5 Fashion Trends With Latin American Origins
‘Latin American’ is a wide-reaching term, to say the least. With a culture encompassing 20 countries and at least seven ethnic groups, not to mention the new cultural identities and modes of being that have sprouted under labels like ‘Latinx’, indeed, the majority of individuals who identify as Latin American are pan-ethnic. Throw Spanish colonialism into the mix, and it’s only natural that many ubiquitous fashion trends seen globally today have some origin in South American and Latin American history. Here are five style trends that have a background in Hispanic ancestry and national fabric.

1. Bolero

Bolero jackets originated in Spain with roots in flamboyant matador costumes (the jacket was called a chaquetilla) and dance influence. (Indeed, bolero is also the name of a Spanish dance style from the 18th century.) Today, the cropped jacket and serves as a trace of Spanish legacy across the American countries colonized by Spanish conquistadors. Throughout South and Central America, the cardigan-like top was tied together with a string and worn with a dress. Today, the bolero is becoming uber-cropped, ribbed, and made in a soft knit.

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2. Ruffles

The simple ruffle is associated with the Southern gentlewoman – classy and maybe a little outdated. Nowadays, the more common way modern designers (such as some of our favourite Latin American fashion designers) style ruffles is ultra-feminine, red-carpet-ready macro-ruffles and tulle ruffle details. Ruffles dominate many culturally significant garments in Latin America and Hispanic diaspora, such as the pollera (a long, layered skirt finished with ruffles at the bottom), salsa dresses, and flamenco dresses (which again, do not actually originate in South America but are indicative of its colonial history).

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3. Panama hat

The traditional brimmed Panama hat is a classic statement accessory that arose from weavers of toquilla straw in Ecuador. Because of its woven nature, this fedora-like hat now has variations across South America and Mexico made of abundant native materials, such as the jipijapa hat from Mexico. Why is it called the Panama hat when it wasn’t invented in Panama? The icon of Latin American fashion became popular in 19th century Panama because of the region’s importance as a commerce hub.

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4. Gaucho pants

This is another style trend that we can attribute to Latin America roots; specifically, the original cowboys. These wide-legged pants, echoing the knee-length trouser culottes, cropped just below the knee, were first worn by Argentinian cowherds called gauchos in the mid-18th century as a second, protective bottom layer when riding horseback. The oversized crotch, a main feature of the South American-originated pant, accommodated comfortable sitting in the saddle. It’s common today to see a faux leather gaucho on a working woman, paired with a strappy heel and oversized blazer.

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5. Carriel bag

The carriel saddle bag, characterized by its accordion-like folds (a practical design feature to allow the wearer to carry more while still being light and mobile) and top flap, has been taken under the wings of high luxury brands. However, the bag was idealized in the coffee-producing valleys of Colombia. The carriel (for ‘carry all’, but more accurately called a guarniel) was first carried by muleteers or arrieros to allow them to carry all their belongings as they traversed the ranges of the Andes to reach places where coffee-growing conditions were ideal, like Antioquia. These journeys were rough and long, and the arriero would carry his personal belongings, medicine, religious artifacts, in the carriel to allow him to be hands-free.

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