Spanish women like to look good. You can tell from the care they take in dressing; they think it out, project attitude, and have fun. They dress for themselves and according to the image they want to project. Walking down the street they exude vitality and engagement with the world. Their style is there no matter what. When my friend fell and twisted her ankle making a visit to the hospital emergency room necessary, I found Spanish style peeping out from beneath scrubs and lab coats: Beautiful skin, polished hands, and sleek wavy hair. Everything in its place and pressed. The doctor who attended us wore a beige pencil skirt under her white coat and a thick gold watch on her wrist; she looked great while competently probing my friend’s swollen ankle.
Everywhere in Spain, but especially in Barcelona, the accessory du jour is a chain or rope strand embellished with chunky ornaments in wood, metal, stone, and plastic. Slung loosely around the neck and worn long, there is hardly a woman on the street without one. The most ambitious one I saw, however, was on a tall, dark haired woman in Sevilla. She was standing at the bar of the Horno San Buenaventura drinking a coffee and sharing a sweet roll with a male companion. Anchored mid-way down her rope necklace was what looked like a simplified version of an Intuit inuksuit, a people-like formation usually made from rock and used to mark trails, but in this case, the miniature version was made from some kind of wood and metal and used to great effect as ornamentation. It was stunning and played amazingly well with the soft violet dress and strappy platform sandals she wore.
In bags, gone is the heavy metal look and in is soft leather or cloth slung from the shoulder or carried under the arm with the handles wrapped around the wrist. Size has also shrunk somewhat. Bags are still roomy but not overpoweringly large. Note to visitors: Spanish women are streetwise and so carry their bags securely whether on the street or in cafes and restaurants where they are held on the lap or anchored securely between a woman’s rear and the back of her chair.
The summer color palette is predominantly light. Clay, beige, sand, cream, soft violet, yellow, and white are popular. Dark colors are not absent but are used sparingly: A sleeveless little black dress with beige sandals and pocketbook, or a strappy black tank with white capris and flat tan gladiators, or fitted chocolate brown pants with a mellow yellow tank top. In addition to straight and narrow capris, loosely draped cargo pants and jeans are popular. Pants are not all it; skirts and dresses abound, especially pencil skirts and dresses with flirty skirts. Even in the heat, layers of camis, tanks or tees and wispy cardigan sweaters are abundant. Sprinting along sidewalks, running to catch a bus or cab, or hastily descending stairs to catch the metro, Spanish women prefer the ballet flat or flat sandal, the gladiator being among the most popular. Only occasionally, do I see tall platform sandals; great to look at but hard to wear when on the run.
Regardless of age, long hair wins over short. Worn softly streaming down the back or bouncing just below the shoulder, it is always shimmering; in the heat many women twist and tie it playfully keeping the nape of the neck clear and cool. Makeup is subtle. Lips are bare or glossed lightly. Not all lips, however, are entirely bereft of lipstick. One woman’s lips stand out in my mind; she was a pale blond wearing a light peach cami, creamy long cardigan, white cargo pants, and gladiator sandals; the lashes of her wide-set blue eyes had just a touch of mascara and on her full lips, an exquisite nude lipstick.
A note: many women still use the abanico or fan, especially in cities like Sevilla where the temperature hovers at forty degrees celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for much of the day; however, their use is more prominent among older women. I rarely saw younger women using them.
All original content copyright 2009 Mary E Slocum