Big Girls in Europe: Barcelona Fashion

Greetings from Barthelona, home of incredible pork products, the second best football team in Spain and a whole lot of cool-looking melty buildings.

Modernista Architecture: further proof that peyote is a hell of a drug

It is not, however, home to many big girls. Do they not exist? Are they simply not allowed out of doors? I’m not sure.

I’d like to report on the elegance of Spanish gorditas, but the handful I’ve seen so far seem to suffer the same fate as many of their American sisters: cheap clothes, especially the ubiquitous cheap graphic top with tackazoid metallic screen prints. Sigh.

I suspect it’s a question of supply. Their access to stylish plus-size clothing must be even more limited than in the US.

Sure there’s Marina Rinaldi, but I popped into their store on the Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona’s equivalent to Rodeo Drive, and although the clothes were beautifully made, they do err on the side of elegantly mumsy with disheartening frequency.

That being said, I have noticed a certain out-and-about uniform here in the heart of Catalunya.

Scarves. Always.
From the sweet young things trundling to language class to the stopped-counting-after-Franco doyennes walking their blue-rinsed terriers along the Carrer d’Aragó, long but tidy woven scarves abound. The older women tend to wear them neatly knotted in a cravat while the younger set goes for a more casual double wrap drape around the neck.

Fit is Everything
In the US there seems to be two fits: painted on or falling off. Most of us do our best to navigate the middle ground, but ours is often a tale of woe, with a top clinging like a needy ex one day only to be stretched out beyond recognition after the first wash. Although skinny jeans are still the pants of choice, they’re merely close-fitted, not denim deathgrips. Tops can be loose or skim without clinging and sleeves end where sleeves ought to end, not a foot south of the wrist.

Modesty
I’ve got to say, this one threw me a little. Even outside their fashion institute, the cuts and colors were surprisingly conservative, much more along the lines of DC than New York or, God Forbid, LA.

Cleavage was virtually non-existent even on warm days and when it made an appearance, it was incidental, not integral to the look. As for speculum length minis, I’ve only seen two: both worn by drunk British girls. Which isn’t to say there weren’t short skirts, but they were paired with matching opaque tights –usually black for both– and loose fitting tops.

Neutrals
Another surprise, and I suspect a seasonal one. Barcelona embraces a very Donna Karan color palette with grays from heather to charcoal, soft browns from fawn to dark chocolate, muted pinks and blues and every possible permutation of beige. It might not sound exciting, but it looks fantastic. Bolder colors –if hunter green and rust are bold– come from the omnipresent scarves. The makeup is muted too, and women, especially women of a certain age, looked the world better for it.

What to wear in Barcelona to fit in with the locals:

  • A loose but not sloppy thin sweater or knit top over a slimmer knit or button down shirt in complimentary neutrals. Lightweight moto-cut twill jacket if it’s chilly at night.
  • Long woven scarf in an interesting color or pattern
  • Dark slim-cut denim or twill pants either paired with boots or ballet flats. Precariously high heels look out of place for day, though I’ve seen a pair or two at night.
  • Hair is either long and slightly unkempt or chic bordering on New Wave and accessories are about what you’d see in the states with big bags abounding, although there’s little to no 80′s or 90′s hipster irony, thanks be to God.

13 Responses to “Big Girls in Europe: Barcelona Fashion”

  1. Leigh Ann November 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    I love Barcelona. When I was last there (two years ago, alas), the women were all wearing flat heeled boots and if they were wearing a skirt, black tights. They all look very nice. Though, as you say, finding nice plus sized clothing is probably tough. I bought only scarves when I was there. Oh, and a purse.

    Thanks for the photo of Casa Batllo, by the way. It’s my favorite Gaudi building. It’s marvelous on the inside as well. And there are still a few private apartments in it. Can you imagine living there?

  2. Anne November 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    Next time you come in Barcelona send me an email and I’ll show you the place to shop for plus size girls. Yes there is a place for us : http://www.vivelesrondes.com/?p=6697

    I live there since 2006 and for a french girl like me it’s a lot better than what we can find in France. More colors, more fun, more quality for the same price than in France.

    When you see woman in grey, black… there’s a big chance these woman are workings in office, or french tourists ;)

    I love Barcelona, but I must confess that the best place for plus size shopping in Europe is London !

  3. Anne November 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    And by the way, it can be dangerous to say to a Catalan that the FC Barcelona is the second best football team in Spain. For them it’s the best team ever in the world.
    Also, a lot of them don’t think Barcelona is a spanish city, there asking for “Indepencia” !

  4. Tovah November 19, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    First, thank you for the gorgeous picture.

    I noticed in Europe that the women buy quality over quantity. A couple of perfectly fitted skirts or pants and beautiful tops.Gorgeous scarves and an expensive, fitted coat.

    ubiquitous cheap graphic top with tackazoid metallic screen prints. lol. Why do department stores or boutiques think we would want those any more than our thinner counterparts? The worst are the t-shirts with the faux necklace sewn into the shirt.

  5. Jenne November 19, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    Love this! I grew up in a tourist town and consequently have a horror of looking like a tourist. They should include this information in every travel guide.

    I just spent two weeks in Vienna recently and was pleased to be asked for directions, IN GERMAN, several times (it was a lot easier to blend there than in Tokyo, for obvious European-heritage-related reasons).

    (this year the Viennese are wearing ballet flats, skinny jeans, scarves, and vaguely unattractive hairdos)

  6. Leigh Ann November 19, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    Anne, I remember seeing seeing graffiti saying, “Catalunya is not Spain.” They do love their football team, though.

  7. Miss Plumcake November 19, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    @Anne: I’m still here for a few days, and found two places off a side street. St Denis and something else. Of course I know saying FCB is the second best team in Spain are fighting words. The entire point of this leg of my trip was to go to Camp Nou (I flew across the country last year to see Barca play Manchester United in an exhibition match, what can I say I’m a bit obsessed) but I must confess I’m a Madridista at heart. I’m also very careful to talk about Catalunya and not Spain. I don’t want to get cut! email me at plumcake@shoeblogs.com if you’ve got any suggestions!

  8. jason November 20, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    wow…that photo is beautiful!
    Now I want to go, soon as I can get myself some fawn neutrals :)

  9. Sarah November 20, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    Barcelona is really great :) and Gaudi is the master.
    @Anne: which stores in London are advisable for plus sized shopping?

  10. Rubiatonta November 22, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    Barcelona is probably the most conservative city in Spain (sorry, Catalunya isn’t independent, yet), and Spanish women do dress more conservatively than you’d expect. Except for the very young, the preference is for well-made clothes, cut fairly close to the body, in neutrals. Especially now, in the grips of La Crisis, there isn’t much money for throw-away clothes.

    You’re right that there are not many big girls in this neck of the woods — and there’s a real lack of cute boutiques for us — I’m lucky to be at the tippy-top of straight sizes (at a size 18/50), but I still don’t often many my clothes here. I either order them from the UK or the US, or make them myself. You might find things you like at the main branch of El Corte Inglés, at Plaza de Catalunya. Look for the “tallas grandes” department. I like Elena Miró and Adolfo Dominguez+; both are national brands, and neither is mumsy. (Nor cheap!) Couchel is also a very nice line.

    Of course, what we can’t have in clothes, we can make up for with shoes, purses, and scarves, and it is still possible to find them made here in Spain. Pretty Ballerinas has the cutest flats ever — they’re at Rambla Catalunya, 77, in the Eixample. Or go to Kokua, c/ Boquería, 30, for more cute ballet flats, slightly more budget friendly than P.B.

    Happy shopping!
    Rubi in Madrid

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