Spanish Chic(a) – searching for style

People often ask us what we miss because we live in Spain and recently two people have asked me whether I miss English shops and English clothes.  The answer is both yes and no.

When we moved here I had clothes for the life I lived in England, most of which I spent teaching exercise, walking the dog or working at the medical centre at Downside (for which I had a uniform).   In the winter I wore jeans and jumpers or occasionally a tunic top and in the summer jeans and T-shirts or if it was especially warm, shorts and t shirts.  I shopped almost exclusively in Marks and Spencer and White Stuff and would wander around Cribbs Causeway and not find anything I wanted to buy.

My first purchases in Spain were from a shop called Decathlon, a vast sports shop that together with sports equipment and clothes, sells clothes for the outdoor life.  I bought two fleecy long sleeved T-shirts and a fleece sweatshirt which I wore with jeans and an old pair of track suit bottoms almost every day.  I wasn’t working, we had hardly any income and were working hard in the house and garden so clothes weren’t really a priority but warmth was as the temperatures dropped and our house revealed itself to be a badly insulated fridge.   In the first six months we were here the shops I went to were either supermarkets or builder’s merchants so there wasn’t much chance of clothes shopping even if I knew where to go.  Sax has only a few small family run shops which I didn’t feel comfortable going into with my limited Spanish, the market had plenty of clothes but nothing had a price on which was daunting and whilst I wasn’t working I didn’t feel able to spend money on clothes, haircuts or makeup and in any case didn’t have any real need for anything new.  A friend took me to a Spanish hairdresser who cut my hair nicely but the salon was in a town thirty minutes away from Sax making a haircut two hour experience.  A couple of cuts from an expat English hairdresser were unsuccessful so I  decided to grow my hair and cut my own fringe.  We did go to Valencia with our friends who live in Spain and discovered El Corte Ingles a large department store like John Lewis, and Natura, a chain of small shops that sells candles, incense and some slightly hippyish clothes that looked great on the hanger but when I tried on a lovely tunic top in a size that looked about right for me it looked, in my opinion, dreadful.    I have to admit that I was starting to feel both frumpy and grumpy.

Every day outfit in 2013

On our first trip back to England I headed into Marks and Spencer with a sigh of relief but didn’t actually buy anything.  I can’t remember why but I think that nothing felt right.  The only thing I bought during that trip was a leopard scarf print which I have since worn to death.

Back in Spain, the weather started to warm up and I unpacked my summer clothes.  Over six months without teaching exercise had taken its toll on my waistline, not to mention other lines and my T shirts and vest tops felt too heavy and clingy for the increasing heat.  Work on the house had largely finished and we found more time to explore the out of town shopping centres and the shops within them.  I had heard of Zara and surprisingly I found a Primark and H&M amidst the unfamiliar Spanish brands.  Faced with too much choice I panicked and only managed to buy a black linen weave t-shirt and searched fruitlessly for some trousers that weren’t skinny jeans or high fashion flares.  In desperation I bought some trousers that when I wore them caused Steve to comment that it looked as if I wasn’t wearing anything on my lower half and I  realised that I didn’t have a clue what looked right or would be suitable for summer.  Most of the shops seemed to cater for teenagers and I neither had the time or opportunity to spend hours trawling the shops.  A friend passed me some English women’s magazines but the clothes featured seemed to be suitable only for a high powered office/social life which didn’t look anything like my life.  The shopping malls are at least thirty minutes drive away meaning I couldn’t easily drift around the shops and I was struggling.  I had started to get some teaching work for which shorts and T shirts were not appropriate and literally had nothing suitable to wear or any idea what or where to buy.


In Valencia wearing ancient shoes and invisible trousers.

At this low point I turned to Pinterest, the online scrap booking site which to me is like a magazine with articles and pictures tailor made for the individual.  Each “pin” leads to a website and I discovered the world of blogs.  I subscribed to many and started to get up early in order to read get through my overloaded inbox.  At first, most of the style blogs I read were written by American women so the clothes and fashions weren’t easily available but then I stumbled on Midlife Chic, a blog written by a lovely English woman rediscovering her style mojo in her late 40’s.  Nikki worked at that time from her home in the north of England and is similarly at least thirty minutes from a decent shopping centre and therefore does a lot of online shopping.  I had a light bulb moment – the cost of P&P to Europe is about what the petrol would cost for a trip to a mall but I could shop from home saving me time and Steve the agony of trailing around the shops listening to me moaning about not being able to find anything I wanted.  I discovered that many familiar brands not only have web sites but European web sites together with rafts of comments on each item regarding sizing issues to help with the fit of clothes.  Many sites also tell you the actual size of the garment so that you can order more accurately.  I didn’t want to order lots of clothes and then have to send them all back if they didn’t fit.  Reading Nikki’s blog gave me an idea of what was currently in style and also more importantly, what might work for someone my age.

