When I first started to dance tango I had no idea at all about the complex universe that it meant: not only the dance, but also the feelings, the addiction, the shoes, the clothes, the partners, the relationships, the life…. Each aspect means some sort of a touch, either for the soul, or for the mind, or for the skin, or for … you name it!
Because I know so little about tango wear, but I came to find it very important, I interviewed my favourite creator of tango clothes (whom I can proudly call a very good friend of mine): Nana, from Romania. You can find her collections, as well as her articles and work in and for tango on her blog: LaSastresa.
I can only say her creations were the first tango clothes I ever bought. She really talked some sense into me about the subject : ) I still am her number one fan, cause she has imagination, she has the drive, she offers the quality and her clothes really make a memorable touch on the skin!
Oh, and the “overlapped skirt, having front folds, sort of mauve color” that she talks about in the interview, her very first sell, it belongs to me! I am proud of that, Nana, so since you didn’t give names.. let me say it ; )
And in the front cover photo Ellinor Westrup, Ney Melo’s partner, is also wearing tango clothes signed LaSastresa, by Nana. (Thank you Elinor for the picture!)
Take your time and read it all, cause it contains great imagery from the Tango Universe. Enjoy!
How did you choose tango? (I hope you won’t answer me: “I didn’t choose tango! Tango chose me!”… :)))) )
Nana: Actually, if I look back, I discovered tango being dragged to, not willingly but forced, I believe that “Tango chose me”.
I didn’t want tango, I didn’t need tango, I didn’t like the tango I knew about, I had other things to do at that time; I went there to accompany a friend who wanted tango, and I went there to get rid of her insistences… we went all (on the classes of ball-room dancing, the teacher announced us that on Sunday we all had to go, the whole class, to tango. I said: Good! You go!! :)) some of them, lost themselves on the way … me, who said NO, I stayed till today :))
When and why you began sewing tango clothes?
Nana: During the first months of tango classes, when I used to go weekly to milongas, I started to look for clothes suitable to tango, obviously you could not find anything on the market to comply to the standard image, we all have in mind at the beginning, that picture with net silk stockings and a rose between teeth, and as a consequence I started to make myself a proper suit.
I had some experience, expertise, as I had made a flannelette pyjamas to my toy monkey Kity, when I was five years old, I had made corrugated paper skirts for my neighbours on the occasion of improvised dance shows in the block yard, when I was seven or eight years old, I had tailored for me and my girl friends hoop skirts, when I was twelve, while in high school I tailored myself suits for Vox Maris disco; the prom dress for the end of high school ball had been my own design, my creation, and work, while in college I designed and tailored, for me and my college mates, skirts, cloth trousers, chemises, blouses, short cloth coats, sacks and thick cloth coats, I even tailored a man lounge coat with tartar collar. When I started my job, all my costumes, suits of clothes, skirts, overcoats, blouses, all were tailored by myself. All my dresses for weddings and other parties were made by myself.
All of the items mentioned above, were made under the critical and severe eye of my father (expert in TV scenography and costumes) who used to show me – in the mauve book of my childhood “Histoire du Costume” by Henny Harald Hansen, traduit de danais par Jaqueline Puissant editure Flammarion 26 Rue Racine, Paris – how the fashion has been developing, how and what was in fashion and style, which were the proportions, the specific, the details, the character of the time, linked to the history of the time, ancient era, the Middle Age, rococo, renaissance, romanticism, classic era, the years1900, les annes folles, between the two World Wars period, postwar period, Hollywood fashion). He supervised the entire process, against his will, I bothered and exasperated him with every each fitting, I asked for his opinion, and he always said: “raise upper that waist line, as now it makes short legs”, or “shorten that hem by two fingers ” (at the end, when everything was finished!), or “put something parpaliu (that is something red) to cheer it up” :)) , or “look here, do something, attach a zbenghi (sort of accessory) to it, otherwise it has no sense” …!?!?! I was exasperated by his requirements, but I did nothing without his opinion. My mother used to soothe me: “leave it this way, it is ok, it is very beautiful as it is!”. It was a process in which all the family was involved :))
Why did I tailor myself? First of all because I liked the costumes, because my mother used to make me my clothes I wore when I was a child, hers too, because this was “the pattern” at home, and then because I have never found in shops anything my size to value my body to its true value; the post-communist stuffs and cut were dreadful, didn’t fit the body at all, the cut was “socialist”, using too little fabric, giving the impression of misery and petty, meanness, stingy clothes, and the prints were even worse.
