Fashion nationalism in Asia: a comparative study of the Philippines' terno and Taiwan's qipao

Tets Kimura, William Peterson, Shih-Ying Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article investigates how fashion and nationalism were expressed through two iconic dress styles worn by women, the qipao in Taiwan and the terno in the Philippines in the post-WWII era. We consider the positioning of women’s bodies in the nation-building project and how sartorial practices reflected expectations around gendered performance in the public and private spheres. Both countries emerged from domination by major powers—Japan and the US—in the post-war era and ruling elites were keen to project an image of nation that was distinctively Asian and modern, while the first ladies of both nations championed their respective styles of national dress. In the Philippines, the terno was a fusion garment adapted over time that reflected the nation’s earlier cultural links with Spain, whereas in Taiwan the qipao marked women’s bodies as Chinese in the public sphere as Chinese nationalists consolidated their political control over the country. We argue that the relative success and longevity of the terno in the Philippines is due to a lengthy, organic process of internal cultural authentication prior to its take-up by former First Lady Imelda Marcos, as opposed to the top-down imposition of the qipao on Taiwanese women’s bodies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-120
Number of pages21
JournalAsian Anthropology
Issue number2
Early online date16 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Asian fashion nationalism
  • Filipino fashion
  • qipao
  • Taiwanese fashion
  • terno


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