Although I am studying abroad for my Spanish minor, I also got to hone my skills for both my fashion merchandising and mass communications majors. As both an aspiring fashion buyer and journalist, I have acquired an internship with CollegeFashionista as a Style Guru. My job is to find current trends within the college community, photograph them, and then write one article per month about them. While studying abroad, Style Gurus have the option to write for the “Fashion From Abroad” column about styles they encounter outside of the United States. To keep up with my internship this summer, I did just that.
One day after class, the other girls on my trip and I dressed in our most appropriate clothes to blend in with the Spanish culture. Since temperatures peak in the 90’s everyday, the locals are often seen in lightweight, breezy clothing. Flowy pants, blouses, sundresses, and jumpsuits flourish the streets of Salamanca in bright yellows, whites, and peaches. Taking inspiration from the Balenciaga Summer Resort 2016 runway show, I slipped on my black and white flowy pants with a bright yellow tank top. My friends followed along wearing vibrant dresses, skirts, and rompers. We went to el Huerto de Calisto y Melibea as well as a cathedral for our photo shoot. The garden was most appropriate since it is the location where Fernando de Rojas wrote La Celestina, a work we read in Spanish literature class, to take place. I was able to showcase how Americans and Spaniards share similar styles as my friends and I wore our clothes from home in this shoot. These styles just so happened to be nearly identical to some worn around Spain.
Upon arriving in Spain, I was quick to learn that the flip flops I had brought would do me no good. Most of the Salamantinos can be seen walking around in gladiator sandals for a good reason. My flip flops began to stress out my ankles and calves from the constant vibration of when the flopped against my heel as I walked. Not to mention, the strap gave me a blister. I went to a shoe store, Corina, and bought a pair of black leather gladiator sandals. Not only was the leather made exclusively in Spain, it was super comfortable and conformed to my feet as I wore the sandals. The neutral black color was a wise choice because they can be worn with literally every outfit that I had packed.
Determined to further my knowledge of Spanish fashion, not just the trends, I went shopping. Lucky for me, there were many rebajas (sales) to be found. I tried on several blouses at this little clothing store north of La Plaza Mayor and ended up buying a white tank top blouse decked out in little blue cats all over it. I love cats and buy clothing with them on it in the U.S. so it was only fitting to get a shirt like this in Spain. It was my style in a new way.
On my birthday, I went to Zara, which is a popular European clothing company that originated in Spain. I bought a pink collared tank top, a cropped top, and a halter-top onesie. Each of these matches the high-waisted denim shorts I also bought at Zara that day. These four items cost me les than 30 euros altogether. While onesies, cropped tops, and high-waisted shorts are popular in America, they are nearly the same in Spain. The only thing I noticed was that the clothes are cut a bit differently. For example, my pink collared tank is not fit to form the body and therefore just hangs above my waistline. The onesie fits my body perfectly, but the elastic isn’t quite tight enough to keep from flopping forward. That being said, this article of clothing requires a tank top or bandeau to be worn underneath.
Another day out shopping with friends, we encountered a bohemian store not unlike those at home. Every jumpsuit and sundress was made out of a different patterned fabric. I had been meaning to try the jumpsuit trend since arriving in Salamanca, so I tried one on and instantly fell in love with the look and the comfort. It’s lightweight, flowy, easy to move in, and the blue tribal pattern matches my eyes. The tag indicated that the company was called Zoe and that it was exclusively made in Mallorca, Spain.
The next shop that day to catch my eye had mannequins in the window, adorned in lacey blouses, pastel colors, and sequins. My friends pointed out that it definitely had my name written all over it. It was called Vestido de Vega. I tried on several items and ended up buying the purple sequined ¾ cardigan that had originally caught my eye. I matched it with a short sleeve white lacey blouse. Everything was 30% off so this purchase was also under 30 euros.
On my weekend excursions to Portugal, and Barcelona, I observed the fashion trends there as well. In Portugal, there was handmade cork jewelry at every other store or little stand. I bought a bracelet for myself, my mom, each of my sisters, and some friends back home. In Barcelona, my friends and I decided to get really dressed up before going out to dinner that night. We learned that on Saturday nights, people wear their most glamorous clothes. Anything other than high heels for girls was seemingly against the norm. Most of us had tried to pack lightly for this excursion since it was only one weekend. However, in the same city in which both Fashion Week and America’s Next Top Model are held, we decided that it would be in our best interest to do a little shopping before the evening got started. There was a mall by our hotel and we bought new clothes and shoes at Zara and H&M. I was surprised to see that many popular stores in the U.S. also held a great influence over the fashion culture in Spain. Dressed up in black and shiny clothes with our highest heels, we went out in style that night.
On some of my last few days in Salamanca, I bought a ring which I had been eyeing since my arrival. It is a botón charro and I had seen it on all kinds of jewelry. Supposedly it represents a flattened solar disk that used to be used to fashion clothing back in the 17th century. In fact, it survived the Muslim domination that was going on during that time. and is a symbol of what it means to be Salamantino. After falling in love with the city myself, I wanted something to represent that for me forever.
Seeking out fashion trends first helped me to dive into the Spanish culture by observing and then helped me interact by shopping. A huge part of studying abroad is interacting with the local culture and I did just that by going to Spanish and European stores and speaking Spanish with the salespeople. Two of them even complimented my Spanish speaking skills and I surprised myself by being able to hold a conversation with them in Spanish all throughout my purchases. I got to practice my Spanish, fashion, and communication skills all in one within this study abroad program. As I leave to return to the United States today, I have no regrets, knowing that I just gained both the experience of a lifetime and a lot of newfound knowledge about myself.