful, especially since she had written some anti-communist articles in a local newspaper.The photograph itself has a violent history. In the 1990s, my grandmother’s home and farm property were ransacked and set on fire by vandals. The photograph, one of the few that survived the ordeal, survived but in tattered form. My mother did not retrieve this photograph until 2007 when we both visited the Philippines together.

Submitted by Theresa Campagna (Chicago, Illinois).

Elizabeth Fabro Afroilan at dinner on the cruise ship SS Azure Seas in a tiara and frock, 1983.

Many thanks to Valerie Afroilan for sharing this photo of her beautiful mom.

Elizabeth Fabro Afroilan, the gorgeous mother of our very own research assistant for this project Valerie Afroilan, on a cruise aboard the SS Ocean Independence in 1980.