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.

Monday, July 23, 2012

La Tanguera's New Clothes

 I wrote about "tango clothes" several years ago, and strangely enough it's still one of our most popular posts: What Not to Wear to the Milonga.

That just shows you that this topic of dressing yourself is never out of date.

However the post itself is rather dated. Many, many students write to me before their arrival in Buenos Aires to ask where can they buy "tango dresses." So it's time I update "What to Wear to a Milonga" for the tanguera fashionistas, because it's a whole new world out there!

We women being as we are, whenever we get into a new activity we must first get the wardrobe. Proper ski clothes, yoga pants, Muy Thai shorts and jasmine garlands, flamenco nailed shoes and ruffled long skirts, there's a catalogue and and hundreds of choices available for every endeavor. God forbid we wear what we find in the back of our closet until we learn the fundamentals.

While I seem rather undressed, it took a lot of preparation to achieve it.
When I was belly dancing professionally, several girls in my troop admitted they were in it for the costuming opportunities. For me, I resented the time I needed to make up, as I was in it for the dancing.

With El Indio

With Guillermo Merlo (skirt getting shorter)
When I began tango lessons, I did wear regular clothes from my librarian closet.

Not that I don't understand the fun and psychology of buying lots of new stuff because your life is soon going to change with this new activity you're taking up, and we all know that the tango certainly can change your life. But I would just like to stress caution here; before we need the Comme Il Faut shoes and the "tango clothes," we need to learn to dance. A tanguera was never made (except perhaps in the movies) by wardrobe. The truth is, if you take a beginner and put her into a slinky gown by Mimi Pinzon, for example, a gown made for stage performances but which most traveling tangueras think of as a "tango dress," she's going to look ridiculous on the milonga floor--except maybe back home where she may wow the locals with her Buenos Aires threads.

In Buenos Aires

So here in BsAs, "tango dresses" tend to be sparkly, have fringe and/or beading, and high slits up the thigh. What real women wear to the milongas are nice dresses suitable to the season, often with a floaty or swingy skirt, and a pretty top--an outfit appropriate perhaps to going out to a nice restaurant (although here, except for dancing, one wears jeans/pants everywhere). Some women do wear pants to the milonga but it's only successful if they have perfect apple asses.

Pretty skirts and dresses are the norm, but so are gorgeous tango shoes. That is the area of importance. Often a man will look first at a woman's shoes before trying to cabeceo her; faulty shoes = a faulty dancer in most folks' minds.

Outside of Buenos Aires (and within in the very young milongas) the dress codes are different. The attitude is, "if you're young and you've got it, flaunt it" and wear as little as possible. So the new designers for tango come up with little fairy outfits held together by silken threads, baring as much as possible. These dresses are exquisite on a young dancer with a perfect body and who also dances exquisitely. If you're a beginner but look great in the outfit, wear it with a coverup to a wedding and save it until your dancing reaches the same level before you try it out at a milonga. Believe me, wearing the kit without the technique to back it up, makes you look a whole lot worse.

One design aspect that has always been important is that your outfit has back interest. When your chest is pressed up against your partner, the only thing essential about the front of your bodice is that there is no pin or bulky buttons or corsage sticking into either one of you.

Now more than ever, people are wearing skirts that accentuate the derriere of the dancer while the upper back is almost completely bare. This can look great, but many of the milongueros are uncomfortable embracing a woman with a totally bare back. In the old days, they carried a folded handkerchief in their palms to avoid sweating on the lady's skin. 


Suerte Loca Tango Clothes by Becka (at far left)

Poema Line by Hannah Louise
Two To Tango by Mytienne

Two To Tango

Please take a look at the photos in my previous post on What Not to Wear. Not only do we want our clothing to be "dance-proof," which means we can raise our arms up comfortably without causing havoc at our waistlines or hemlines, but we don't want to look like "mutton dressed as lamb" or worse, tarts.

And for you guys out there, please leave your Carlos Gardel drag at home; no fedoras, no white scarves, and, sorry, unless you're dancing canyengue or swing, no black and white shoes. We can't even talk about red, blue, or golden glitter shoes so close to dinnertime.
 Elegance is the goal--in our appearance and in our dancing.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this!! I'm traveling to Buenos Aires in early October and staying in Recoleta at the Alvear Palace.I've been searching the web trying to find out what to wear while I'm there, especially for the tango lessons we're taking.

tangocherie said...

Hola Wicked!
Glad you found this post helpful. For lessons, you can wear anything cool and comfortable plus your tango shoes.
Please don't hesitate to contact me if we can be of help while you are here.
Un abrazo tanguero,

tangocherie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Thanks for your writing.

Tango Wear

I know there are a lot of options for tango clothing from custom made on-of-a-kind, to generic off the rack dress that could be worn for tango. I would like to share with you and your community the clothing available at Dahlal Internationale, located in St Louis, Missouri. The company has been prviding quality clothing and accessories for over 25 years.
Dahlal is a Middle Eastern Dancer/Instructor/Performer hooked on Tango. She has added to her Middle Eastern line with a variety of tango wear available through her website:
There is a tango wear tab:
Some of the clothes are designed by her firm and some are from outside designers. There is a variety of clothing from workshop, to performance. We are still working on getting more items posted, but there are plenty to select from right now.
The future will include a dedicated website and several different shoe manufactures from Argentina.

I just wanted you to know.

From St. louis

Tom Blair said...

Love the dresses you show for the women. All tangueras are beautiful.