I’m from the Midwest, Chicago to be exact; however, I went to a University in Indiana. That means that I grew up on corn and potatoes, know how to drive on long, flat stretches of land all while avoiding deer and racoons, and it means that what the rest of the country calls a “snow storm” is actually picnic weather. We’re a different breed: we talk fast, walk even faster, like our sports rough, and our pizza served in a deep dish, like real deep. That being said, unless you’re immersed in the glamorous, ritzy, fashionista world in Chicago, you’re probably dressing more for comfort and practicality than anything else. When the bus driver is having a bad day, and you have to run after him, well, it’s hard to run in stilettos. And when we experience 4 seasons in a span of 45 minutes, our motto is “be prepared” not “be cute”. There’s nothing less cute than pneumonia.
As for my time in Indiana, I was a college student at a small Liberal Arts university, so naturally I rolled out of bed, and went to school. Come on, I can’t be the only one. What could you possibly expect from a 21 year old who lives 5 minutes walking-distance from class? Exactly. Needless to say, this spirit of “multi-functional sleepwear” followed me to Europe. I wanted to be comfortable, but now that I think about it, I probably just hated doing laundry. Still do.
This is my fifth year living in Madrid, and I was looking at a few photos from when I first arrived.
My, how things have changed!
My first year, I felt very uncomfortable in my skin here, and I kept comparing myself with the pencil thin, Zara models prancing up and down Gran Via. That, and I always felt under-dressed or over-dressed (read: hyper-sexualized from all the stares) and couldn’t figure out why! I felt like Bambi trying to get my bearings. As a woman of color with a body type that’s not as common here, finding positive representations of myself in the fashion world and the day-to-day was difficult, and still is challenging. Luckily, not only do I have my confidence back (I really want to say swag), but I also know where to look for inspiration.
After a few minutes of skipping down memory lane, here are my observations (read: I spent 20 minutes cringing and laughing at myself while scrolling through old Facebook photos).
Ditch the non-essential make-up and highlight your most striking features
I used to leave the house with a red lip, foundation, the works, because I’m in Europe, everyone wears red lipstick, right? I chose my hair, and my eyes. That’s it! I play up my almond-shaped eyes, and let me hair block all the haters and spectators.
Less is more
Life is a party, but life is not a fraternity basement party. My skirts were too short and my shirts were too low! It’s like they were long lost friends trying to meet somewhere in the middle, not really, but sorta. I’ve seen how sexy a turtleneck can be, and I’m never going back. I noticed that women here, go for a more subtle sexy: think shoulders, neck and the oh-so-naughty clavicle. There’s a time for mini and sequins, but usually not at 15h on Tuesday.
Bag lady, you gon’ miss yo’ bus
Goodness, I needed to invest in an actual bag, not a re-useable tote from Trader Joe’s or my Jansport from 7th grade. Yes, they’re practical, and environmentally friendly; however, a structured, well-crafted bag can make all the difference in the world.
I embraced my Wednesday Adams
My favorite color is black. I wear it often; however, I was always slightly concerned with looking too x (dark, goth, blah, boring, what have you) I don’t care anymore. I wear what makes me feel comfortable and confident. I feel sleek and sexy and feminine in black, so that’s what I wear. Punto pelota as they say here.
Attention to details
I think I was so busy trying to dress like what I thought "Madrileños" or Europeans dressed like, that I grew tired of playing “dress-up” everyday. What I did learn is that simple is beautiful. Less is actually more. Understated doesn’t mean boring. I use statement pieces such as hats, a bright trench coat or moto jacket, a studded bootie, or wrist full of bangles to take my everyday pieces to the next level. (what level that is, I couldn’t tell you). I don’t wear heels anymore because I walk like that tipsy uncle who always has one too many at the family reunion, and that isn’t comfortable (or safe)... or cute.
I’ve shed my yoga pants and hoodie cocoon, and emerged as a (seemingly) put together almost adult! Woo-hoo! I’ll take a high-five for that. With all these labels of hipster, this, modern that, classic that it basically comes down to this: what items in your closet make you feel like Queen Bey when you step out your door? If after answering this question it’s yoga pants and a hoodie, rock that ish! For me, it’s my grandpa glasses, skinny black jeans, a 2 euro t-shirt and ankle boots. Once a Midwestern girl, always a Midwestern girl. Werk.
How has your style changed since moving to Europe, and have you finally found your “niche”? Let's chat, cause sharing is caring.
Danni, Community Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful life partner. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.