“Viva La Fiesta” is the chant one hears over and over during the Santa Fe Fiesta, but I suggest shouting “¡Que Viva Los Vestidos de la Fiesta”! (Long live those who dress up for Fiesta!). Locals who attended annual fiesta celebrations of the past put much thought and detail into their fiesta attire—and there are still some who dress traditionally—but many of today’s fiesta-goers interpret fiesta wear in new and interesting ways. Santa Fe is a blend of many cultures and one can find fiesta inspiration from the Anglo, Hispanic and Native American customs and traditions that transform The City Different into a melting pot of fiesta fashion.
Read on to learn about the fiesta fashion of the past and present and get inspired to put together your own Santa Fe Fiesta look!
Santa Fe Fiesta Fashion Show
During the 2015 Santa Fe Fiesta weekend—September, 11 through 13—make plans to attend the fashion show exhibiting Spanish traditional and fiesta fashion from yesteryear. Back in 1935, La Sociedad Folkorica was started with a mission to make sure Santa Fe’s culture, history and faith would never be forgotten. The mission statement remains true today. Each year during Fiesta, La Sociedad Folkorica present a fashion show called “Exhibicion de Modas y Merienda.” Loosely translated this means an exhibition of fashion and afternoon tea. The event takes place on Saturday, September 12, at 3:00 pm in the courtyard of the James A. Little Theater. This year’s Fiesta royalty will attend. The fashion show exhibits dresses from the 1880s and beyond. After the show, a merienda takes place—a twist on the afternoon tea with Mexican chocolate and homemade biscochitos. The society will celebrate it’s 80th birthday this year.
The Ever Popular Fiesta Skirt and Blouse
One of the more popular pieces to a Fiesta look is the skirt and blouse. Whether a broom skirt or the “patio/squaw” dress, these looks have stood the test of time. The look was popularized in the 1950s and is still worn by many women today. Many of these brightly colored skirts and blouses are collectables as they can be tricky to find.
Squash Blossom Necklaces and Concha Belts
No fiesta ensemble is complete without an adornment of a squash blossom necklace or a concho belt.
The concho belt is a Fiesta favorite: a distinctive belt that is both functional and a work of art. These embellishments are displayed in groups and named from the Spanish word conchas meaning “shells.” For this reason, a concho belt is sometimes referred to as a concha belt. To spice up your fiesta ensemble, pair your concho belt with blue jeans or a jean skirt, a basic black turtle neck or a simple black dress. Do not underestimate the power of the concho belt!
Another champion of Fiesta style is the squash blossom necklace. Squash blossom necklaces are a reminder of the close interaction between the Pueblo and Navajo Indians since the mid-1800s. Here’s an interesting fact: the necklace itself is Navajo and adopted by the Zuni. The incorporation of turquoise on each of the blossoms, however, is an advent of the Zuni, later adopted by the Navajo. Now that’s a classic example of culture blending! Wouldn’t you say?
Navajo and Men’s Ribbon Shirts
Men’s Navajo velvet and ribbon shirts have been part of the men’s Fiesta fashion landscape for many years. Historically, ribbon shirts were made from calico cloth that was obtained from trading posts. The shirts were originally used as part of the regalia used during pow wows and celebrations. The shirt later went on to become a signature Fiesta look for men in the 40's. They are still worn today. Many ribbon shirts are available online.
Complete Your Look With Fiesta Jewelry
Most recently silver Zozobra charms and earrings have become popular Fiesta accessories. Fairchild and Company donates a percentage of the sales of these charming adornments to benefit the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe which produces The Burning of Zozobra.
Another accessory seen on women during Fiesta is the highly-prized and sought after beaded Zozobra earring. They have become rare as they are no longer being produced. You can still find some on Ebay.
Less traditional, but just-as-fun accessories for Fiesta include glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets! These may be purchased starting the night of the Burning of Zozobra and in various vendor booths in and around the plaza during the Santa Fe Fiesta weekend.
Top-Off Your Fiesta Look!
The Mexican sombrero is worn mostly by mariachi musicians during Fiesta, but donning one also adds to the festive mood. Inexpensive sombreros may be found at the Five and Dime on the plaza.
The cowboy look is never out of style during Fiesta. Several stores sell vintage cowboy hats and boots. Kowboyz has Santa Fe's largest selection of new and used western apparel for men, women and children! Gentlemen, you might also try Santa Fe Vintage to find comfortable vintage cowboy boots and hats.
If you’re fashion forward adventurous, you need to visit Mira! on Marcy Street. They carry a big selection of fun, fabulous and affordable clothing. Imagination is the key here!
Whether you plan to dress traditionally or pull together a one-of-a-kind look, be sure to have fun as you create your Santa Fe Fiesta look. We look forward to your visit and know you’ll enjoy taking part in one of our most colorful and fun events, Fiesta de Santa Fe! See and feel how our distinct cultures come together to enhance the city's tri-cultural legacy of “Fiesta fashion”. Long live those who dress up for Fiesta. ¡Que Viva!