The flamenco dress is more than just a regional costume. Worn by dancers in Spain and all over the world the dress conjures up an exotic Andalusian mystique. And, unlike other regional costumes, the style of the dress changes year after year, just like a fashion garment.
The dress has surprisingly humble origins. It was originally worn by the wives of Andalusian stock breeders for the annual Feria de Abril festival in April at Prado de San Sebastian in Seville. The festival gradually developed into a social occasion and by the early 1920s attracted Seville’s high society in addition to farmers and their wives. At the same time, the flamenco dance style was developing into an artform and dancers were beginning to perform professionally. The dancers adopted the dress, embellishing it with rich fabrics or accessories and making it an integral part of their dance.
A typical flamenco dress has just two essential parts, a tailored bodice and a flounced skirt, which can be varied, according to the fashion trends of the moment. New trends can be viewed every year at Simof, the International Flamenca Fashion Show, held every February in Seville.
In recent years flamenco fashion started to become its own industry, with a revenue of about €130 million per year. Haute couture has also been inspired by flamenco, as shown by some of John Galliano’s designs made while he was working for Dior, and by Giorgio Armani who designed the costumes worn by famous flamenco dancer Joaquín Cortés and his dance company.
Andalusian designer Vicky Martín Berrocal is arguably the world’s leading authority on flamenco dresses. Producing collections of gowns and wedding dresses inspired by flamenco culture she works full time in her studio in Seville. Combining her native roots with a natural passion and boundless energy she produces incredibly elegant and innovative designs that have been worn by celebrities all over the world.
You have recently collaborated with ‘Violeta by Mango,’ as well as other brands such as the Spanish ‘Nocilla,’ and also write your own blog. Where do you find the time to do everything?
VMB: You’ll find time to do something if you are passionate about it. Designing is my passion. I always organise my agenda so I can spend two days a week at my workshop in Seville. People say, “inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” I truly believe in this.
What inspired you to become a flamenco dress designer?
VMB: The flamenco is one of the most alluring and feminine of all types of dresses. I have beautiful memories of my mother wearing them when I was a child. My brand, Vicky Martin Berrocal, has grown a lot in recent years. We began just designing flamenco dresses and today we create wedding dresses, bags, and stationery products.
What is your source of inspiration when designing?
VMB: The women’s body. I like the typical Spanish woman’s body which is very curvy and feminine.
What flamenco fashion designers have inspired you?
VMB: The greatest flamenco dress designer of all was ‘El Salalo.’ He dressed the top flamenco artists such as Lola Flores with majestic organza gowns. I admire him with affection as he personally sewed my First Communion dress.
What makes a beautiful flamenco dress?
VMB: It should have a beautiful neckline, big flounces and of course impeccable dressmaking. The dress has to feel like a second skin to the woman wearing it. But most important of all, she has to feel really beautiful.
What are the colours of the Seville April Fair?
VMB: Polka dots are a hallmark of flamenco fashion. Vibrant colours are fundamental: I particularly like red and bougainvillea, but I also like to use more unusual colours such as nude or sandy tones.