Yes, I know it finished nearly a week ago, but I spent the last week catching up on all the work I should have been doing during Feria. As well as writing about it for other media.
So I’ve finally got around to doing a second post about another sartorial aspect (my first was about the flamenca fashion) of this huge six-day Sevillano party, to which a large portion of Sevillanos are invited, being allowed to enter the 1000-odd casetas (small tents), while the rest of us try to edge our way in. Much sherry is consumed, Sevillanas are danced, and flouncy dressed are twirled. Economic problems are put to the back of the mind as the señoritos, a certain number of whom have inherited wealth and have never done a day’s work in their lives, entertain their friends and associates on a grand scale.
Leaving the curiosities of Sevillian society aside, one of my favourite pastimes at the Feria de Abril is just wandering the 13 streets – named after famous bullfighters – to watch the horses, carriages and riders. Men, women, children, all exquisitely turned out in their trajes cortos (literally, short suits). Tiny children in control of horses – not ponies, fully-grown muscular horses.
The horsemen – jinetes – wear cropped jackets (hence the corto) and high-waisted trousers with coloured waistbands, while the lady riders – amazonas – also sport short jackets, but with long, elegant skirts hitched up on one side for riding side-saddle. Both wear round, flat-topped hats known as cordobes, because they come from Cordoba; the ladies have exquisite up-dos. An alternative style is the rondeño (from Ronda), as worn at the Goyesca Festival in September. The little velvet hat is called a gatite – I know because I asked the woman who was wearing it.
These suits come in shades of grey or brown, and are quite sombre. I don’t know if you could call it fashion, as I don’t think it changes much from year to year – although I could be wrong. The children, in keeping with the Spanish obsession with gender colour-coding, wear pale pink or baby blue jackets; I also saw some red ones, sported by mother and daughter, which looked rather splendid.
The Feria originated in 1847, as a horse and cattle fair in the Prado de San Sebastian, just south of the city centre. It moved to its current location in Los Remedios nearly 40 years ago, in 1973, but the livestock selling aspect had disappeared long before then. Gypsies wore long dresses – then as now – decorated with two or three flounces. Farmers wore the trousers for working in the fields, in brown like the earth to distinguish them from the señoritos in grey or black, with braces and a white shirt, and a straw hat to protect their heads from the sun. They donned their jackets on finishing work.
So it’s a delight to see the thoroughbred Arab steeds prancing along the streets – providing you know to keep well clear of these snorting, rearing beasts. And looking at black and white photos of the Feria from the 1920s – when early motor cars also took part in the procession – you can see that not much has changed about the dress of riders and horses. The Jerez Feria de Caballos starts on Monday, so if you’re a horse fan, then I’d highly recommend it.
For carriage fans, the Museo de Carruajes, just off Plaza de Cuba, is worth visiting.
Beautiful equestrian garb can be found at El Caballo at Calle Antonio Diaz 7.