Ask Arlene…About Tango Fashion

Hi Arlene

I have only recently started dancing tango and have noticed how elegantly many of the women dress. I would really like some tango fashion advice from you. I am female 5 ” 2, and a pear shaped size 12 and no matter what I wear I look a bit dumpy. In a class a couple of weeks ago someone mentioned that you always look really elegant AND you have an advice page for tango where we can ask about anything. What tango fashion tricks should I try ?


Gee Littleun,

I am no Fashionista, but I do try to look my best when I go out.  At my age, the trick is to avoid looking like mutton dressed as lamb.

The key to looking good is to feel good in your clothes.  It doesn’t matter what size you are as long as the clothes fit well and flatter the parts they should.  If you are worried about what style suits you, I can recommend going on the Littlewoods website.  Trinny and Susannah have their body shape advisor section there and once you work out your shape you can see what style of clothes would suit. There are a range of undergarments available that can hide and hoik those unsightly bulges if necessary.

As you are a petite lady, I would only recommend that you find dresses or skirts that are not too long so your heels don’t get caught up in them if you ever do a high voleo.  Anything in black is always good and make sure you can move comfortably in your clothes.  Apart from that, here is some general advice that I have touched on in my Personal Hygiene post:

Fabric:  Natural fibres are best as they tend to breathe better, but it isn’t always possible to find them.  For the ladies, I find tops with a mix of cotton and lycra work well as they keep their shape and tend to look flattering.  I have been advised by a few men that the feel of sequins and beads are a real turn off.  Also when women wear a dress or top that has a couple of layers such as lace on a silky fabric, it can be a bit too slippery and the men don’t get a good enough hold.  Silk is out for men and women as it soaks up too much sweat and though initially it feels nice, it can be a bit too slippery and icky after awhile.  The rule on fabric is to work out how it will feel to the other person in hold.  I really love the feel of a freshly laundered and ironed cotton shirt on a man.

Style – Women:  Although style is really a matter of personal taste, most ladies like to dress up a bit when they go out, especially on the weekends.  I try and make an effort not to look too slutty when I go out and enhance my best bits.  If you have great boobs, make them a feature.  Just make sure they are well contained and won’t pop out at every opportunity.  If you have great legs, fine.  Some ladies like to work on the less is more scenario and like to show off everything.  Less isn’t more, it is just distracting.  The men might like it, but the women might think differently.  If you have ever seen a Tango show or exhibition, the ladies don’t wear short skirts that show off their whatsits, they tend to wear a longer skirt with a nice slit up the side.   That is far more elegant and sexy.  Showing a little bit of flesh is more interesting that showing all of it, and if it isn’t firm keep it under wraps.  Otherwise, where is the mystery?   I have been told by some men that a backless top or dress can be a bit offputting, especially when we get hot and sweaty.  Whatever style of clothing you go for, just make sure you can move comfortably in your clothes and that they are clean.

Style – Men:  My personal preference for men is a crisp, clean, cotton shirt.  I just love the feel of it and you really can’t go wrong with it when teamed with a pair of jeans or dress slacks/trousers.   Some men also like to wear a suit and some men go for T-shirts and baggy trousers.  Whatever you wear, just make sure it is clean and smells fresh.

That’s it from me.

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mr Walker
    Mar 27, 2009 @ 13:22:41

    Hi Arlene

    You always look great.and act very you always look like you are having a great time.
    Now there are some followers who don’t dress shall say in a covered up manner…And they do get lots of dances…But are they getting dances because they are good dancers or because they are hardly dressed?And the comment about the backless dress or top is true. If you dance close embrace some moves require you to open embrace then you worry about over reaching when you close…and so would also be interesting to hear what woman think about how the men dress……

  2. tangobitch
    Mar 27, 2009 @ 19:47:07

    I don’t really mind how men dress as long as they’re clean and not wearing the same dress as me – that’s a real bummer!

  3. Johanna
    Mar 27, 2009 @ 21:22:05

    Excellent advice, Arlene. And may I add that any garment that “wraps” has an equal opportunity to unwrap.

