I was never a princess-y little girl.
By a certain age, I had developed an incurable aversion to anything pink or frilly. I loved to play dress-up, but more along the lines of wearing one of my mom’s old bridesmaid dresses (obviously not one of her favorites) and choreographing dances to Gloria Estefan songs; it was less princess than it was drag queen.
In high school, while dress shopping for school dances, I was rarely drawn to anything flamboyant, sparkly or stuffed with tulle. With the exception of my senior prom, I predictably chose sleek, straight designs for every homecoming, turnabout and prom.
I should mention that senior prom was a pretty big exception. My Purple People Eater dress was so voluminous that if I tried to sit down, the skirt would stay in place and I would end up tucked inside of it, like some kind of glitter-soaked Russian doll.
Similar to that lady from “The Nutcracker” with all the kids that come running out from beneath her skirt:
Anyways, you get the point: Frilly ain’t my style. On the same vein, I can’t say I’ve ever visualized my dream wedding. Some girls have an idea of their perfect wedding dresses since they’re 5 years old; others already have the dress picked out and saved to their Internet bookmarks. No boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance? No problem!
I’ve always thought that the girls who mope around envisioning their perfect dresses for any occasion were borderline deranged. Get out of princess land already and join the rest of us, already.
And although I’ve never spent an inordinate amount of time clicking through bridal websites or secretly scheming a trip to Kleinfeld, I have to be honest: I’ve been lusting after designs for my Feria de Abril dress for at least a year now.
I first got to know the Feria when I studied abroad. I had a tumultuous relationship with it—I think I overdosed on the combination of dry sherry and 7-Up—but other than that, I came to the general conclusion that ohmygodFeriaisthegreatest.
But what is Feria? To quote myself (not tacky): “Feria is a flamenco-dress festival slash state fair slash week-long party.”
Yeah, that’s a cheap description, but one that will suffice for now. Because this post doesn’t really have anything to do with the Feria itself; no, no no, siree. This post is all about the dress: the traje de flamenca (flamenco dress), or traje de gitana (gypsy dress) if we want to get politically incorrect up in here.
The whole point of Feria is to go to the fairgrounds wearing a badass traje de flamenca.
Actually, that might not be the whole point, but it’s the main point, for me at least.
So you’ve got your dress: chances are it weighs 1,000 pounds. If it doesn’t, it’s probably not a good dress. And you’ve got your complemenetos, or accessories, which might include a shawl and a flower on the side of your head that looks like it grew from steroid-enhanced soil (if it had been a real flower).
Then you’ve got your novelty-size earrings and the plastic comb (peineta) that goes atop your bun or pony tail. The whole ensemble is so ostentatious, so uncomfortable, so absurd… it’s like a little girl’s princess dream mashed up with every possible stereotype about Spain mashed up with a drag show (I really like drag, have you noticed?). I can’t think of anything not to love.
When I went to Feria in 2010, I borrowed a skirt from my friend Elisa. I didn’t have my own dress, and I wasn’t going to invest in one—they’re expensive (300€ is average, but I’d expect to pay more). I knew I wanted my own dress when I came back this year, so ever since I finalized my plans to live in Seville, I’ve been pining after my perfect traje (definitely mid-length sleeves with lots of volume, and purple; it has to be purple).
But when I went to try on dresses in September (overzealous? Maybe; Feria isn’t until the end of April), I realized that my body shape was working against me. I’m at least several inches taller than the average woman in the U.S., and in Spain, the difference is even more pronounced. No dress would be long enough, and by the time I paid for alterations, I could end up spending twice as much as the sticker price. And you know what they say: When life gives you an abnormally tall frame, make your own abnormally long Feria dress.
So I’m having one made, and I could not be more thrilled. Elisa bought me a tela (fabric) on sale back in July that she thought I would like, and she guessed well; I keep the tela sample in my wallet and whip it out whenever Feria comes up in conversation, like I’m showing off my kid’s school portrait.
Last night I was up until 3 a.m. clicking through Google image results for “traje de flamenca.” This is one style I’m considering—Elisa thinks I should do a low-cut back but I’m undecided:
A part of me wants to have 9,000,99999 volantes—the layers at the bottom of the dress—but another part of me thinks maybe I should only ask for as many volantes as I can have while still being able to walk. Though really, this is no time for practical or rational thinking. Frills! Feathers! Glitter! Rainbows!!! Lisa Frank!!!!!! And now it’s starting to sound like an acid trip.
So I wonder, is this the universe’s way of evening out the score? Maybe I wasn’t a princess-y little girl, and maybe I’ve never commissioned a sketch of my dream wedding dress, but I am admittedly a little psycho over the traje de flamenca. And at a time like this, I should be worrying about more pragmatic and pressing matters, like how many turrones I can fit in my suitcase when I go home at Christmas.