Because these dresses, typical of Andalucia, are specially made to highlight the best of the female body. And I’m not talking from a “machista” point of view, in fact just the opposite. Women dressed “de Flamenca” are admired for the beauty of the whole outfit, by both women and men, but mainly by women, who know all the hard work, that does not show, but is essential to look perfect in El Real (the place where the Feria is held, in the Barrio de Los Remedios, Seville); from the flower on the head down to the shoes.
There are fashion trends, shown in the most important Fair: SIMOF (Salon Internacional de la Moda Flamenca), every year in January/February, where the designers who specialise in Vestidos de Flamenca, show their latest ideas. The fashions can change: in the print of the fabric, in the number of the flounces on the skirt, whether they are wide or narrow, whether the sleeves have flounces or not – although usually they have flounces, matching the ones in the skirt, of course – and whether they fall from the shoulder or start at the elbow. Even the length of the dress can vary with fashion; normally it reaches to the shoes, but can also be between knee and ankle. This means that although what we are accustomed to seeing, the traditional red dress with white polka-dots, is not considered out of fashion, it is generally worn by more conservtive women. However if you feel brave enough to take a risk and draw attention to yourself, then you should change your “vestido de lunares” (polka-dot dress) for the new trends shown by the top designers.
So what else goes into the dress? The fabric used is normally high resistance lycra, that makes the dress into a second skin, extremely tight, from the top down to the knees, which requires a special elegance when walking – short steps, and balancing your body… and even requires help to go to the bathroom! As the back and the front usually have a plunging neckline it can be difficult to keep the dress in the right position, so they have a fine hidden cord (cordoncillo) that has to be tied tightly enough to keep the dress in place, but not so tight as to leave a mark on the skin. It’s not attractive when this “cordoncillo” shows, so often the dress is accompanied by the “mantoncillo” a little shawl with fringes, in a colour that matches the dress, the flower, the earrings, etc..
Special mention should be made of the head adornments and the arrangement of the hair, which has to be fixed really firmly, since it must be perfect for more than twelve hours, holding the flower, and the “peineta” or comb. Here too, fashion is important. One year hairstyles will have the hair with the flower arranged on top of the head, but other years it will be dressed on one side, just above the ear, or even below the ear, it depends on what is seen at SIMOF: there can be one big flower on top, or several small flowers. But a big one on top is the most widely-seen way to wear it. The ensemble is completed with the typical dangling earings, and make-up that enhances the eyes.
You will never, ever, see a woman dressed “de Flamenco” clutching money, house keys, kleenex, lipstick or a mobile phone in her hand, or even worse, pushed into her neckline… For this they have a small fabric bag, called “la Faltriquera”, which is fastened with cords to the inside of the skirt, between the skirt and the lining. Sometimes you might catch sight of a woman who, very discreetly, goes into a corner and puts her hands between the flounces of her skirt. She is looking for something in her “Faltriquera”. She does this with discretion, although not actually hiding herself, since it is considered in very bad taste to put her hand under her skirt openly in public. The only thing a Flamenca will carry in her hand is her fan, which she uses with sensual grace. Part two will be published on March 21st.
Author´s Note: “I want to say thank you to Diana Rodríguez who kindly help me in translating and organizing the text into a proper English”.