    Also, I’d like to direct your attention to a post on Tangri-lá… :

  4. El Chupacabra
    Mar 28, 2009 @ 00:44:04

    really gets my goat – men in combats and women in harem pants. even worse – track suit bottoms and trainers. arggh! and silly soft caps worn backwards or sideways …

  5. jantango
    Mar 28, 2009 @ 12:43:49

    The BBC style program in the UK with two female hosts who help women put together a wardrobe would help her out. One program showed different body types (pear, etc) and what clothing works the best. In BsAs it’s called “No lo pongas”.

  6. Arlene
    Mar 28, 2009 @ 15:55:41

    Hi Jan,

    That was who I was referring to. Click on the link for Littlewoods and you will see them.

  7. Golondrina
    Mar 28, 2009 @ 19:18:52

    Hi Arlene,
    On a linked matter. I was reading in another blog (24tango –I think) about a ‘theory’ at the milongas that the dramatic nature/sparklyness/heel height of a tanguera’s shoes was supposed to be directly related to her dancing ability. This had caused a few snide remarks at the milongas about beginner dancers who had turned up with ‘flashy’ shoes and then failed to live up to expectations. Do you think there is any truth in this?

  8. Arlene
    Mar 28, 2009 @ 19:31:28

    Dear Golondrina,

    I am opinionated out about the shoe situation. But I am sure there are a few others that have some ideas on this. I frankly haven’t thought about it and really don’t want to go there.

    And VOR, I will not post a comment from you about practice shoes! So keep schtum.

  9. Voice of Reason
    Mar 28, 2009 @ 19:53:50

    Dear Arlene

    You know I only put my reasonable opinion in when this is a clearly obvious and reasonable thing to do. We all have our own opinions. P.s. Was it me with the cheese and onion crisps? I took no offence if it was. Perhaps I’ll see you out later.


  10. Arlene
    Mar 28, 2009 @ 20:49:42


    It wasn’t you!

  11. Tango Totty
    Mar 28, 2009 @ 21:13:13

    Hi Littlun

    Taboo body parts that should DEFINATELY NOT be on display at the milongas:

    1. Jelly Belly,
    2. Muffin top
    3. Thunder Thighs
    4. Bingo Wings
    5. Back Fat
    6. Cankles ESPECIALLY when encased in sparkley 4 inchers!!


  12. TangoLobo
    Mar 28, 2009 @ 22:51:05

    Perhaps milongas could differentiate themselves by imposing a dress code. Those who want to wear T-shirts or trainers can go to some milongas, leaving those who prefer a more classical atmosphere to others.

  13. Tango Totty
    Mar 29, 2009 @ 01:13:37

    Sorry – my previous post was bit nasty. I have bingo wings and a muffin top and lots of back fat and really feel low with it and sometimes I take it out on others who do too.

    Tango is a social dance for ordinary people. That’s what’s so great about it – you don’t have to be a pencil thin acrobat.

  14. Voice of Reason
    Mar 29, 2009 @ 01:17:46

    Dear Lobo

    I hope Arlene will indulge my comments as I feel it is relevant to your point made.

    I am with you brother. Which camp do you put yourself in? Do you think practice shoes have any place at these milongas. Do you prefer trainers or practce shoes on a woman? Which Milonga’s would you have to dress up for? I do like to see a woman in a nice commie even if she can’t dance. However, safety is always a big concern of mine , I do hope this helps you gain support for your cause,

    Peace out.


  15. TangoLobo
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 00:00:00

    I definitely prefer a classical atmosphere. Wine glass over beer glass. Shoes over trainers. Trousers over tracksuit. Suit over t-shirt.

    But hey – its the 21st century and I guess the kids want some place to play too.

  16. Voice of Reason
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 00:17:01

    Hi Totty

    I don’t believe you would look like that at all. I would imagine you have a well toned body with near perfect BMI in the 18-25 range. I also imagine you have a nice dancers figure.
    By the way what is muffin top? Is it something I would like? Where would you wear it on your body?

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