Everything started, as they say, to come together.  I have now ordered successfully from M&S, Boden, Woolovers and Next and have bought lots of things from Spanish shops such as Zara, Springfield and occasionally Desigual.  As my Spanish improved I followed the recommendation of a customer and visited a Spanish hairdresser having my hot and heavy long hair chopped off in two stages to its current asymmetric short cut.  For the summer I bought blouses in light and floaty fabrics  to keep cool and even bought a dress.  I loved the look of the statement necklace trend but have never really felt comfortable in necklaces so decided that my version is the statement earring.  Now that it is late autumn,  I love my blanket scarf which I bought over here and can wear with most of my winter outfits including my mega bargain Boden winter coat which I bought at 70% discount at the end of last season and have just started wearing with huge pleasure.  I have finally learned (although I don’t always follow through) that shopping for clothes has to be done in advance of when you plan to wear them if you want the best choice and that having a selection of good quality basics in mix and match colours is the way forward.  I never buy anything unless it goes with at least three other things (or I buy four things) and so no longer impulse buy.  My budget is small compared with some but I make my clothes work for me and don’t form part of the terrible statistic of women who wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time.

M&S Jumper bought in UK, Next jeans ordered online, Spanish scarf and boots bought locally. Feeling much happier.

I don’t miss English shops specifically but I do miss English shopping centres along with a few other things that I am planning to write a post about next week.

Thank you to everyone who got in touch last week, I hope I have replied to you all and didn’t miss anyone, I love hearing from you all.

Steve retains his own individual style





4 thoughts on “Spanish Chic(a) – searching for style

  1. So feel your pain!! I have left British shops in floods of tears and can never fathom what the hell a fifty something is supposed to wear or where we should shop! Really tricky! Currently trying Seasalt, East, Anohki Masai linen pieces etc I still miss your diet class and exercise class. I am trying the 30 day yoga challenge on YouTube – it’s good. Planning to retire this year Judith – we’ll come and see you! Love Valerie xx

    1. Hi Val – great to hear from you. Yes, it is a minefield. I think I have finally found a style I am comfortable with and that is the secret along with having a capsule wardrobe. I read a few fashion blogs and recommend Looking Stylish for ideas on how to put outfits together – if you have the money she will design a wardrobe for you! Her budget is a bit eye watering for me but I use the ideas. I’d love to do Yoga or Pilates – I still do Zumba four days a week but am getting increasingly creaky and need something to keep me supple. I will look at the 30 day challenge – thanks for the idea. We’d love to see you here – enjoy retirement. Judith x

  2. Hi Judith, well it was really great to hear from you, and it seems like you are settling down to the Spanish way of life, after a few hiccups. By the way, really like the new hair style.
    What a struggle for you to find something suitable to wear, but to be honest with you I have struggled lately to find what I want in M & S, so maybe they are struggling to cope with our age groups (both different of course), so have looked elsewhere, mainly Debenhams who do some great sales online.
    This year I hit 70, not with a bang needless to say, but to celebrate went on a Med cruise with our daughter, husband and two children, aged 18 and 20. It was also designed to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. The weather was great, the grandchildren came in just as we were getting up for breakfast, and of course thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, so much so that we have booked again for 2016, sailing to Barcelona on Royal Caribbean’s newest ship Harmony of the Seas, which has over 6000 passengers, and then staying in an apartment for four days to explore Barcelona. 2016 will also be our 50th wedding anniversary so have yet to plan that celebration !
    I did manage to lose 2 kg before that cruise, and then realised that I was a kg lighter than when I was doing Rosemary Conley, so not quite sure how that happened. Its more of a struggle now as I still cant do the exercise classes, but try to walk somewhere everyday to compensate. Its not so much the weight its the inches, sadly. I am waiting to go back to the MIneral Hospital as they want to try a different drug to try and wean me off the steroids – I have been on them 4 years now, 2 years longer than they like.
    I do still meet Joyce (Carver), Barbara Pemberton, Marlene Phelps and Jenny (not sure if these two were in your classes) for coffee every week, often 6 of us and we do have a good catch-up – still missing you though.
    I expect you will have heard about our very mild weather here – its just so strange but I am happy as I do feel the cold. We still shut the curtains and often light the fire, which we do need to do as its quite damp, misty rain a lot of the time. I am hoping it will shorten our winter a lot, I always dread winter.
    With best wishes, Marilyn

  3. How lovely to hear all your news Marilyn. It sounds like you are busy. Say hello to Joyce, Barbara, Marlene and Jenny ( I think I know them all) for me when you see them next and have a Merry Christmas and fabulous New Year.

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