Coming back to the question, I had some expertise, but for tango, to make clothes was a challenge. It was something else, it needed “research” for “another costume”. I made it. I wore it. I was noticed, both by leaders and the followers. The girls asked me where from, what and how……and if I can make for them too : D And so everything started. It took me some time till I tailored the first skirt to be worn by someone else at milonga.. I remember it, it was an overlapped skirt, having front folds, sort of mauve color. I know who has it, shall we give names? :))
It was very difficult to give away the first skirts, I made them as for myself. It was difficult to part from them. But in time I succeeded to learn to do it. Even now I have pieces which I want to be still with some persons dear to me. Thus I am sure I could see them again, from time to time, it is not as if I will never see them again.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Nana: Aaaammmm, difficult question, I didn’t expect it!
Inspiration is everywhere, even in the office… from the clothes my job fellows are wearing, for example.
I use to watch tango shows, but lately they are no longer surprising and attracting, to me.
Sometime before, I used to imagine something and try to make it real, the product of my imagination, almost impossible, because I didn’t find to buy on the market the print I had in mind… and it was disappointing… it didn’t come out what I was dreaming of.
Then I made my life easier, and I took it conversely.
When I found a superb piece of silk, mauve-lilas, out of which a year and a half I didn’t know how do I want it to look like, in the end, and then, suddenly, I knew how I want it to be.
That was an important moment.. It had to wait a year and a half, but it was worth it. Because the fabric had to be exploited; it floated on the air with the water waves and felt on skin in a miraculous way. But it had to be interesting as well, to be opened, without cutting it bluntly… to reveal the legs, for the dance, to let free the movement and in the same time to stay on the body as well, without going away in the embrace.
And then, the mistake. Yes, the finest, outstanding and interesting things came out by mistake, because I intended to do something, it didn’t work, it didn’t come out what I desired, and I had to fix it, somehow. To please me, first of all, using artifices, trials, step by step, new things were born, I have never dreamt about, while cutting the fabric initially.
The truth is that the textures, the fabrics and the colors inspire me. When you find a print most fine and you have to do something with it, to show the best of it, and it somehow obliges you, and it must be in the tango zone, to have a tail, or diagonal cut, or with many tails, or God knows how. Well, there is the trouble, and the finest part of it.
In your view, what’s the relationship between a (tango) dancer and her (or his) clothes?
Nana: I believe that the clothes represent yourself, and I know for sure that everyone has his or her favourite shirt, a favourite dress, a favourite skirt, a favourite shoe, everyone with his own superstitions and fetish. But the clothes speak about the respective person, too. The choice, even unconsciously, reflects the state of mind and the personality. The colors have a great impact and they are relevant in tango. You can infer how a lady is dancing by the way she is dressed up. Or a man. If she wears a red dress it is very likely that she is very controlled, composed, sure on herself and to be hard to get, to have a very personal way of dancing, who wants to be in the center of everyone’s attention, and to be seen, to be exposed.
If a person wears vivid pink colours, the respective person may be very happy, in that moment! If a person wears something black, all over, from had to toes, that person might be either a beginner and/or a shy one, or doesn’t want to be approached too much, or to be more introspective type during the dance… if the person wears something brown she/he might be very friendly or searching for friendship, and playful in dancing… if she wears lace… ; ) Who knows? They are messages about the respective person transmitted consciously or unconsciously to the audience by the clothes they wear.
