As Northern European women we tend to be taller and larger framed than our Latin counterparts. This can sometimes prove to be problematic when clothes shopping in Spain. It can be disheartening to discover that you have gone up a couple of dress sizes since arriving in Spain.
Don’t panic, you don’t need to resort to low fat, low-carb, or low calorie just yet. The sizes are definitely smaller and vary greatly. The good news is for tall women, as trouser legs tend to be long as many stores offer a cheap, alteration service, which everyone seems to use.
Personally, in the UK I am a Next 10/12, whereas in Spain a size 42 (14) jeans positively grips my thighs. In fact, in the UK I would fall into the slim category but in Spanish fitting rooms, I have almost had to be surgically removed from trousers whilst they tell me that they are the biggest size that they do.
Super slim Shop Assistants
Ironically, it goes against our traditional notion of Latin women being, well, shall we say, on the curvaceous side. On the contrary, if you look at the staff employed in women’s fashion shops, they are mostly petite and incredibly svelte. If you have a good look around, especially places like Marbella, there seems to be a clear connection between wealth and slimness. It seems that as wealth increases, weight decreases. Therefore, you will find that a lot of the boutiques around Marbella, especially around Puerto Banus, stock very tiny skimpy clothes.
There isn’t the vast selection of high street names that we are used to as people still enjoy shopping in individual shops which stock just a few sizes of each item. As you can imagine, if you shop this way, it can be pretty expensive as such shops do not enjoy the economies of scale that the monopolizing groups such as the Arcadia Group do.
Stores such as Zara have been very successful due to the Japanese, automotive methods that they employ. The average turnaround for design through to shop floor is just three weeks. Their ability to keep up with the latest trends and replicate catwalk looks explains their popularity. They are always packed, especially on a Saturday, and by the end of the evening, the stores look completely ransacked. Their main drawback is that they cater only for the size 8 to 12. I wear a UK size 10 for tops but in Zara, I wear an L (large), the only size up being an XL.
Who shops where?
You just need to look at the shop window displays, and you instantly know the target age, unlike in the UK, where anyone can find anything appropriate to their age from 14 to 64 in trendy shops such as New Look. So, in that sense, you could say that there is a lot of age segregation.
Shops such as Berska are evidently against anyone over a size 10 and over the age of 25. Zara, on the other hand, attempts to satisfy a wider age range by splitting its stores into three departments. Zara Basic is targeted at the 21 to 35 age group with a good range of basics mixed with the latest trends. The durability of most products is probably one season if washed once per week.
The prices are very reasonable, with a pair of smart/casual trousers costing around 25 euros and cotton tops around 15. Zara woman is targeting an older age group in a higher income bracket. The quality is better and the designs are more sophisticated. For the casual/funky teens and students, there’s TRF, which is very young, eclectic, cheap, and tiny. Zara also does menswear and children’s wear. They offer an alteration service for their clothes. A basic shortening of trouser leg costs about 4 euros.
Mango is another high fashion chain targeting the 20 to 35 range. The quality is similar to Zara but can be slightly pricier. Again, the sizes are small.
Promo targets a 35 + group. It is on a par with Principles and Wallis. Lots of smart casual clothes and patterned tops. Again, a UK 12 would need a size 42. They also have great, reasonably priced accessories including jewelry, bags, shoes, and belts.
Massimo Duttii appeals to smart but casual, classic, preppy, successful thirty-somethings. The quality is very good, but they don’t follow high fashion trends like Zara.
El Corte Ingles is the main department store that stocks designers ranging from Morgan to French Connection for the 20s and 30s. There are also Spanish designers and some familiar names from the UK department stores such as Liz Claiborne I always find it a bit disappointing and very expensive.
If you plan to check out the high street sales in Spain, you might be disappointed. Big discounts i.e. 50% are scarce, as most stores only offer 20%. There are two sales per year summer and January. One thing is for sure when shopping in Spain, you don’t need to worry that your clothes might be discounted next week as often happens in the UK. Clothe shops just don’t do promotional offers as there isn’t the same amount of competition on the high street.
Below is a conversion chart to enable you to find your Spanish size when clothes shopping. These sizes are the equivalents but be warned there is a lot of variation, and you might need a size bigger!
I would suggest that when trying on clothes take a range of sizes in with you and try not to look at the size label too much as it really doesn’t mean much. Concentrate on the fit and remember that many shops have an alteration (arreglos) service if you ask.