My Most Unusual Purchase: an Authentic Flamenco Dress

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When traveling, I like to try to find unusual or unique souvenirs.   One of my most memorable is the Flamenco Dress, (technically a Sevillianas Dress) that I purchased in Cartagena, Spain.

I had been taking a Flamenco dance class for about 5 years back home in AZ.  We were always ordering, making, or buying costumes for our group numbers.  Our class went to competition every year, and I had been thinking about performing a Flamenco solo number in the competition.   However, I didn’t have a suitable solo performance dress, which meant either re-purposing one of our group costumes for a solo, or borrowing one from the teacher.   I was hoping to possibly get a dress while we were in Spain, but I knew that the kind of dress I really wanted was probably about $600 in the boutique stores, which was really way over budget for something like that.

Our ship, the Celebrity Solstice arrived in Cartagena to beautiful weather and a spectacular coast line.   Since, our kids wanted to stay on board in the morning to participate in the kids program activities, just my husband and I ventured into town.   With the ship docked at the marina right in town, we just wandered off the ship and looked for the most promising area to explore.   Along the way we enjoyed seeing the lovely ornate Spanish architecture that gave the town a special charm   We found the main pedestrian shopping street right off the water front Plaza de los Héroes de Cavite.  I found a Flamenco inspired kitchen apron for my dance teacher and good quality castanets in a touristy gift shop.  Reasonably priced clothing shops, department stores and little cafes lined the narrow cobblestone street.    We walked nearly to the end of the street and then decided to veer off to the right to see what was down that way.  About a block or two off the main street we decided that we were no longer in the main shopping area and decided to head back.  We took a side street parallel to the main street and then headed back towards it on a perpendicular street.

As we headed down that street, we saw a store with all kinds of Sevillians Flamenco dresses hanging in on the doors and windows outside the store.   A Sevillians style dress typically has a dropped waist  and layers of ruffles in the skirt and the sleeves.   The ruffled skirts sometimes start at the hips and in sleeker styles start just above the knees.  Typically they are made from bright polka-dot or floral fabric and coordinating trim on each of the ruffles.   Spanish women continue to wear this historic dress for dance performances and when attending  festivals like the Feria in Seville.

Unlike tourist shops we had seen in other towns, this shop had both children and adult dresses and no two were alike.  The shop carried a variety of clothing, and a quick glance around told me that this must be a resale shop, kind of a “Goodwill” of Spain, though maybe a business rather than a charity.  In my horribly limited Spanish, I told the store proprietor that I would like to try some of the dresses on and asked how much.  The shop keeper  was glad to help me and told me the price of the dresses, which I didn’t quite get, but my husband understood.   The first couple of dresses were a little too small, so one of the guys that worked in the store went to the back and brought out several more dresses for me to try-on.   I found two that fit, but was still worried about the price, since I hadn’t quite understood what the store owner had told me.   My husband still encouraged me to select from the two dresses that fit.  When I decided on the black and orange floral dress, I again requested the price from the store owner.   He said what sounded like “veinte”, which is 20 in Spanish, and that just was not registering with me as a possibility of the price of the dress.   Seeing the obvious confusion on my face, he then pulled a 20 Euro bill from his pocket and showed it to me with the word “veinte”.  Well that was certainly the right price as 20 Euros was about $30 US.   I gladly paid 20 Euros and headed back the ship.

As we got closer to ship I began to realize that, although I was thrilled with my purchase, the new dress might take up half of a suitcase, space which we didn’t have.   We decided that once we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale we would seek out a FedEx Kinkos shop and ship the dress back home from there.   When packing our suitcases on the last day of the cruise, we packed the dress, some heavy coats, and a vase we had won at the Hot Glass Show give-away in a carry off bag.  Once we got into our hotel for our overnight in Ft. Lauderdale, I had the shuttle driver take me to the FedEx Kinkos office.   I packed up all our extraneous items and shipped them ground back home to Arizona.

Now fast forward to the next Summer.   I finally got to wear the dress for the purpose for which I bought it, the annual dance competition in Anaheim California.   I had worn it on a whim to a New Years Eve party where the host had told me to “wear whatever you want, there is no particular dress code” and to a couple of dance studio local performances, but wearing the dress for my competition Flamenco solo was the moment for which I had been waiting.   The addition of accessories including oversize earrings and, for my hair, a Spanish comb and white flowers, completed the look.   I walked out onto the stage just hoping I could get all the choreography and footwork just right.   I also knew that even if I didn’t get everything perfect, I at least looked good in my authentic dress.  I was thrilled when they announced my scores as I had earned a Platinum first place in the adult folkloric category.

That dress is definitely the most memorable, unusual, authentic and functional souvenir I have picked up in all my travels.   We invite our readers to share any of their interesting and memorable shopping experiences from their past cruises.