Monday, 3 October 2011

The Carmen Skirt

What's the point of travelling to Spain to learn to dance flamenco if you can't indulge your inner Carmen by dressing the part once in a while?

I call this the Carmen skirt because I actually bought it to play the role of Carmen in a flamenco production several years ago where all the dancers had to provide their own costumes.  I wanted a white, cotton, gypsy style skirt and this was the only one that fitted the bill.  I wore it with a cream, strapless corset (which I featured in an outfit I wore to the opera) and a red fringed shawl around my waist.  The white top I am wearing in these photos came later.

It was great fun playing the role but I was very insistent in getting the right clothes for the costume and searched for weeks for the right skirt.  So many times I'd seen Carmen costumes that over sexualised the character to the point of tartiness and I wanted to avoid doing that.  In addition to the character's overt sensuality, I wanted to pay homage to Carmen as a free-spirited gypsy woman who knew her mind and what she wanted, a woman who did not feel bound by expectations of society but fully accepted the consequences of her decisions.  Quite a modern woman really!

This skirt was actually two sizes too big for me, but I fell in love with it as it had the right mix of old world and modernity mixed into the design.  I could imagine sitting in the scorching, sweltering, midday heat of a Sevillian factory wearing it, cradling tobacco leaves in the folds whilst nimbly rolling cigars.  However I could also imagine wearing it down to the pub for a drink on a bright summer's day.  A piece that could go from costume wardrobe to everyday wardrobe seemed like a good investment.

The cut and interspersed godets meant it also had enough volume to work like a flamenco skirt.  It worked a treat on stage.  We played out the fight scene in the factory where Carmen ends up killing another woman.  I had to do a pirouette and cut the throat of the other dancer with a knife.  I was told that with the lights and the contrast of the red shawl and its fringing against the white cotton it looked, rather dramatically, like I had blood running down my skirt.

I've treasured it ever since, though it is now showing the odd tear, it has survived several summers being hauled to Spain as part of my holiday wardrobe.  I have blatantly ignored the bullying fashion editorials that come out every summer that boho does not happen to be a trend, imploring women to bin such skirts and kept it anyway.  I've gritted my teeth at columns unkindly bemoaning how unfashionable and ridiculous women (especially older ones) who wear long floaty gypsy skirts look in order to promote whatever other trend happens to be going at the time.  I've worn it regardless.  No matter that I bear more than a passing resemblance to a gypsy and it suits me, this skirt makes me feel feminine and fabulous.

I was so thin at the time that I had to take the skirt in and stuff silicone fillers into the corset.  Now I've had the skirt taken back out and have no problem filling the corset. I'm noticing that weight is accumulating with the years but, having always been a slip of my thing until I hit my mid thirties, I'm now quite enjoying having curves for the first time in my life!

Strangely, both the top and the skirt are by a Belgian design house.  As a combination it would feel too OTT in England, but together they feel right at home in Spain.  I wore this outfit to a flamenco festival last year and after I'd made my way through the audience and taken my seat near the front of the auditorium, an Italian man came running up to me and begged me to go back out and walk past where he was sitting again just so he could watch!

These are the first of my holiday pictures.  It was about forty degrees when we took these shots!  I thought they were apt as London has been having a freak heat wave these last few days culminating in two blissfully scorching days over the weekend.  It has been reported that it's been hotter here than in Spain. I'm not so sure about that though. After getting off Skype tonight with a wilting girlfriend suffering temperatures in the high thirties, it looks like at least the South of Spain beat London hands down on the temperature scale these last two days.

By the way if you haven't discovered it yet there is a wonderful series by Patti of Not Dead Yet Style called Visible Mondays.  I'm submitting this post to participate though officially I'm still a few months away from forty - hope that doesn't disqualify me!  The idea is to feature any outfit, accessory, piece of jewelry, hairstyle, cosmetic or other adornment that makes you feel more confident, alive and visible wearing it.  Well this outfit certainly does all of that for me.  Is there an item in your wardrobe you wear regardless of anyone else's advice just because it makes you feel fantastic?

Postscript: And as this outfit always makes it into the suitcase every year as part of my holiday summer whites, this post has also been subsequently submitted as part of Friend Friday's Wearing White over at Modly Chic.

Cotton corset top and skirt: Chine; Espadrilles: Roberto Garrido, Spain


  1. Both pieces look beautiful on you.

  2. Your skirt is beautiful...I love the way it fits.

  3. You look wonderful in your floaty white pieces. I love the back story about your role in Carmen! Thanks so much for participating in Visible Monday.

  4. Stunning! A piece as beautiful as this skirt should be worn over and over and over.

  5. I dream of finding an outfit as beautiful as that one. You look ravishing in it. x

  6. Qué bien te queda la falda.
    Tienes cuerpo de flamenca torneados a golpe de tacón. Ole!!!

  7. This is a gorgeous skirt, and in the Spanish sun--perfection. Sometimes I think so many "fashion rules" or trends are really appropriate only for a certain latitude. What NYC or London or France say is worlds away from a Spanish or Italian (or Oklahoma) attitude. In America, regional accents have been disappearing, perhaps due to television (I'm a product of this, I know, as I should have a thick Kentucky accent). I think the same thing is happening with fashion editorials and assertions, and I worry that the blogosphere is appropriating that with assertions of "chic". Since I love Paris--and basically form my sartorial identity in relation to it--that neutral anti-boho chic works for me, but I like how the looseness of Oklahoma allows more flexibility.

    Something I wear despite fashion's dictates . . . . my quilted floral-print garments from India. Those have never been in fashion in the West, and still I love them.

  8. I love this beautiful great outfit. I';m also a big fan of my gypsy skirts (and I think I have boho style in my blood, so I never listen to anyone amd keep loving it)))

  9. Hi my dear-I adore your outfit, the corset and skirt are full of stylish va va voom and you look amazing! xxx

  10. Anyone can participate in Visible Monday. The more the better! I love this outfit, it does have a flamenco vibe. I have recently decide to dress the way I want to dress and not pay attention to the wear, keep for later, or toss theories. Our outfits should be "us" and not what we are dicatated by fashion magazines or the media. You look wonderful and I am glad you kept it and are wearing it proudly.

  11. Veshoevius--this looks fantastic on you. And the story about the man who wanted you to walk to your seat a second time made me laugh with delight. I'd admiring the corset too!

  12. This is so perfectly Carmen, and suits you beautifully! WIth your hair and coloring against the white, I totally feel the fiery gypsy spirit accompanied by the staccato of flamenco heels.

  13. Oh wow-so unique. That corset is gorgeous!

  14. I love your choice! Carmen is so often portrayed in black clothes with perhaps a red scarf but this shows much more of an innocent and wild streak (dear me, am I overinterpreting this?) - Anyway, you look great, it fits perfectly (in all the right places, no silicone needed :) and I'm not surprised that the Italian gentleman asked you to walk past him again. X

  15. Great skirt.Love it.

    Love from Oregon USA,
    black and white stripes

  16. Yowza mama, you look so hot in that outfit! I read the other day that there will be an exhibition of Christian Louboutin shoes in London, maybe next spring? I'm forgetting the date, but I will find out. I hope you will go and be my eyes and post about what you see!

  17. I love your outfit! :)

    P.s U are welcome to check out my fashion blog anytime!


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