It is popularly believed that fashion is an expression of one’s identity and usually reflects society and history, as a picture of an era. In a way, it seems like Buenos Aires is still in search of its own identity. Clothing design as a university degree is only thirty years old and the outline of a national identity in the rubric has only a few decades of research. Nevertheless, it might be interesting to dive into the Argentinean woman's wardrobe and see what it says about her.
From a sociological perspective
In her book History of Argentinean fashion, first published in 2005 and updated in 2011, Susana Saulquin, a sociologist specializing in fashion, defines style as “a way to make effective our own image” and explains that it works like an identification tag, configured by the consolidation of one’s identity. She states that a person who truly knows herself, has originality and the liberty to express her values, can easily define a personal style. As a result, that person would be able to better communicate her thoughts through costume, contrary to the ones that follow massively imposed looks. Furthermore, Saulquin explains this sort of person shows harmony between the interior and exterior self, which leads to natural elegance.
The sociologist also analyzes the Argentinean woman's style. She explains that this woman’s insecurity has a cause rooted in the country's history: living in a conservative society ruled by men may lead to feeling the constant need to seek his approval. Saulquin claims that lots of women prefer not to develop their personal style for this reason: “To know oneself is to take charge of one’s own life and the choices that must be made in it”, she says.
Consequently, that insecurity is reflected in Argentinean style of the late twentieth century, as she clarifies its main aspects: the elegance, the uniform and the extremely tightly fitting garments. The elegance is described in this case as a simple harmony of different pieces, which can be achieved even if lacking style. Saulquin talks about the uniform as dress codes imposed by society, profession and fashion trends, used with the ultimate purpose of fitting in with everyone. And finally, the extreme fit is described as a weapon of seduction; tighten the silhouette to please the men.
An image scan
Sandy Cornejo is a psychologist, image consultant, and founder of C&E Imagen. She maintains that what really characterizes Argentina’s style is its simplicity. “They don’t usually overdo themselves with multiple colors, accessories and make-up. They prefer neat lines and unstructured garments. The Argentinean woman is modern: she wants to be comfortable without losing her aesthetic sense. She also favors elegance as well sexiness, but never falling into vulgarity. In addition, she pays attention to the latest fashion trends because she likes being updated”. According to her, when it comes to influences, Argentineans search European and New York runways for novelties. “In my opinion, they are progressively encouraged to innovate, inspired by the great development in clothing design in the country. We’re a model from South America in the subject”.
Apart from this, Cornejo laments that Argentineans are too critical of themselves. She describes them as too self-demanding of their appearance. “In many cases, they emphasize what they don’t like about themselves and know very little about their beauty”, she declares.
Nonetheless, Cornejo emphasizes that they know what they don’t like and ask for help when needed. However, they don’t take advice blindly. They analyze it and then, if it feels right, they follow it. She says, “This is actually great for an image consultant because they agree with you after having examined your piece of advice critically and not by mere obedience. This means that they will hold on to it over time”.
Choices of wardrobe
Like most women in the world, some Argentineans search for their own style while others follow the dictates of fashion trends blindly, being directed by the industry and the mass media. However, the vast majority of both these types have a clear sense of aesthetics and they use notions such as elegance and sobriety as guidelines when it comes to getting dressed. In resume, they are conservative but are known to give a sexy or rocker touch to their look, just to spice it up.
Local women look for high quality, innovative pieces. Besides this, they appreciate comfort. One of the key wardrobe pieces is something as simple as a pair of jeans. “Jeans are worn daily. In fact, they are allowed at some workplaces for Casual Friday. Women use them even to go out at night, combined with a more suitable top for the occasion”, explains Cornejo.
Let’s break down the Argentinean woman's wardrobe. Apart from the classic jeans that, as we all know, may come in the form of skinny, bootleg, flare, etc., another must item is a black jacket or blazer, ideal to wear to both formal and informal events. A leather jacket is also a popular choice when it’s time to keep warm. This look is well complemented by a white shirt. Apart from that, women are attracted to dresses all year long. For more formal moments, they usually prefer sharp tailoring. When it comes to loosening up and relaxing, leggings prevailed years ago—even ex-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner wore them during an act of government.
Regarding footwear, Argentinean women choose high or low heels indiscriminately, but think mostly about boosting their height. Ballerina flats are also a possible option. As for accessories, the austere look that Argentineans prefer implies a small and meticulous selection. For instance, if they wear a voluminous or statement necklace, the perfect match, in their opinion, would be small, delicate earrings. A special ring with sentimental value, foulards, shawls, pashminas, pearl earrings, sunglasses and a leather handbag are frequently the preferred companions for either day or night.
In reference to the color palette, the conservative Argentineans settle for black, white, or a mix of the two. Furthermore, any shade of blue may join the look as a wild card or an alternative to black. The more confident or provocative dresser always has a garment in red or animal print.
Taking everything into account, it makes sense that the local woman's style is strongly influenced by the European, which is reflected in her austere, elegant and sober look. Immigration from the European continent in the early part of twentieth century had a deep impact on Argentinean culture and idiosyncrasies. Moreover, local people and government have historically looked up to Europe.
What has changed over the years is that modern women use those concepts as guidelines to outline personal style, but rely on local designers for more innovative and daring looks. These two influences work together to capture our national identity and express it through clothing.