Fashion: The Traje de Luces (The Suit of Lights)

I’ve always had a very healthy intrigue for bullfighting. In times when Mexico City is looking to ban the spectacle (the very city where the largest bullfighting plaza in the world is located), I believe it serves a point to look at all aspects of it and let a person decide for themselves and form an educated opinion.

The “traje de luces” translates literally as “suit of lights”, a direct reference to the sequence and gold thread used on the outfit. Each suit is made especially for each person in order for it to be skin-tight.

So prêt a porter it is not.

We’ll start from the ground up:

Zapatillas: the black leather slippers with a ribbon in front to tighten the shoe about your feet. A lot of the ballet slipper shoes that are popular now have designs that come from this concept.

Calzoncillos: long pink socks. In the early days, these socks were a beige color. They are long socks that go up past the knee and in order to keep them up, bullfighters normally wear stockings underneath.

Taleguilla: the pant part of the suit of lights. The embroidery on the side is done by hand and normally uses silk thread. The width of the embroidered band can affect how it looks on a person, giving the person more of a waist or more of an ass.

The color of the embroidery depends on the person’s role in the fight: gold for bullfighters and black for banderilleros. There are some who wear silver and that could represent both bullfighers or banderilleros.

Chaquetilla: the suit jacket. The most adorned part of the outfit. The sleeves are not completely sewn in so as to allow for movement when the bullfighter raises their arms in a pass. Two separate parts of the suit are the “hombreras” (shoulder pads) and the “alamares”. There is a phrase in bullfighting  where you can pass the bull so close to your body (a very dangerous move but one that shows great skill) that it can “brush against the alamares” (rozandole a los alamares).

Corbata: the tie which can be black, red or green. They are always tucked into the taleguilla. Dubious in any other ambiance but a necessary evil here. Nothing can be loose or moving on a person lest any movement causes the bull to attack.

Camisa: a white shirt which harkens back to the days of leisure suits, with its ruffled, buttoned-down front.

Montera: the black hat. A friend of mine says it looks like a sad Mickey Mouse cap. Made out of a cluster of black silk knots, the hat must fit right on or a couple of millimeters above the brow line. There is a black braided round that is placed on the back of the head to prevent the hat from sliding called the castañuela. It is there for historic reasons to bullfighters of old who used to wear their hair long to mark their caste. Female bullfighters normally have long hair and therefore do not need to wear a castañuela due to the fact that women normally have the braid naturally.


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