The flamenco dress, an Andalusian classic that evolves with fashion

SEVILLE, April 21 — Luis Fernandez’s workshop in Seville’s old town is bustling with customers who come to try on his dazzling range of flamenco dresses, whose vibrant fabrics are full of lush ruffles and polka dots.

Flamenco fashion reaches its annual peak in the spring, when towns and cities in Spain’s southern Andalusia region hold their annual week-long ferias, when everyone gets ready to go out and eat, drink and dance until the small hours.



One customer is Virginia Cuaresma. Under the watchful eye of the designer, with pins at the ready to make any adjustments, she stands in front of the mirror in a traditional midnight blue dress, with ruffles adorning the skirt and sleeves.

Next, she tries one in aquamarine, paired with an embroidered fringed scarf in the same color. Then a more modern red dress that shows a lot of skin.

“Right now everything is chaos, we’re blinking… these are the last few fittings” before customers return to collect their gowns “and enjoy the feria,” Fernandez told AFP , referring to the prestigious fair that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors and runs this year from April 14 to 20.

The most traditional design, which dates back more than 100 years, is a floor-length dress that fits close to the thigh, ending in a ruffled skirt and matching ruffles on the sleeves.

To complement the dress, women wear accessories: they wear a fringed scarf around the shoulders, earrings and bracelets, their hair put up in a bun and tied with a comb with a single flower in an ensemble that has become the image of Andalusia and even used abroad. as a symbol of Spain.

“The flamenco dress brings out the most beautiful in a woman,” explains Fernandez, pointing to the wide neckline and the “hourglass silhouette,” which emphasizes the contrast between the narrow waist and the hips and bust, in a style that is “very flattering” and makes the wearer look “beautiful”.

“When I choose a dress to go to the feria, I look for something that will enhance my feminine figure,” says Cuaresma, a 34-year-old geographer with a dark complexion and long dark hair.

For her, dressing up for the feria is a way to “carry on Andalusian traditions” and connect with her late grandmother Virginia, who sewed flamenco dresses as a child.

A style evolution

Born in Seville and raised with a love for the fair, Fernandez started working as a designer in 2012 with fellow couturier Manuel Jurado, and from the start he knew he wanted to make flamenco dresses.

For him, it is a unique regional costume “that evolves with fashion and the only costume that integrates new trends,” he says proudly.

The garment has its roots in so-called “majo” costumes “worn by working-class people” in Spain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and often captured in the paintings of Spanish master Goya, explains anthropologist Rosa Maria Martinez Moreno, who wrote a book called El Traje de Flamenca (The Flamenco dress).

With the start of the fairs in Seville in the mid-19th century, the style began to be adopted by the wealthy classes at a time when there was a backlash against all things French, including aristocratic fashion.

Thrown into the mix was the dress of the gypsy women who sold donuts at the fair and wore dresses and skirts decorated with ruffles.

By the 20th century, the flamenco dress had evolved into its current form and become popular, largely due to the growth of flamenco as an art form and the expansion of schools teaching this Andalusian dance form, which women often learn to perform at the fairs. said Martinez Moreno.

Image of Spain

During the 1960s, General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship tried to “sell Spain as a tourist attraction,” using “popular stereotypes,” such as the flamenco clothing that “began to be recognized abroad as the image of Spanishness.” adds.

In recent years, Andalusian clothing has inspired major designers such as Christian Dior, who presented a new collection in 2022 at Seville’s iconic Plaza de España.

Fernandez says the sector in Seville has become more professional with designers following “the trends from Paris and Milan” and organizing an annual international flamenco fashion show in the city since 1995.

An outfit from a studio like Fernandez’s can range from a few hundred euros to more than a thousand euros.

But there are cheaper options today in an era when fashion has become more accessible.

That is a relief for women like Cuaresma, who says she buys ‘at least’ one flamenco dress every year, because for the fair, or at least the opening day, we ‘don’t like to repeat the same outfit’ that we wore in previous years. year. —AFP