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What to wear?

Is there a dress code? Well it depends what the event is but here are a few pointers and suggestions for where to find shoes and other dance togs.

Dress codes

Tango dancers do like to dress up and have a great sense of occasion; but the dress code is much less formal than in ballroom dancing. What you can wear will to some extent depend on the club, the event and your age. A new generation has made it acceptable for women to wear jeans and camisoles and for men to wear cargo pants and t-shirts for casual dances and practicas. Because the dance is intimate, you add to your chances of being asked for a twirl if you are well presented, clean and cool. At weekend milongas and special events suits, cocktail dresses and fishnet tights are still much in evidence.

In the UK we dress less formally at the milonga than the Italians and Germans, and more so than the French. In Argentina the age/style divide is more defined but women rarely wear trousers.

The little black dress always looks good and figure flattering on the dance floor. Make sure that there is enough stretch or a vent in the skirt for movement and that the fabric does not ride up or slide around revealing the chest as it is difficult to adjust mid-dance! The tango is an elegant and sexy dance but revealing a lot of flesh or wearing flamenco flounces will not make you look the part.

Men- beware of wearing trousers with turn-ups as womens’ heels can get caught in them. You may find that an extra pair of socks and a short sleeve shirt or t-shirt make a welcome fresh change on a hot Summer dance night (but shorts are a definite turn-off!).

If you wear spectacles, please note that they can get in the way of cheek to cheek contact or scratch your partner during a sharp turn.

Hats may look very ‘Porteño’ but you must dance with a partner shorter than yourself.

Men will find that classic Oxfords; leather soled shoes with a soft leather laced upper are the most effective for fast pivots and feeling the sprung floor. Rubber soles will stick and cause the dancer to move and lift their feet in an unorthodox way and may even produce knee and Achilles tendon strain in the long run. Loafers rarely support the instep and trainers not only look ugly but do not ‘breathe’ as well as leather shoes. Bloch dancers sport shoes are a good practica shoe.

For women it is practically de rigueur to wear heels as it pitches the upper body forward onto the ball of the foot and gives a more attractive calf line and length to the leg. Who can argue with that! However, comfort and balance are essential for a long night of giros. Fashion sandals and sling-backs will not give enough heel or foot  support. For a beginner the likelihood of having your toes trampled on is not worth the risk of wearing open-toed shoes. Stilettos are not only a challenge to your balance but are often banned by dance halls as they ruin the surface. Many floors are less than perfect and sharp heels will get snagged between the boards. Round-toed, mid height heels with a chunky heel base and leather sole are best for learning and building confidence and finesse. The best option is to invest in a versatile professional 2.5 in heel dance shoe for most occasions. Some people advise a slightly tighter shoe than you might wear normally.A deep heel cup, T-bars and mary-jane or crossed straps that are easily adjustable let you forget about your feet and enjoy the dancing. That said; at the present time gorgeous, well-balanced 30s styles dance shoes are back in fashion and many original designs are being relaunched –( e.g. Top Shop, Clarkes, Office and Schuh) make a quick check for sole flexibility; you can scratch a leather sole to make it less slippery or add a suede sole patch to make these serviceable. Buy adhesive heel grips and gel foot pads if you are prone to blisters and foot burn. Socks or innersoles, Peppermint foot balm, talc or foot spray are musts for your shoe bag and a heavy class schedule.

Where to buy tango shoes

In Central London

94 St Martin's Lane
Tel 0207 240 0432

187 Drury Lane
Telephone: 0207 831 9483

35 Drury Lane
Covent Garden
Tel: 0207-836 4777
Fax: 0207 836 6555
"Good for trendy dancewear which can often double up as streetwear"

The Flamenco shop next to the Euston Tower , (Warren street tube) sells good basic dance shoes for tango.

A number of Tango clubs and teachers will sell shoes from time to time. Notably the Factory and Pablo Alonso and Jenney Surelia at taste of tango. Shoes are often sold at dance festivals.

Buying shoes abroad - note that international shoe sizes vary. Here is an international size conversion table.


46, rue de la voûte
75012 Paris
Tél. : 01 43 43 04 73

22, rue de la Paix
75002 Paris
Tél. : 01 44 71 83 12

If you buy shoes on the internet measure both your feet carefully  Custom shoemakers www.guaranteedfittangoshoes.com  will send you a special foot measurer before you make an order. This is especially helpful if you have feet of different sizes or unusual shape.