Location: Sevilla. Calle Tetuán. It’s four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and I am shopping.
Imagine a busy pedestrian street like in any other part of the world, but with added Spanish charm. The buildings here are picturesque reminders that this is the capital of Andalucía, and that this city is loved and looked after. The afternoon light gives everything a deep orange glow, and even though the air is cold, the sun still has some heat in it at this time of year. This is a perfect location for shopping. Fiancée dumped in a beer venue of some sort, I feel elated as I stroll through this beautiful place and my fellow shoppers, mostly Spanish, exude chic and understated elegance. There’s also some – not so understated – fur and the occasional face lift.
After two years of finding our feet in this new country, which to me has felt at times like a crazy permanent holiday paired with the sensation of being up very high on a very thin rope, I do feel strangely at home here. The first (few) Spanish friends have emerged like blossoms from the debris of broken relationships, after having moved countries twice already in my life. Two tedious years of trying to learn Spanish mean that I now have the linguistic abilities of an eight year old, and I use it very proudly on anyone who can muster up the patience to listen to my stutter.
Last but not least, being in Spain has definitely altered and evolved my style. After spending the latter half of my twenties in Ireland, rampaging through trends like a car without breaks, I now feel closer to myself than ever. Some credit, I believe, should go to the “Spanish woman”.
Spanish women, it appears to me, dress differently. Everything feels that little bit more grown up around here. I won’t try to sound like an expert on what “they” like to wear. Really, I can only talk about what I see around me, and I can’t speak for places like Madrid which I have yet to explore. But here today, in Sevilla, I see knee high beautifully made leather boots peeking out from underneath gorgeous coats, pashmina or silk scarves wrapped around beautiful necklines and big, Spanish hair framing beautiful classic faces. I can’t help but feel a bit down on myself being confronted with all this beauty. It doesn’t help that I had a sleepless night and am all puffy faced. Note to self: Black under eye rings only ever look cute on koala bears. Urgently replace Clinique Airbrush concealer before they ship you off to the zoo.
The feeling of inadequacy is reinforced when I enter the first changing room. Spanish sizing, it seems, is not made for your average Teutonic maiden. In Zara or Mango, I need a large and sometimes an extra large. I am 5ft 11 and a size 12/14 (12 on a good day, 14 on the remaining 360 days of the year). What I’m saying is, I didn’t think I was a case for special sizing. But a lot of Zara or Mango stores don’t even bother stocking extra large. As I try to squish into a “large” tailored dress which is anything but, the sight of my bum wrestling to escape the fabric pushes me over the edge. I leave Zara, infuriated. How can people here be so slim when they are gorging themselves on delicious tapas all the time?! I don’t get it. I decide to abandon shopping for a minute and meet up with a thoroughly beer infused R for a drink and bespoke tapa.
A good glass of wine always manages to take the edge of my misery. There is no such thing as effortless chic, I read in one of my personal style books, and they’re right. The thing is, if you’re not as beautiful or slim as the women around you, all you can do is dress better than everybody else. I have the hang of that, I do. Motivated, I set off on the second leg of my Sevilla shopping spree.
Next stop H&M. I’ve gone off H&M lately but this time round I come across a rather interesting little section. Design house Maison Martin Margiela has collaborated with H&M and recreated some of their catwalk looks from seasons gone by. I have a browse through the collection but it’s all just a little too whacky and avant-garde for my liking. I think the locals must be in agreement because the section appears deserted and more or less untouched. I remember it being a similar story when H&M collaborated with Versace last year. While (so I hear) fashion enthusiasts in London queue up for half the night to be first in line when the store opens, the Sevillanas appear to be pulling up their noses at the designers. So, is Andalucia less trendy than London or Dublin? You bet. But is it less stylish? The answer is not quite that easy.
Another piece of wisdom taken from my style literature: true style is based on the ability to say no to fleeting trends that do not suit your style and personality. I think the beautiful women here have it down to an art. I salute their beauty, their understated chic, and their ability to say no to clothes they don’t like, no matter what label is printed on the inside. With that in mind, I abandon shopping for the day, wrap my beautiful Desigual coat tightly around me and meet R for a sunset stroll on the Metropol Parasol, where we watch the city lights come on one by one as the sky darkens, the Giralda in the middle distance reminding us that this is Seville, the capital of Andalucía, symbol of Spain.