How Latin American fashion has influenced Latin dance costumes

10th Apr 2023

How Latin American fashion has influenced Latin dance costumes

The flair, extravagance, and beauty of modern-day Latin dance costumes are steeped in tradition and have evolved over the years, in line with changing Latin American fashion trends. Central America, South America, Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean were colonized by Spanish or Portuguese and are collectively referred to as Latino or Latin American. The differing cultures of each country offer their own exquisite dances and elaborate costumes based on the Latin American fashion of the time.

The evolution of Latin dance and the costumes

Most of the Latin dances we enjoy today originated in the bars and speakeasies of the lower classes in the 1800s. There is a strong African influence in the movements as a vast portion of that population was born from slavery. A dim time in history that resulted in amazing dances that are enjoyed by many in today’s world. As Latin American fashion progressed, so too did the costumes along with the popularity of the dances. They evolved into stunning, eye-catching outfits that emphasize the seductiveness of Latin dance moves. Feathers, sequins, fringes, catsuits, flowing gowns, and high thigh splits all add to the visual spectacle modern Latin dance has become.

From bar rooms to ballrooms

While still popular on the streets of Colombia, Argentina, Panama, and many of the countries that form Latin America today, Latin dance has also progressed to become a very popular ballroom dance and a competitive sport worldwide. Latin American fashion has transformed the outfits for the ballroom setting to become stunning gowns that are a true visual treat. The costumes are tailored to suit each dance style with an emphasis on showcasing each movement, giving spectators the chance to see the precision and skill of the dancers. Sparkling, bejeweled costumes abound in the sports world of Latin dance creating a stunning visual display in this highly competitive field.

A gentlemanly affair

In true Latin American fashion, the male costumes are normally quite fitted to show off the man’s physique but generally, they are of a darker color with slightly less embellishment. This is due to the need to not detract from the lady who is the star of the show in Latin dance. While taking a back seat on flamboyance, male costumes still ooze sensuality and class allowing him to move fluidly while guiding his lady through the dance.

The star of the show

Throughout the years, Latin dance has been focused on the female partner. She is the one who twists, turns, and bends with the male partner guiding her through the dance. Many of the dances have both partners positioned extremely close and moving in unison. To facilitate the often fast-paced turns or twists of the feet, ladies wear high heels with non-rubber soles. The heels add elegance while the soles provide a grip-free base that enables fluid movement. The tango, merengue, and salsa are three very well-known, though extremely different dances that we will delve into more detail on how the costumes are chosen to accentuate particular dance moves, and how they have evolved over time under the influence of Latin American fashion.

The tango

One of the most passionate couples dances originated in Argentina in the 1800s and is a well-known dance that is actually improvised in response to the leader’s movements. In this dance, the lady will normally wear a revealing dress that splits above the thigh to show her leg when in certain positions. Latin American fashion has influenced the way this dress is presented over the years with added sparkle and sheer fabrics to accentuate the movements and highlight the female form.


Hailing from the Dominican Republic, the merengue is a fast-paced dance that involves the partners’ keeping their upper body quite steady while their hips move in unison to the music in a form of a dance/walk. Traditional costumes were quite modest, however with the influence of Latin American fashion, these days it is a dance you can really go to town on with your costume. Glittery fringes emphasize seductive hip movements and tight-fitting fabric adds to the visual spectacle of this dance.


Originating in Cuba, the Salsa became known in the US following the Cuban War in 1898 when deployed soldiers were exposed to this mix of the Mambo, Pachanga, and Rumba. It is one of the few Latino dances than can integrate solo breaks, otherwise known as shines. The movements of this dance are suited to shimmering costumes that can either be dresses or pantsuits. Evolving in line with Latin American fashion, Salsa costumes of today are typically sleeve-free and emphasize your hips.

Selecting your costume

Some people are born with the natural ability to move their hips independently of their legs and upper body, while others have to work hard to master this art. Once you have, nothing is holding you back from expressing yourself through Latin dance either on the streets of Brazil, or the ballroom dancefloor or anywhere in between.

Selecting a Latin Dance costume can be just as fun as the dance itself. There really are no rules when deciding on a costume for Latin dancing. You simply need to ensure that your outfit allows you to move easily and appropriately for the dance in question and is in line with the Latin American fashion for your chosen dance.

Your costume can be as demure or as flamboyant as you like. Any embellishments should be to highlight your physique while emphasizing your form on movements. One essential for the ladies to successfully demonstrate and execute the moves is high heels to elongate the legs with non-gripping soles to freely spin and twist.

Relish the movement and expression that Latin dance offers while looking spectacular in your chosen costume that has been inspired by the historical progression of Latin American fashion to create the stunning outfits you can find today. Forget your surroundings and submit to the beat while being totally focused on your partner. It truly is a delightful experience to enjoy the art of Latin dance either recreationally or competitively.

If you have a Latin dance event coming up and really want to look the part, look no further than the Latin dance costumes from Charismatico. We have a wide range to choose from, one of which is sure to be perfect for you.