Before coming to Spain, one of my biggest concerns was that my dress was extremely American when I wanted to look Spanish. I didn’t want to stand out as a foreigner, and especially as an American. And because of this, I didn’t take a lot of the clothes that I am comfortable in and that I normally wear very often.
This was a mistake.
The majority of Spanish are short, petite (but not necessarily thin), with dark olive skin and dark brown hair and eyes. Unlike Americans’ perceptions of Europeans, they aren’t always dressed to the nines.
So, what is true, from my experience?
- Shoes: It is true that tennis shoes are not often worn here. Tennis shoes seem to be left exclusively to work out attire. Both men and women do wear canvas shoes (in the same style as Toms, although not the Toms brand) a lot. Other than that, women wear a lot of sandals. It’s not uncommon to see women in heels, but you also shouldn’t feel pressured to wear if you don’t want to. Flats are also incredibly popular. As for colder weather, the stores here have begun to sell a LOT of ankle boots.
- Bottoms: Your average pair of boot cut jeans is not a very popular style for women in Spain. For men, it seems to be an okay style, but simply more fitted than an average American man’s jeans. Skinny jeans seem very popular for girls. And by this, I mean very tight skinny jeans; a lot of them look pretty acid washed. Something that is very, very, very popular here are “gypsy” pants, especially in floral patterns. These are cloth pants that are very loose on your legs and then tight around your ankles. Dresses and skirts will do you fine here.
- Tops: Unisex t-shirts are just… not worn here. I cannot recall one person I have seen wearing a unisex t-shirt. However, printed tees (or any t-shirt that is fitted to your body type and not simply your plain old, rectangular unisex tee) and other styles of tops are popular. Tank tops are popular here. I don’t think most young Americans will have any problems with this.
- Makeup: It seems that the majority of Spanish women are very similar to American women in this respect. Most of them wear some eye makeup, some cover-up, but do not go full out on their makeup every day
For me, my advice would be to just do what makes you most comfortable. That goes for everything. If your hair in a ponytail makes you most comfortable, then wear your hair in a ponytail. If blue jeans just really make your day better, don’t sweat it. If you are going to walk a lot and your sandals aren’t comfortable, then wear your tennis shoes.
Something that I forgot when I was worrying about how I was going to dress in Spain is that the Spanish have lives, too. When you are walking down the street, on the bus, in class, or whatever, they probably will not think twice about the way you are dressed. They have their own things to worry about, and your outfit probably isn’t one of them.
Pack the things that you will be comfortable wearing, that make you like the way you look, and don’t worry too much about it bothering anyone.