My Essential Guide to Dressing Like a Local in Spain!

After two years of living in this fantastic city and trying desperately to look less and less like an outsider, I’ve come to several fashion conclusions. There are some definite DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to fitting in like a local versus standing out like a…tourist! Regardless of what time of year you visit Barcelona, these tips will help you to plan accordingly and look the part!

We first set foot in our new home city during the last week of August. The DEAD of summer. At the time I just couldn’t be bothered with adapting to local styles. So, I relied on simple summer garments to get through those first few scorching days. Items such as flip flops, tank tops and cotton gym shorts were my go-tos!

I quickly realized once school started in September that the Spanish have a definite style. Here’s are some of my observations…and opinions for ALL four seasons.

1.Winter – DO cozy up in your warmest down puffer jacket, as temps in Barcelona can get as low as 38 degrees Fahrenheit in January/February. We totally underestimated this and put ALL of our winter coats into storage (yikes!) thinking winters would be super mild. WRONG! We got a rude awakening that first season. Waist-length fitted puffer jackets for both men and women with fur-lined hoods are the trend here versus oversized knee-length ones.

I practically lived in my puffy jacket this past winter!

Blanket-sized wool scarves are a constant. Twice sometimes triple wrapped around the neck and mouth for extra warmth. The Spanish love warmer temps and it shows based on their measures to stay cozy in winter months.

Coincidentally, tights/stockings with skirts are HUGE here even on the coldest days. The Italian fashion chain, Calzedonia (https://es.calzedonia.com/ ), has the most amazing styles/shades of stockings and although I rarely wore them in the states, I find them super fun here!

Lastly, BOOTS! All shapes, sizes, styles – leather, studded, printed or solid, ankle or shin height. The “bad-ass” combat boot is big here – and I LOVE it. Making a mental note to buy a pair (or two) for myself next year!

Sure, they remind me of Aerosmith – but still, how fun!

2. Spring – This is where things get a little grey for me. Where I come from in New Jersey, the minute temperatures rise to 60 degrees (15C) out come the shorts and sandals. Our hopes are high and sights are set on a fast-approaching summer! But Spain isn’t fooled by the sometimes tumultuous weather of Spring.

Therefore your best bet is to plan for lots of LAYERS this time of year. Mornings are chilly and daytime can be HOT. Some days I leave the house with a jacket and linen scarf and by noon find myself sleeveless. It’s also the wettest time of year, so hooded rain coats and boots are wise.

Anything goes in Spring when it comes to prints – floral, stripey, animal, polka dotty! I absolutely love perusing the aisles of favorite clothing stores Zara, Massimo Dutti and H&M this time of year and seeing all the fresh colors/patterns. Gets my creative juices flowing!

Some of my beautiful friends in their Spring florals

Remember those blanket-sized scarves from wintertime? Locals here can be seen wearing them well past the flowers blooming! Not that a visitor needs to do the same, but it’s an observation I just had to share.

I snapped this photo in late May!

On the flip side please, please NO flip flops or shorts until at least a beach day in June – otherwise you’ll stand out as a TOURIST. Believe me, I’ve done it before and was politely told by a Spanish friend ha!

3. Summer – You know what they say, “skin is IN!” and Spain needs no introduction to this phrase. As you guys might remember from my recent article The Art of Parenting in Spain ( https://theexpatchronicle.net/the-art-of-parenting-european-style/ ), locals here aren’t afraid to bare it all including some things on the beach that really should be covered (wink, wink).

Word of advice!! The sun here in Spain is extremely strong, so a wide brimmed sunhat (and tons of sunscreen) is wise! Once again, I learned this the hard way…

So thankful for my fedora hat!

So what else do locals wear during the steamiest months of the year? High-waisted linen shorts, bare belly halter tops, crocheted cover-ups and funky boho pants are all essential for summer wear.

Jeweled sandals, strappy wedges and espadrilles are all the rage for summer feet – but of course if you’re a tourist you’ll be doing a ton of walking and comfortable slips like Converse should suffice!

Save running sneakers for the gym, guys.

4. Fall

Ahh, the refreshing chill in the air that signifies yet another departure of summer. Time to layer up yet again!

While I tend to go for more fitted tops, it seems most of what you find in the stores this time of year is oversized – sweaters, sweatshirts, turtlenecks. Still a super cute and cozy look for Fall.

What I WILL say is…Spain does denim right!!! Think “bedazzled” but on a slightly more tasteful scale with a sparkly pinstripe down the side or embroidered lace up one leg. Too much fun to wear!

And last but not least, the puffy sleeve finds it’s way onto the shelves this time of year (as well as Spring of course). It’s a signature Spanish trend, perhaps inspired by the famous Flamenco dancers. My theory about this style? Every woman must have at least ONE top like this in their suitcase for something unique and fun while strolling down La Rambla or sipping cocktails at The Cotton House rooftop.

Couldn’t resist snapping a photo of this
gorgeous look!

Now for some personal observations about fashion trends here!

1. I have a love/hate relationship with the footwear. Metallic sandals, studded combat boots and even the modern take on the male dress shoe in the form of a formal leather “sneaker” have all won my heart over.

But this idea of platform sneakers – I just can’t swallow it!! It reminds me of…an astronaut?! They also don’t appear to be comfortable OR safe to wear… but again, that’s just my opinion.

2. If you see a woman in running sneakers and leggings, she is most definitely headed to the gym. I rarely see spandex with running kicks as the choice for a day of errands or meeting up with friends. This was initially a buzz kill for me ha! But I’ve accepted it and adapted.

3. Sizes make us scream! If you plan for some clothes shopping while visiting Barcelona, DO hit up the store dressing room before purchasing. We’ve learned the hard way that an American Medium is a European Extra Large, for example. Clothes are cut differently and fit much slimmer than back in the states.

Sure, this is motivation to get summer beach body ready – BUT can also be terribly frustrating when you’ve had one too many holiday cookies in December…!

So as you prepare for a trip to sunny Spain, keep these tips in mind and avoid standing out like the tourist you really are ha!

8 Comments

  • Anthony

    On point!! It took some self confidence for me to move from my American medium clothes to XXL HERE IN SPain😀😀. Amazing read as Always!!

    • Lauren Covino-Smith

      Hahahaha I feel your pain! It’s either that the sizes really are so much smaller OR we’ve eaten one too many croissants…hnnn

  • Elisenda

    Interesante articulo, a partir de ahora cuando nos veamos pricurare ir mas arreglada para estar a la altura… mil gracias.

  • Susan

    Loved this blog! So much valuable and great information. Next time we come we will do our best not to look like tourists…LOL!
    Btw… I love the top with the big puffy sleeves!

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  • Hair Styles

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