What’s your secret in manufacturing tango clothes? : )
Nana: Abnegation. Commitment. Soul, because I do it with all my heart. Attention for details and finishing. Added value. I don’t like to mix lines and colors. A certain print requires, ask for a certain cut, in my opinion. From a piece of fabric I try to value either the print itself, or the flow, or the touch, or the color, and to obtain the vision, and “special effects” inside and outside a person. A flower in its specific place, a drawing which reveals itself only when the folds open themselves in a giros, a sexy transparency, an unforeseeable cut let you see something, but never too much. Seduction. The clothes must cover gently the necessary, as much as to make you wanting to see more:) to catch the eyes, against your will. This is my secret, I think.
How do you feel when you see tangueras wearing your creations?
Nana: Hypnotised. I don’t know why! They catch my eyes, and I can watch the respective person dancing during a whole tanda :)) And I’m in full astonishment how beautifully it looks. :)) And I’m glad to see again things. Sometimes I’m fascinated of how nice is a certain thing on someone! And I say Wow! I have never thought it might look so good!! I have to be honest, I like to watch the girls dancing and wearing something made by myself. I feel that if they wear those clothes, they really like them :)) And sometimes I feel the ladies look more feminine.
How should clothes feel against the skin in tango?
Nana: First of all I think tango is a state of mind. The same way an actor entering a role, the suit, the scenery are factors helping him to go into his character, to fill the role the same way a tanguero/ tanguera, preparing for milonga, they prepare to enter this state of mind of tango. The clothes, the accessories, the shoes, the perfume, the bow tie, the suspenders, the shirt, all of them help you to get into the Tango feeling. The clothes, how you see them, and especially how they feel on your skin make you feel in a certain way, and thus, from a Cinderella washing dishes in a kitchen, with a fluid dress awakening senses, you can enter a milonga proudly, feeling like a princess on the red carpet and like a queen on the dance floor. Because if you feel good, it shows from the inside and attracts. And yes, a piece of clothing can make you feel this way. You wear a skirt flowing in waters and caresses your legs, and suddenly it changes your attitude, it changes your luck : ) it changes your dance.
And I believe that the tango outfit must offer you a safe feeling; make you feel that they stay with you, they do not spin around the body, they do not go away, they do not slip down, they do not rise over your butt, you are not left naked on the dance floor.. Don’t laugh, it happened during the milonga, I saw it! :)) We’ll talk about it, some other time :))
Would you give a few tips and trick to tango dancers regarding the tango wear?
Nana: There is a certain tango style. The one that defines that you are tanguera from mother to daughter for five generations, at least. And the old dancers recognise each other, somehow, from this style of clothes. You will find this style in big festivals, in marathons. You look on the dance floor and may say, yes, this is an “old accredited” tanguera, and, yes, this is … a new tanguera, a beginner. This places you in a hierarchy, and brings you partners of a certain level. Is the same way for the leaders. A certain kind of trousers, that old fashion funny style, larger at the knees, and a slim shirt, gives me the tanguero “label”.
I cannot describe this style in words. A certain sort of skirts, dresses, trousers, tops, cuts, tails, but not the things that are now in fashion, in every day life: no baggy little skirts, bellpepper type, nor sleeves starting from the waist, you can try better flowing things, closer to the body, but giving freedom to the movements, tops that leave the back uncovered, if possible…
For the men it`s those 90s touts` trousers, wider at the knee, with tweezers at the waist in front and a slim shirt – this would be the clue to make me think that a man is a tanguero. Gentlemen, don`t try the skinny pants, so very in vogue lately. Better go with something flared, you know, larger at the bottom. Oh! And it has to be fabrics made! Not jeans. Moreover, I discovered that the kind of fabric also matters! It is really nice to feel the silky touch of a man`s trousers on your ankle… : )
I try to find a compromise between the casual clothes and the stereotype of the rose between teeth, trying to keep the initial idea, the main line, the original, but to bring it to nowadays milonga, with a fresh, refined air, far from vulgarity, in the tanguero trend.
There are 2 things I want to say in addition to this: the first one is that Nana is an international provider, so if you begin to know her creating style, you’ll be able to recognize it outside Romania, too! : )