The Andalusian region in Spain is the birthplace of the most widely recognizable traditional costume from Spain. As the Spanish culture spread across the world, particularly to North and South America, cultural symbols of Spain like flamenco dancing and bullfighting, were identified with certain Spanish clothing. Ruffled dresses and dashing embroidered jackets became symbolic of the country of Spain. While Spanish people would wear clothing that is more subdued for work, festivals, religious holidays and other celebrations called for their finest clothing.
Women’s clothing from the southern provinces of Spain was bright, bold and very feminine. Vibrant colored dresses, or trajes de faraleas, with layers of ruffles are characteristic of dresses and skirts in this region. Floral patterns and polka dots were favorite patterns for Spanish women. Bodices were tight and sleeves usually consisted of layers of ruffles. Flamenco dancers wore a stylized version of these dresses as early as the 16th century.
Most women would also wear a delicate shawl, or mantoncillo, or a more substantial shawl, or manton – both embroidered with colorful threads. To complete the outfit, Spanish women wore high decorative combs, often draping lace over the comb to act as a veil, or mantilla. Even today, modern Spanish women may don a mantilla to attend a religious service.
The traditional men’s dress of Spain reflects the style of the bandoleros, or outlaws and vaqueros, or cowboys. The high-waisted pants compliment a short jacket, or traje corto, sometimes embroidered. These were linked together by a wide, colored scarf at the waist. Men would generally wear a white ruffled shirt underneath the jacket. The bandoleros wore a red bandanna around the head, while vaqueros wore wide hats, or sombrero de alanche.
The look was embellished by bullfighters in the 17th century to include heavy embroidery and rich embellishments on the jacket and pants. Bullfighters typically wore red and gold, to symbolize blood and sand. Today, many people identify the stylish short jacket of traditional Spanish dress as a “bolero jacket.” Footwear for men was leather boots, and Spanish leather goods were considered to be some of the finest in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Children wore clothing that was the miniature versions of their parents. Girl’s dresses were also brightly colored, and formal occasions, especially religious ceremonies, called for tiny mantillas. Boys in Andalusia wore the short jackets, but the material was usually black or brown and featured less embroidery. Footwear would have been leather slippers or shoes for girls and boots for boys.