After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

No Te Lo Pongas! or What NOT to Wear to a Milonga

(especially in Buenos Aires)

Suiting up properly is one of the delights of a new hobby. Part of the fun is shopping for a whole new you, accessories included. But you gotta take it easy; go slow and hold back on any big investments in sequins. Just as plaid pants don't make a golfer, a fedora or fishnets don't a tango dancer make.

Tango's traditional colors are black, black and black--sometimes with red. Classic black is good because we think we look thinner and blend into the background more. Plus it goes with whatever else we have in our closet that is black. But nowadays in the milongas of Buenos Aires, any color goes. Especially now that the tango shoe companies have glomed on to the fact that women, especially foreigners, love colorful and sexy sandals. Passé is the standard black T-strap tango shoe. And men, those two-toned shoes you bought in Buenos Aires? Sorry but they just scream Tourist. (But shoes require a whole other post.)

If you are dancing in a tango show on stage, then these costumes below are perfect. But if you wear them to a milonga, everyone will know you are a beginner. Professional dancers don't come to a milonga dressed like this; they save it for the stage.

Without seeing you dance, experienced tangueros can tell by looking at you what level your dancing is at. The First Stage is the eager and naïve beginner, who wears what he happens to find in his closet. Then comes the Second Stage, the full-blown, Look at me, I am a tango dancer! who buys lots of special shoes and clothes--men black shirts, women beads, sequins and fringe, short skirts with high slits--attempting to dance every dance at every milonga. The Third Stage experienced dancer dresses conservatively with elegance and dances only when he or she chooses to, letting the dancing speak and not the clothing.

By their clothes they are known.

The second-stager sometimes goes for the Tango Drag look, or Tango Disguise, or what they've seen on stage in tango shows. Most of the clothes sold in Buenos Aires tango shops are of the Tango Disfraz type, that you really can only wear to Halloween parties back home. Before we leave the house for the milonga, it's a good idea to check in a full-length mirror. And practice those fancy steps in front of one, too, so that you don't end up looking like the above poor ladies who also forgot to keep their feet on the floor. (Actually the red-gartered lady looks like she's dancing well in the photo, but her outfit says otherwise.)

The young generation of tangueros doesn't want any part of fringe or beads, and go the opposite way: baggy pants and special tango tennis shoes. These super casual tango outfits indicate that they dance a different style as well. The cargo pants and the exposed midrifts show the world that they are dancers of Tango Nuevo. No siree, they don't dance their father's tango and don't dress like him either. But dancers over 30 look a little silly dressed like this at a milonga, no matter how Neuvo they are.

For the tangueras, something like this is What to Wear! Remember that simple elegance is the goal here; what better dress to show off the perfection of your dancing?

And for the tangueros? A jacket and tie is real milonguero, but basic black pants, black long sleeved shirt, and of course black shoes put the emphasis on the dance instead of clothes.

Click the "Link" below to read La Planchadora's posts on Dressing for Success:


La Planchadora said...

Hi Cherie!

I really didn't want to know that people try to dress like that in Buenos Aires, too. It's bad enough here!

I promise to remain vigilant to the scourge of wild-animal maulings affecting tango dancers everywhere.

tangocherie said...

Hi Plancha,
Actually, the Tango Drag Dressers here in BsAs are almost always foreigners. What can I say?

Anonymous said...

There was a woman from Finland who got in touch with me for insider tips to milongas in Buenos Aires for she was going there for a tango vacation. She also wanted to know where one could get tango clothes there. I told her that there really wasn't any except for cheesy polyester ones for the tourists and that she would do well to dress comfortably instead of wearing such kitschy costumes. She didn't take kindly to that. Oh well, I did try to warn her.

tangocherie said...

Well Caroline, what can you expect?

In Finland, where the national dance is Argentine tango, they dance to Finnish tango music!

I'm sure when this lady returned home to Finland, her tango wardrobe of fringe, feathers, and beads was a big success at her local milonga, and a great souvenir of What Not to Wear!

As long as she's happy!

Anonymous said...

I loved your post about What Not to Wear to a Milonga! I laughed out loud! Thank god I did not succumb to the Tango Drag phase. Although I do have to admit I've become a fan of the cargo pants and now am wondering if I am too old for them!

I did have an "experiment" with a very sexy black dress on Thursday, and let's just say that my dance card was interestingly competetive that night. I may have to give the pants a rest for a while.

I've just included you on my blogroll... hope all is well with you in BA! I will look forward to checking in with you and your blog often. No plans for BA at this point :-(



Anonymous said...

To clarify: Finnish Tango is the national dance of Finland, and it doesn't resemble Argentine Tango at all! I lived there for almost 5 years and I'm married to a Finn. The Argentine Tango scene is TINY. However, the social dance scene is big and this is where Finns dance Finnish Tango, Waltz, Slow Fox, among other social dances.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Cherie. I agree with just about everything you wrote with my personal exception of color for men. The milongueros I admire most almost never wear all black when I see them at the milongas. Osvaldo Cartery, Dani Garcia, Tete Rusconi, and even the late Carlos Gavito didn't usually wear black when dancing socially. Besides, I think too many gents have the impression that wearing black makes them a better dancer, and this is certainly not the case. I would even go on to say that when I see a guy show up at a milonga wearing all black, other than a known milonguero or instructor, that this person is usually a disappointment to watch. Not always the case, but more often than not. As for me, I try to dress nice for the women of tango because they deserve it, and if we experience a good tanda together, then that's an unexpected bonus.

AlexTangoFuego said...

Hola Cherie...

I was just at the Atlanta Tango Fest, and prepared a whole "Fashion Police" post...not sure if I will post it yet...

There was a guy wearing a fedora every night (actually two guys)...and another with two-tone black and white patent leather shoes...they were visibly the two of the worst leaders there...

Great post!