With the flamenco festival in Jerez now over, the London Flamenco festival is now in full swing here and this week I've had the good fortune to be able to see some amazing shows! It seems that even fashion is tapping into the mood with flamenco "trending" again this season. Flamenco is associated with some awful stereotypes. People often think of the naff outdated costumes not seen since the sixties and seventies, with their stiff frills, polka dots and huge billowy sleeves. Flamenco is also often confused with other dance forms (tango, paso doble, salsa, mariachi and even can-can dancing just to name a few), but as a flamenco dancer I do have to laugh when the fashion industry tries its hand at a reinterpretation. Here is what WhoWhatWear selected as "Flamenco" in their guide to the biggest looks for spring.
I can't imagine anything worse than to have to wear any of the above outfits to dance in and some of these concoctions are by designers I usually love. Now I know this is all "influenced by" and not meant to replace an authentic flamenco dress to dance the real deal in but you'd be surprised how many people extrapolate the fashion version to the real version, rather than the other way around. And God Almighty spare me from ever having to perform in anything like this:
Blecchhh! The only thing that would be any use to me would be the earrings. You may laugh, but in the past I have been asked to wear rubbish like this on the odd job appearing as a flamenco dancer. This sort of thing is usually foisted upon you by ignorant wardrobe stylists who have swallowed this fashionable idea of flamenco and then regurgitate it on you in some even nastier, cheaper format to be worn as a bona fide flamenco costume, thus further perpetuating the myth at large that we wear crazy get ups like this to perform in.
I've also seen women turn up for their first flamenco class in this type of clothing which is more suited to tangoing the night away at a milonga rather than sweating it out stamping. Worse still, first timers sometimes turn up wearing stilettos which is just asking for a sprained ankle. Feel free to try this kind of look at home or at a costume party - do not try this in a dance class, let alone on stage. By the way, just to put the record straight, we don't dance in stilettos, or on tables, or with roses between our teeth, we don't usually dance with partners and red and black are not the only colours we wear!
If any of you based in the UK and have had the chance to see some of the shows at the London Flamenco Festival by younger upcoming artists you will see that flamenco costumes have evolved away from the more traditional styles into more contemporary designs, as has the art form - but you won't see anything quite as badly thought out as the WhoWhatWear suggestions. So please WhoWhatWear! Call that a flamenco dress? That's not a flamenco dress. This is a flamenco dress!
It's not all bad though. Flamenco was also a trend last summer but at least then it was a bit more grounded in the roots of Andalusian culture in which flamenco is steeped and I actually thought the looks served up were closer to the spirit of flamenco than the weird pastiche of frills, flowers, flounces and puffy sleeves being bandied about this season.
For me the first prize this season for a beautifully done collection goes to Ralph Lauren who clearly drew inspiration from flamenco, bullfighting, traditional Spanish dress and dare I say, a bit of Argentinian gaucho thrown in as well. Now I wouldn't dare dance in these clothes for fear of ripping such beauty to shreds but boy are some of these pieces to die for, the bolero jackets especially, and very flamenco I might add, capturing the drama of it all, if in a very luxurious and high end way. All photos from Vogue.
Source of all photos: Vogue
Ralph Lauren is normally not a label on my radar (or within my budget!) but these are just beautiful clothes and I'd wear any of these pieces with pride! One could say that the inspiration is perhaps too closely derivative as to be staid but I think the cut, the craftsmanship and attention to detail of these clothes are simply stunning and very elegant. Ole! Elements of this collection would actually be a source of inspiration for me when I next go to get a real flamenco costume made. More of the Ralph Lauren collection can be seen here at the Vogue site.
Linking up to Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style!