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