Let These Mothers Teach You All About Style

Photographs by Aya Cabauatan

Get to know the four women who are living proof that style knows no age, and that classic can be contemporary. 

American interior designer and tastemaker Iris Apfel once said “Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years.” These words could not be truer in the case of these four women who are each proving their personal style transcends generations. 

Vogue Philippines caught up with the four muses of “Modern Finery,”  an editorial  on classic and contemporary barong Tagalog pieces in its March 2023 issue. 

Get to know each of these four women of style.

Josefina Pascual

Josefina Pascual wears RANDOLF CLOTHING barong. SM WOMAN crew neck t-shirt. HIYAS PILIPINAS necklace. SUNNIES glasses. Photograph by Aya Cabauatan

Followers of celebrity fashion photographer, Drag Race Philippines judge, and vlogger BJ Pascual will be familiar with Josefina Pascual, or as BJ affectionately addresses her, Wowa. She has appeared on BJ’s vlog, was featured in his book, and even has her own ad campaign. The young photographer has a close relationship with his grandmother and credits her for supporting his passion and craft for photography

Pascual often talks about his grandmother in his posts. “Wowa has always been a mother figure to me. In fact, I always claim to be her youngest son,” he tweeted on Mother’s Day in 2020. 

“I’m so thankful to have Wowa. She’s the most loving, supportive, and hardworking (and makulit) woman in my life and I’m so lucky to be her [grand]son,” he added.

Sheila Francisco

Sheila Francisco wears a FRANCIS LIBIRAN bomber barong. SUNNIES glasses. NUEVO YSTILO embroidered barong. SM WOMAN pleated skirt. Photo by Aya Cabauatan

Present-day audiences will recognize Sheila Francisco for playing the titular character Leonor Reyes in the 2022 Sundance Film Festival Jury Prize Winner Ang Pagbabalik ng Kuwago (English title “Leonor Will Never Die”). But Francisco is a seasoned theater actress best known for playing Bloody Mary in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “South Pacific” at the National Theater in London back in the 2000s. 

“Being glammed up was extra thrilling. As an actor for theater and film, I get to sit in a makeup chair frequently but this was different,” she shares. 

Francisco describes her style as “light and easy,” matching the Francis Libiran bomber barong and Nuevo Ystilo embroidered barong she wore for the shoot. Her style she attributes to her profession, with the majority of her hours spent in rehearsals. 

On the other hand, when an occasion calls for dressing up, she is unafraid to go “all out. I thoroughly enjoy the whole process of glamming up from head to toe,” she says. 

Francisco also quotes Apfel when asked what her best style advice is. “As Iris Apfel says ‘Style is a matter of attitude, attitude, attitude.  But you have to possess individuality to have an attitude. You can’t be like everybody else and copy what everybody else is doing.’ So I say, do you!” she shares. 

Tessie Singson

Tessie Singson wears AVEL BACUDIO embroidered balloon-sleeved dress. BARONG LUMBAN embroidered barong worn under. Photograph by Aya Cabauatan

If the name doesn’t automatically ring a bell, it’s likely because you know Singson for her online persona, Lola Androgynous. First seen in the blog that her son and fellow fashion content creator JP Singson launched in 2012, she now has her own Instagram presence with over 13 thousand followers. 

The way she describes her style is what she is best known for: “My style is minimalist, eclectic, androgynous,” she says. “I am drawn to menswear ensembles. Styled outside the box and best paired with quirky and fun accessories. My style is constantly evolving with an  emphasis to comfort and functionality as I get older. Although I admit I currently have this wild obsession with practically useless mini bags.”

Singson encourages play and a taste for adventure when it comes to fashion. “Don’t take fashion too seriously. Always have fun. Be yourself. Don’t be scared to try something new or different,” she says.  

“It’s never too late to experiment! That’s how you will learn what works for you and what doesn’t,” she shares her best style advice. “And when in doubt about your outfit, trust your instincts or ask your husband!”

Yrna Ileto

Yrna Ileto wears JOEY SAMSON side button barong. SM WOMAN pleated skirt. MICH DULCE veiled peony bibi. Photo by Aya Cabauatan

If you’re wondering where you know Yrna Ileto from, you’ve probably seen her model her daughter’s line Assemblage 001. Ileto is the mother of designer Mich Dulce and widow of the late former Defense secretary Rafael Ileto. 

“I liked simple, classic clothes. I’m very classic. Until my daughter became a designer and introduced me to the clothes that she makes, and it made changes in the way I look because I feel that I look younger while being classic,” she says of her style. “I love dressing up. I think I got it from my mom, who dressed up well, and we grew up dressing well. I feel very stylish once in awhile, but basically I retain my being classic. Until Mich became a designer.” 

According to Ileto, wearing her daughter’s whimsical and contemporary designs has changed the way she dresses over the years. This is why when asked what words of wisdom or philosophy on styling she can share, she said “Well, keep wearing what makes you feel good, and young, and comfortable.”

Photographs by AYA CABAUATAN. Fashion Editor DARYL CHANG. Makeup: Mauri Estrada, Twinkle Bernardo of Estee Lauder. Hair: Arjay Zurita, MJ Rone of Estee Lauder. Model: Josefina Pascual, Sheila Francisco, Tessie Singson, Yrna Ileto. Production Design: Justine Arcega-Bumanlag. Producer: Anz Hizon. Stylist’s Assistant: Renee De Guzman

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