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Why Are Quinceañera Dresses So Big and Poofy?

Teen girl wearing an off-the-shoulder navy blue lace quince ball gown.

Long story short: Quinceañera dresses are so big because of an evolution of the celebration’s traditions. Originally, a quince celebration was all about announcing a girl’s eligibility for marriage, so traditional quinceañera dresses were just “nice dresses” in the color white or pink. Overall, the fiesta and dress were simple, sweet, and effective for introducing the Quinceañera to eligible bachelors and, at the same time, honoring her transition to adulthood.

So how did we get from “nice dress” to elaborate, big, and poofy ball gown quinceañera dresses?

It’s really a combination of influences that can explain why quinceañnera dresses are so big, especially in the United States of America. Let’s start by taking a look at some of the earliest quinceañera traditions in Spain and see how they evolved over time as they made their way across the ocean.

In Spain in the 1800s, quinceañera dresses were designed to be full. Girls were expected to wear voluminous designs when they were ready to be introduced to society. Their dresses often featured big hoop skirts with petticoats or crinolines for extra poof, which perfectly contrasted the snug, tightly tied corset tops. Dressmakers were often encouraged to go all out creatively, incorporating tons of ruffles and flounces and embellishments, as well as rich fabrics like silk and lace.

The fashions and other quince traditions from Spain trickled over to Latin America over time, and eventually it became a status symbol for wealthy families to spare no expense on elaborate fiestas and ball gown quinceañera dresses—the bigger the better! Sporting high fashions straight from Spain was believed to be the perfect way to present eligible daughters for advantageous marriages. It’s easy to see how these Quinceañeras likely looked and felt like royalty when decked out in lavish quince ball gowns.

Fast-forward to the 20th century, and many Latin American families immigrated to the U.S. seeking (and often finding) financial prosperity, bringing their traditions right along with them. Suddenly, the grand quince fiesta became something that every family could enjoy, instead of something that was only reserved for the wealthiest families. Even today, the evolved tradition of the ball gown quinceañera dress still stands as the go-to style.

Nowadays, the luxurious quince fiesta is not about finding a suitable husband or stepping out into society for the first time. (Really though, can you keep a straight face looking at your chambelanes with the thought of marriage in mind?) While the focus has shifted to celebrating the transition to adulthood, the size of the party and the quince gown remains big and fabulous.

Looking for more answers to all of your quinceañera questions? Head back to PromGirl's Quinceañera Guide to check out all of the FAQs and topics available.

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