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CULTURAL TRADITIONS in FASHION. From Rags to Red Riches: The Flamenco Dress


The flamenco dress is an instant symbol of Spanish culture, filled with vivacious personality and immediately associated with dancing. However, the humble gypsy roots of this dress demonstrate how it has been adapted over the years in order for it to become the iconic garment that we consider it today.


A symbol of Spain, the flamenco dress is a staple feature in Andalusian culture that was once worn by gypsies and eventually worked its way into the wardrobes of high society. With a tight bodice and many layers of ruffles, this dress is designed to flatter the body of the wearer and accentuate the female figure. The flamenco dress and flamenco dance are now considered synonymous, with the garment’s vibrant reds bringing dazzle and heat to performances, however, this glamorous association had much humbler beginnings. 



Originating from Andalusia, the flamenco dress was worn by gypsies and peasants in the 19th Century. The design of the gown began as a robe with ruffles around the hem that was worn for daily chores, mostly by gypsies. It first became known to those outside of the gypsy community at the April Fair held in Seville in 1847, where high-society visitors witnessed gypsy women clad in beautiful and extravagant flamenco dresses. It was thus adopted by the Seville women and altered to suit their own lifestyles. Eventually, the flamenco dress went global and was worn in other countries, becoming a part of fashion outside of Spain, and is now known to recreate itself with modern trends.



Flamenco dancing is a traditional form of dance that originated in Spain. There is a distinct attitude that is carried within the culture behind flamenco dance that can be communicated simply by what performers choose to wear. The flamenco dress has become a staple in flamenco dancing as its flirty and eye-catching design complements said attitude and style. It is most common to see these dresses in black and red, with layers of lace used as accents. According to El Mundo Flamenco, dancers usually opt to wear a style of flamenco dress known as the ‘Traje de Flamenco’, which allows for ease of movement unlike the ‘Beta de Cola’, which has a longer train of ruffles that makes mobility more difficult.



Due to the rapid evolution of the flamenco dress and its adaptability to new trends, a runway show was created specifically for the flamenco gown. The first SIMOF (Salón Internacional de la Moda Flamenca) show occurred in 1994 and has been held annually ever since in order to present the latest flamenco designs. The 2019 show was split into four days, with a section for designers to present the trends that were expected to be worn at the upcoming fair. This seems a far stretch from its beginnings as a dress in which to do chores.



From bright colors, layers of ruffles, and ornate patterns, the flamenco dress comes in many designs. Although the dress is known for frequently changing its look, there is one element of the dress that remains the same: its “guitar” shape. Designed to form to the shape of the wearer, the flamenco dress has always kept its tight bodice. It is common for the dresses to be made of organdie, cotton, and percale, with many variations of fringe and cord styles that can be added to the skirt and shoulders. Sleeve lengths also vary, being anywhere from puffed short sleeves to long sleeves that narrow at the wrists. Polka dots, flowers, and stripes are just a few designs that are seen adorning the skirt of the flamenco dress. Ornate embroidery, metallic fabrics, and golden beadwork compliment the ruffled skirt to create an even more eye-catching ensemble.



To best compliment the flamenco dress, it is common to accessorize with a few options that can be mixed and matched. The most common of these accessories is a flower in the hair. The flower must be a similar shade to that of the dress, and a comb can also serve as a complementary hair piece. Earrings are also an important accessory as they can elongate the neck of the wearer, however, the style of earring changes depending on the current trends. Lastly, a fluttering fan will finish off the look, matching the flamenco dress’ flirty energy.

Though the flamenco dress has had a tremendous impact on the world of fashion, its ties to Spanish culture will always remain. Its malleability to modern trends means that it remains iconic, timeless and an instantly recognizable symbol of its home country.