The people of Spain love fashion and produce some of the finest quality clothing in the world. Their historical garments, such as the matador suit and flamenco dress, are also well known. For the Spanish, clothing is a declaration of status, self-respect and creativity; there is little patience for laziness when it comes to appearance.
Historically, Spanish clothing has always had a luxurious, ornate quality. Metallic embroidery and body-enhancing designs, such as a matador's bolero jacket and the flamenco dancer's slim, ruffled dress, abound. Spanish clothing has always been structured, with the belled farthingale a popular export in the 16th and 17th centuries. According to Kwintessential, the Spanish love of tried-and-true designs caused much of the fashion industry to move on to more courageous pastures. It notes that "Spain refused to develop or change its fashion sense and continued to use these styles well after they were outdated; this was the main cause for Spain to give up its title as center of European fashion to places like Paris."
These days, Spanish citizenss have access to flattering, fashionable apparel that preserves the budget while enhancing style. Alexandra Moore, of the Barcelona Tourist Guide, says, "The Spanish really care about their personal appearance and image; they don’t really wear casual clothes as we know it. The Catalans, especially, are very proud people and like to look good." Fitted clothing is common, as are muted, earthy tones. Sophisticated, well-coordinated outfits are key. Spaniards don't just wear clothes to avoid nudity—they create a look that is an integral part of their identity as an attractive people.
Fashion Points of Interest
The Spanish favor what's comfortable yet fashionable, yet it is easy to see they are cognizant of style. For instance, their shoes are typically well-made and complimentary, with sports sneakers taking a backseat to designer-style footwear. Ugly or cheap shoes will ruin an outfit, so tread carefully. For women, it's considered too flashy to wear a miniskirt and camisole top or very tight clothing. Like many of Europe's cosmopolitan centers, makeup and nail polish usually are light, if present at all. Natural beauty is prized over artifice, which can be quite a cultural change from American standards.
Many of the stores popular in the U.S. are also favorites in Spain. According to Go Madrid, stores such as Zara, H & M and Mango line the streets of Spanish shopping areas. For luxury shopping, the Salamanca section of Madrid is home to many of the world's top brands, including Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, and Valentino. There are also small boutiques that offer more traditional Spanish garb.
Like much of Europe, the Spanish people are very observant of decorum in certain settings. For church, men and women dress modestly, keeping their shoulders and legs covered. Those in business wear suits, with women sporting a skirt or dress. As Moore says, "The more casual your clothes are (shorts, vests, flip-flops) the more you will stand out as a tourist." Casual loungewear is something that stays in the home, and few Spaniards would be so leisurely in public.
Gigi Starr is a freelance fashion writer. She previously served as the blog editor for a major online fashion blog and has more than a decade of backstage experience in the beauty and high fashion industries. She has worked for businesses like an internationally renowned theatrical touring company and events such as the Mercedes-Benz N.Y.C. Fashion Week.