It can be hard to pin down the fashion trends from Latin America, since they typically involve a wide range of influences. Latin American fashion draws from Africa, indigenous Mayan, Inca, and Aztec traditions, and Spanish influences. This intermingling has created a diverse assortment of colors, textures and silhouettes. When people think of Latin American fashion, they usually imagine distinctive traditional outfits such the gaucho (Argentina), the poncho (Mexico), the Charro costume worn by mariachi players (Mexico), the Rumba dress (Cuba), the chamanto (Chile), the rebozo (Costa Rica), the bright red pollera colora (Colombia), the trenchilla costume (Nicaragua) or the traje de flamenca (the flamenco dress, Spain).
Contemporary Latin American trends draw inspiration from these traditional styles while borrowing from American and European trends. Even if they are combined with Euro-American clothing styles, you can still discern the traditional influences if you look closely enough. Some local traditions (e.g. feathers and headdresses) may be less commonly worn today, but others have demonstrated an enduring appeal. Here are some of the characteristics of Latin American fashion that continue to appeal to fashionistas
across the world:
Many of the iconic clothing styles we associate with Latin American fashion were intended for the dancefloor. In general, female salsa, mambo, rumba, and tango dancers often wore outfits with eye-catchingly vibrant colors. A uniform hue of bright red is a popular visual signifier for passion, but some costumes opt for more muted colors (black or white) with a ring of color (usually around the flares or ruffles).
The emphasis on dancing also led to custom flared dresses and skirts that can whip up a colorful tornado on the dance floor. Few outfits can match the ruffle train on a flamenco dress, but more contemporary designs still pay homage to traditional dance costumes by making (less dramatic) ruffle sleeves and ruffle skirts.
Each region of Latin America has a unique legacy of symbols, colors, and patterns that has been handed down from generations of weavers.The traditions of Peru, Bolivia, Panama, Guatemala, and Mexico are usually more easily found since these countries tend to dominate the textile industry in the region. From dresses to skirts to wool caps to capes, blouses, backpacks, purses, cushions, tablecloths, hair ribbons, blankets, purses, placemats, and scarves, handwoven fabrics represent generations of artistry and tradition in most Latin American homes.
In the past, a woman’s weaving skills were an important factor that determined her attractiveness as a bride to potential suitors. The vibrant textiles she made for her family played an important role in traditional ceremonies, as well as an indicator of her family’s wealth and status. Modern clothing items may not rely on the same practice of communal weaving, but they often replicate similar floral and geometric designs.
Traditional Latin American fashion invests significant effort and craft into the embroidery, patterns and colors of each outfit, but they were also designed for movement (whether on the dancefloor or otherwise) in a relatively hot climate. This fluidity of movement makes Latin American inspired silhouettes and fabrics suitable for a bohemian look, beachwear, and street style. Looking good should never have to come at the expense of feeling comfortable.