|Tango dress shop window|
A sign on the hall wall at the Nueve Chique milonga stipulates "Casual elegant". God knows what you would have to wear to be deemed unfit to enter.
Older men are the best turned out. Dark suits, and crisp shirts and ties are common. Their hair is beautifully groomed, and they all smell delicious. The younger ones dress more casually. There's the old gentleman at El Aranque in yellow satin trousers and gold shoes, but male flamboyance is a rarity. Menswear tends to leave less freedom for error than women's wear. By contrast, you can spot all kinds of sartorial misjudgments on the part of the women. Most of it is to do with not knowing when to stop. "Less is more" seems not to be a Porteno motto. The women's milonga dress code has more to do with being seen to have made an effort than with the actual effect of that effort, and its latitude is vast. In one room you can spot satin, sequins, lace and denim; micro skirts and long handkerchief hems; harem pants and jeans; bustiers and teeshirts; fishnets, ankle socks and bare brown legs. By and large, the locals dress up. It's the tourists who tend to take to the floor in trainers and those wretched zip-them-off-at-the-knees-and-call-them-shorts trousers. A bunch of Brits who keep turning up at the same milongas as us dress in the fashion equivalent of unappetising wholemeal bread.
No question my mother (a Brit to the core) would have turned up her nose at all tango wear, deeming it, regardless of its cost, "cheap tat". We're rather more accepting of the vamp code, but even so we've seen some gobsmacking sights. The most excruciating so far has been a nice-looking older woman who had mistaken opaque tights for leggings. When she danced, her top didn't cover her bottom, thus revealing through the stretched nylon a g-string and two pale buttocks. You could only look away, and hope that sooner or later a friend would clue her in.