Claudia and I are far from fashionistas. Case-in-point: One of our friends had an 80s/90s-themed party last year and neither of us had to buy a single thing to go all-out with our costumes. Thus, there’s a part of me that feels a little silly writing this article as I wouldn’t exactly consider us ‘experts’ when it comes to clothes. All the same, I once read an article on where to shop in Granada and was shocked (although I really shouldn’t have been) to find that I had never stepped foot inside of any of the shops mentioned. If you’re a bit more fashion-savvy, you may enjoy our guest post from Nina of A World of Dresses so stay tuned for that on Sunday! If you tend to be a more averagely-dressed gal like us, this article is for you…
Out Shopping with Dani
I wouldn’t say these are actually my favorite shops in terms of style, but I feel they are important enough here in Spain to at least note. Zara was founded by a Spaniard, so I would argue it is the most important brand name that is affordable for the average person. In my opinion, they appeal to the crowd looking for high fashion on a budget (yet we’re still talking about 25€ for a top from the new collection). Mango is quite similar in pricing, although a little more unique in terms of style. It is important to be aware that, here in Spain, people don’t have the same obsession with individuality that we do in the United States. Finding something unique is not a high priority for the average clothes shopper and if you shop at either of these stores, you should be ready to find half of the population wearing the same thing as you. Again, this is not frowned upon in Spain and nobody seems to mind…but it did blow my mind when I noticed one of my students wearing a cute sweater in class, only to come home to find my roommate wearing the EXACT same one.
Pro-Tip: I typically only frequent these two during rebajas, or sales season, in January and July when there are discounts before they transition into the next season. Rebajas sales are available at pretty much every shop in Spain at this time, not just Mango and Zara, so check out all your options!
Although many don’t realize it, Lefties is the ‘discount sister’ of Zara and is considered its marca blanca (white label) where the high-power chain sells clothes as outlet prices. Walking into this store, you’re very unlikely to get that vibe, though. It’s geared much more towards a younger shopper who is interested in bright colors and patterns, at much more affordable prices. You can find t-shirts and tanks as low as 3€! Now of course, how cheaply they are able to sell their clothing speaks to the implications of mass productions and is a far cry from the socially-responsible type of shopping Claudia does (see below), but I would be lying to you if I didn’t admit to shopping here from time to time, especially to stock up on cheap shirts for layering.
Pro-Tip: I also like to shop in the men’s half of this store, especially for sweaters! I love me an oversized sweater I can comfortably wear with leggings and sometimes the women’s versions—which seem to get shorter and shorter each year—just don’t cut it for me.
Honestly, I never shopped at this store in the US; it just felt too quirky (and maybe fashionable?) for my taste. However, here in Spain, they seem to stock much more run-of-the-mill styles, which is perfect for me! I’ve truly put in a good effort to find jeans I like elsewhere, but nothing fits my body as perfectly nor fits my budget as well as H & M’s jeans! Their 9.99€ high-waisted jean collection is surprisingly fabulous and I am not ashamed to admit I eventually bought the same exact style in light-wash, dark-wash, white, and black. They stand the test of time, too. I’m going on my third season with some of them and they haven’t lost their shape at all.
Pro-Tip: Definitely check out their ‘basic’ tees as well—plain and simple, but nicely fitted and cute.
As we mentioned in our Stuff Edition of Where Can I Buy That?, Spain has a strong tradition of shops for one particular thing. Did you know a bustería is an entire store dedicated to hats!? But I digress… For the most part, I tend to go to places where I can buy a variety of things, but I’ve come to realize one area in which I am more particular, and therefore willing to splurge, is with boots. I never wore many boots before moving to Spain and so the first couple of pairs I bought were at discount shops or general clothing stores. However, those shoes and boots never withstood more than a season of constant walking in Spain’s streets. Now that I’m transitioning to valuing quality over quantity, I will wait to save up the money to buy myself a quality pair of leather boots from a reputable shop specialized in this market. Here in Granada, that means I’ve visited Esperanza Carrasco once each year that I’ve lived here (and now that I’ve got black, brown, and suede quality options I doubt I’ll need to visit them again for awhile).
Pro-Tip: For you, maybe boots aren’t that important but I recommend you figure out what IS worth spending more for you and splurge on those items, rather than buying crap in bulk (as I often do, haha).
Out shopping with Claudia
I know that Dani might sound like she’s more fashion savvy, but I am not! In fact, now that I have to dress up a little bit and *gasp* put on make-up (aka I only wear sunscreen and mascara) for work means that I spend my weekends in leggings and sweatshirts almost religiously. In addition, I don’t actually like shopping that much and make most of my purchases every couple of years when I am with my shopping-loving aunts. Add to that the fact that I am slightly anti fast-fashion and you have to wonder where I do my shopping in Spain.
Because I try to avoid buying lots of new things—this is also a great way not to spend all your money/save it for food and drinks—I check out second-hand stores before buying new. However, you should know that there are no GoodWills in Spain and vintage clothes can be rare, making them expensive. There are some chains of stores, such as Humana, where you can find things at reasonable prices (and they often have “end of season sales” which make them downright cheap). Other vintage stores can be just as expensive as ‘normal’ stores, but at least you are supporting getting the most out of your clothes.
Pro-Tip: Another perk of these types of shops is that you are forced to choose something you like without being able to choose the size (as there is typically only one article of the kind available)… Not a bad influence on your self-image.
Artesanal shops and local markets
I really value the work that people put into creating their own products, so I like to support them when I can. In addition, I find that buying totally unique, handmade pieces make for interesting talking points and really nice souvenirs (I have several pieces that I have bought over the years that have become incredibly special to me and I now try to wear them only once-in-awhile as I want them to last). This can, however, be expensive so I don’t buy stuff that often, and usually only when I am traveling—can you see a theme around how I buy? Hint, it’s almost never.
Pro-Tip: This is obviously a great alternative if you’re looking to escape the exact-same fashion trends Dani mentions above.
E-commerce in Spain is slowly increasing, but it is not at the same level of buying online that you will find in the States, or even in other EU countries (trust me, I have researched this for work). At the same time, it works and there are some essentials that I am not buying used, and that I can’t really get in markets. For example, and this may be weird, neither Dani nor I buy underwear in Spain. It’s not that I haven’t tried, it’s just that I don’t really like it. This means that I have to find other ways of getting access to undies that I like. Now, for those of you who are here short-term, I definitely recommend bringing what you need in the way of essentials—don’t expect you are going to wander upon a sexy lingerie store where you are happy with the prices on your first day here (it may happen, but don’t count on it).
Pro-Tip: Those of you who are here for the long-haul, this could get a little more complicated as shipping from the US isn’t always inexpensive. Personally, my parents can bring me back stuff as they are back-and-forth for work (and I am currently loving fair-trade, organic PACT undies if you are in the market for some new ropa interior). However, you might look into seeing what you can find at a more local level to satisfy your needs or convincing a friend to come visit you, bringing along a package.
Where do you shop? Are you more of a ‘Dani’ or a ‘Claudia?’ If you liked this article and want to prepare yourself with vocabulary for shopping in Spain please check out our Easy Spanish post on this topic! Let us know if you still have any other questions we could answer.