Spain | The flamenco dress, an Andalusian tradition that follows fashion

(Seville) In the heart of Seville, the workshop of Spanish fashion designer Luis Fernández is bustling. Between the rustling of ruffled fabrics and the farandoles of polka dot fabrics in bright colors, customers follow one another at the fittings to find their flamenco dress, one of the traditional symbols of Spain.

Virginia Cuaresma is one of them. Under the watchful eye of the milliner, who pinches the pins between his fingers to adjust the outfit, she first puts on a very classic blue dress, with ruffles on the sleeves, then a pastel blue one with a matching shawl, and a red one, very modern, transparent, revealing the entire leg…

“Right now, it’s a mess, the workshop is upside down,” Luis Fernández told AFP, adding that “these are the last fittings” before customers collect their dresses for delivery. Seville Fair.


Virginia Cuaresma, Luis Fernandez and Manuel Jurado

This week-long festival, attracting hundreds of thousands of people each year to the Andalusian capital and where riders in traditional clothes and “flamencas” meet, ends on Saturday.

The history of this very fitted dress reaching below the hips, with ruffles on the petticoats and sleeves, dates back more than a century. Women wear it with a shawl on their shoulders, earrings, bracelets and their hair tied in a bun with a huge flower.

Symbol of the Andalusian woman, it has become one of the images of Spain and its inexpensive version is one of the souvenirs brought back in their suitcases by foreign tourists.

“This dress brings out what is most beautiful in women”, with its wide neckline, “this hourglass shape”, between this “narrow waist”, the hips and the chest, so that “the woman really feels highlighted” and “beautiful”, sums up the couturier.


Virginia Cuaresma

“When I choose a dress for the Feria, I look for the silhouette to be enhanced,” explains Virginia Cuaresma, a 34-year-old geographer, for whom putting on this outfit contributes to “perpetuating Andalusian traditions” and staying “connected” with her late grandmother Virginia, who made her some when she was little.

Anti-French sentiment

When Luis Fernández started creating outfits in 2012, it was obvious to this Feria-crazed Sevillian that he would dedicate himself to flamenco dress. It is the only traditional regional outfit “that evolves with fashion, the only one that accepts new trends,” he says.

This dress is inherited from the “majo” clothing, originally worn by the working classes of Madrid and immortalized in the paintings of Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), explains to AFP the anthropologist Rosa María Martínez Moreno, author from the book The flamenco dress.

With the advent of ferias in Seville, in the mid-19th centurye century, the outfit was adopted by the wealthier classes at a time when the rejection of the French and their aristocratic fashion was very strong in Spain.

She then also draws her inspiration from the ruffled dresses of the Gypsy women selling donuts at these ferias.

In the 20the century, the dress adopted its current form and became very popular, notably thanks to the professionalization of flamenco and the proliferation of Andalusian dance schools, where women learned the gestures and figures allowing them to shine during the ferias, indicates Rosa María Martínez Moreno.

Image of Spain

In the 1960s, the dictatorship of Francisco Franco (1939-1975), who wanted to “sell Spain as a tourist destination”, used “popular stereotypes” such as the flamenco dress which “began to be identified as the image of Spain” abroad, continues the expert.

More recently, the Andalusian dress, “dichotomy between tradition and modernity”, has inspired “great couturiers” like Dior, whose house organized a large, very flamenco fashion show in Seville two years ago, she adds.


In Seville, the sector has now become professionalized and the designers, who follow “the trends of Paris and Milan” according to Luis Fernández, have had their International Flamenco Fashion Week (SIMOF) since 1995. The brand of Mr. Fernández and his partner Manuel Jurado won the young couturiers prize there in 2016.

A dress from an atelier like Mr. Fernández’s can cost anywhere from several hundred to more than a thousand euros, but there are more economical options from cheaper stores.

Fortunately, moreover, for customers like Virginia Cuaresma, who buy “at least” one dress every year, because “we don’t like to wear the same dress” from one year to the next, especially on the first day of the Fair.

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