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.

Ask Arlene…What makes a good dancer?

Hi Arlene,

On a different subject; who are the best male dancers around?  Are they all South American or do some of the Limey’s get a look in?  What makes a good lead apart from the hygiene issues and attractiveness?  In short is there really a market for the less aesthetically blessed?  I am afflicted with a bald patch and I am over forty.  Also my six pack has now become a party pack.  Is there any hope for me in tango?


Dear Tanguero,

It is generally known that the Latin men are more forward in there attention (intention?) to women and that Englishmen are a bit more reserved.  However, with some careful thought and consideration, I do not see why the English male ‘couldn’t get a look in’ as you say.

When I am asked what the difference is between dancing with an Englishman and the Latins (Spanish, Italian, South American) I say:  “My feeling is that when an Englishman holds a woman in his arms, he is usually a bit stiff and will hold the woman a little bit away from him or in an open embrace.  I am thinking that he is thinking, “I have a woman in my arms!  Oh my goodness, what do I do with her?! – When a Latin man holds a woman in his arms, he holds her close, in a firm and protective embrace.  I am thinking that he is thinking, “Ah, I have a woman in my arms!  What shall I do with her?  Hmm!”

When it comes to dancing, I can assure you that looks aren’t everything – if that were so, and people only danced with each other because they found the other attractive, the dance floor would be practically empty or the women would only be dancing with each other.  Look at all of those old Milongueros one hears about.  Most of them are past middle age with paunches and bald patches, yet they still are dancing with lovely ladies.  Part of it might be because they are good dancers, but any woman with self-respect wouldn’t dance with a man if he wasn’t respectful and considerate, regardless of how good a dancer he was.

Which brings us to another question – is it only a matter of technique that makes someone a good dancer?  There is a man that I love to dance with that doesn’t have the best technique, but he has great musicality, he smells great, and when he is dancing with me – he is dancing with me.  He isn’t English or Latin.  I have danced with a few Englishmen who are skilled dancers, hold me nicely, and I felt that they were dancing with me.  I have recently danced with an Argentinean – skilled and clean smelling as he was, and although the dancing was very nice, I still felt there was something lacking as I didn’t feel he was really with me.  For me, the feeling between two people on the dance floor is the most important thing.  I would rather dance with a beginner who was charming, clean and had some musicality, than with someone who was skilled, clean and had the personality of a wet dishrag.

I have been told by a number of men that dancing Tango is all about the woman.  It is the leader’s responsibility to protect the woman.  To make her feel comfortable he must dance at her level and slowly bring her up to see what she can do.  By doing that she can relax and not worry about what is going to be asked of her. He takes his time with her and doesn’t rush her.  It is his responsibility to make her look good – and when she looks good, he looks good.  When he gives to her in this way, she is happy to give back, and then two can become one, on the dance floor.  Well, that certainly works for me!

A very good English friend of mine, not the handsomest of gentleman, has a really beautiful and intelligent wife and people often wonder how he ever managed to be with someone so lovely.  Well, he is the most charming man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  He once said to me, “Arlene, I know I am an ugly man, but I just love and adore women.”  After being in his company for a while, one forgets about his looks as he is so charming, intelligent, witty, and the sweetest of men.  At dinner parties, all of the women want to sit next to him and the men really like him as he is just a  really nice guy.  You always feel good being in his company.

So, in answer to who the best male dancers are, I think they are the ones that have musicality, they don’t try to be too tricky with their moves, are clean and smell good, are really considerate, sweet and engage with their dance partner.

As for there being any hope for you in Tango, of course there is!  Just trade that bald patch into a sign of virility, the party pack into something comfortable and cuddly, that over 40 bit into experience and maturity, and use that English charm we hear so much about but see very little of these days, and you will be dancing away in no time!

Happy Dancing!


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