From the flamenco stage to the city streets
Few traditional, folklore inspired garments are more recognisable than the so-called gypsy attire, or flamenco outfit. Spain is quintessentially the land of Flamenco, and the gypsy outfit is the unique look that best represents Spanish folk culture outside of Spain. Whenever we think of Spanish people in flamenco costume, there’s always stereotypical images that come to mind: the stylish, beautiful, headstrong, fiery, dark, long-haired woman that would annihilate a man with her sultry gaze or by a slight movement of her hips; and the macho looking, mighty, dark Latin lover, who leaves a trail of broken hearts as he walks along. Stereotypical images as they are, there’s still a certain mysterious degree of appeal towards flamenco inspired garments and this has evidently caught the eye of the Fashion industry in current times. But how did the original, humble, simple-looking, gypsy costume become such a fashion icon along the years?
A key event in the creation of the concept of Flamenco attire was the Feria de Abril of Seville in the late 19th century, a popular yearly Cattle Fair held during the springtime in one of the most beautiful cities of southern Spain. Lots of peasant women from smaller villages travelled to the big city accompanying their husbands to the fair, and, being such a special occasion in their lives, they always wanted to ‘dress up’ for it. Men wore their everyday working suits, but glammed them up a bit by accessorising them with colourful pieces of cloth that they’d wear around their necks and their waists.
The original traje flamenco for ladies’ consisted of a simple dress with just a few ruffles around the bottom of the skirt area, a garment they would wear everyday to do work around the house and even while harvesting crops in the fields. The male version, the so-called traje campero (country suit), had its origins in the equestrian tradition of Spanish men who needed to ride horses everyday to perform their daily chores on their farms. It was always made of thick material in dark tones, and it was usually worn with a pair or sturdy riding boots, to withstand the harsh conditions that their type of labour entailed.
Over the years the Seville Cattle Fair turned into a renowned Cultural Folk Street Festival, and its popularity catapulted the flamenco attire to international fame around the globe. Today this Festival is one of the most admired and best attended Fiestas in the whole of Spain, and the streets have become real fashion runways for hundreds of men and women who wait all year round for this one special occasion, to be able to sport their most outstanding Sevillana outfits in front of the world. Thanks to all the media exposure that this Fair brings along, these traditional costumes have managed to cross borders and have truly expanded their influence to many corners of the world, inspiring the creations of numerous Spanish and international fashion designers such as Victorio & Lucchino, Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano, Valentino Garavani and Tom Ford, to mention just a few.
New designs in flamenco outfits are shown annually at the Salon International de la Moda Flamenca (SIMOF) in Seville, an international event that has been showcasing flamenco fashion for nearly 25 years and nowadays has become an obligatory meeting point for all industry professionals interested in Spanish influenced fashion. On today’s runways, the ladies’ traditional monochromatic one-piece long dress, has evolved into a swirly, ruffled, intricate, colourful, piece of clothing, manufactured for the public in a wide array of colours fabrics and designs, a visual feast to the onlooker. The original traje campero for men, which consisted in a two-piece suit and the simple white cotton shirt hasn’t changed as drastically as its female counterpart. The pants are usually very tight around the buttocks and the groin area and remarkably high-waisted, which brings a certain sex appeal to their look. The marsellesa jacket is an extremely short looking jacket with several buttons on the front, which ends right above the hips. Tradition dictates that only the top button can be fastened while the rest need to remain undone. Around the waist, some men opt to wear a fajín, a bright coloured sash that ties in the front and brings the outfit together, or, as an alternative, this piece of cloth can be worn around the neck, as a stylish foulard. The last touch is usually added by the highly popular wide-brimmed hat called el sombrero cordobes, which is said to have its origins around the Spanish city of Cordoba and is mostly worn by people living in different villages of southern Spain.
The flamenco outfit is one the most outstanding, distinctive and aesthetically pleasing costumes of all traditional Spanish attires, and understandably, flamenco inspired garments are still nowadays worn by professional flamenco dancers, singers and musicians on stage all over the world, as well as -and maybe unknowingly- by thousands of regular working men and women going about their everyday lives in their respective hometowns in the four corners of the world. A big loud Olé to all of them!