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Study Abroad Style: Fashion Inspired by Madrid


Study abroad style madrid
Photo credit

¡Hola chicas! Although I usually stick to penning the Geek Chic column, I’m taking a break from scheduled programming to talk study abroad. Why? Well, because I’m currently spending my final semester of college in Madrid, the capital city of Spain.

We’ve already featured several articles about what to wear while studying abroad here on CF, so this mini-series will focus instead on fashion inspired by the monuments and landmarks of various cities in Europe. (Namely, the ones I visit!)

Madrid is my new home city, so that’s where we’ll begin our tour!

Living La Vida Madrileña: About Madrid


  • In European terms, Madrid is a fairly new capital; King Felipe II made it his capital city in 1561.  Today it houses both Parliament and the Royal Palace.
  • Madrid is the third largest city in the EU and also has the third largest GDP in the EU.


  • While I’ve had my fair share of sangriatapas, and churros con chocolate, the real Spanish culinary obsession is jamón ibérico, cured pork that’s similar to prosciutto. My host mom makes me a “bocadillo (sandwich) de jamón”  just about every day, and I’m quickly getting addicted to the jamón-flavored Lays chips!
  • Other Madrid specialties include cocido madrileño, a stew made with garbanzo beans, bacon, sausage, and veggies, and tortilla española, which is essentially a glorified omelette.

Shopping & Fashion

  • When it comes to the work of retail, the Inditex company, which owns Zara, reigns supreme. The company’s other brands are Stradivarius, Pull & Bear, Bershka, Oysho, Massimo Dutti, Uterqüe, and Zara Home. (Call me ungrateful, but sometimes I do pine for those All-American mainstays Gap and J. Crew.)
  • There’s also the ubiquitous department store El Corte Ingles, where you can buy anything from a designer wedding gown to an iPhone to an entire leg of jamon. It’s pretty much like a giant high-end Target. There’s even a gourmet international food department with a section called “Taste of America,” which sells outrageously priced Duncan Hines cake mixes, tubs of Crisco, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

El Parque de Buen Retiro

Cristal 2
Crystal Palace: Photo credit

El Parque de Buen Retiro, which translates to “The Park of Pleasant Retreat”, is a gorgeous garden situated in the center of Madrid. (It gives Central Park a run for its money. ) The park features beautiful rose beds, elaborate fountains, the Estanque (a large artificial pond), and the incredible Crystal Palace pavilion. Originally a resting area for the royal family, the park was bestowed upon the public in 1868. Today, the park is host to a number of attractions, such as outdoor concerts, puppet shows, and boat rides.

It’s definitely not warm enough in Madrid right now for this ensemble, but it would be great for a visit to El Retiro in the spring, when all the flowers are in bloom! Channel this historic park with a romantic yet trendy ombre maxi skirt, seafoam top, and green sandals. A glass necklace references the Crystal Palace, while the rose earrings are a homage to the rose gardens of El Retiro.

Product Information: Jacket, Top, Skirt, Sandals, Earrings, Necklace

El Museo del Prado

Prado new
Photo credit

El Museo Nacional del Prado, usually just called “El Prado”, is Spain’s premier fine arts museum, housing works by esteemed artists like Velasquez, Goya, and Titian. The museum was established in 1819 and today holds approximately 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 4,800 prints and 8,200 drawings. Notable works include Velasquez’s Las Meninas, Goya’s Third of May, and Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights.

While the exterior of the building is mostly Neoclassical in design, go for baroque in a fancy-pants outfit inspired by the artwork of El Prado.  I’ve noticed that the old ladies in Spain adore their fur coats: while theirs are the real deal, you can get the glam cruelty-free with this opulent faux-fur coat. A luminous brocade dress is reminiscent of the gowns in Las Meninas. A pair of floral tights and ankle-strap heels further jazz up the look. Finally, slip on a red rose ring for a pop of color: you’ll be a work of art that Velasquez would be proud of!

P.S. Should you visit the Prado, remember that it’s always free for students between 18-25, so make sure to bring a student ID!

Product Information: Coat, Dress, Tights, Shoes, Ring

Estadio de Santiago Bernabéu

Estadio de santiago bernabeu
Photo Credit

Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, inaugurated in 1947, is the home of the Real Madrid fútbol (stateside: soccer) team. Current star players include Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká, and Pepe.  I’ve never been a huge soccer fan, but I was informed (under the threat of bodily harm) by the folks at my internship that I must root for Real Madrid. Last month, I was lucky enough to score tickets to the Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona match. Although my friend Nicole had to explain just about every moment of the game to me, I did appreciate the fervor of the crowd. Never before have I heard such creative insults!

Score a few fashion goals yourself with this classic combination of a cobalt blouse and white jeans. Turquoise sneakers jazz up the look, while a yellow cross-body bag adds some color contrast. Finally, crown earrings add the “Real” to your Real Madrid-inspired outfit!


Product information: TopJeansShoesBagEarringsBelt

Puerta del Sol

Sol new
Photo credit

Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun) is a bustling plaza smack dab in the center of Madrid. It’s surrounded by several other famous landmarks, such as Plaza Mayor, the Palacio Real, El Prado, and Atocha Station. There are always tons of people here: shoppers, tourists, night club promoters, bootleg DVD hawkers, and lots of young couples exhibiting copious amounts of PDA. (Considered quite acceptable here in Madrid!) On a more serious note: in the wake of the current economic crisis, demonstrations and protests are often held here.

Given the massive amount of trendy stores surrounding the area, it’s no wonder that you’ll spot lots of hyper-stylish ladies in Sol! The sneaker wedge trend has really taken off here, and I have to admit I’m a convert! Just rock them the way you would ankle boots. Cargo jackets are also popular, so layer one over a fun mustache sweater. Cute bear earrings reference both the crest of Madrid (a bear and a tree) and the teddy bear logo of Spanish brand Tous.

Product information: Jacket, Sweater, Jeans, Sneakers, Bag, Earrings, Ring


Kapital header
Photo credit

While Teatro Kapital is not likely to be short listed as a UN World Heritage site anytime soon, there are lots of folks (mostly American) who would argue that Kapital is a national treasure. The enormous nightclub has 7 dance floors, each with a different music style.

The Spanish take “salir de marcha” (aka going out) very seriously. The night starts at around 1 am and ends at 6 am, when the metro opens. As I’m a cranky future cat lady in the making, I’ve yet to stay out so late, but I’m determined to do so at least once before I leave Madrid! Just like its music offerings, Kapital’s fashion sense is all over the map: there are just as many super blinged-out girls dressed to the nines as there are girls in flats, jeans, and cute tops. Cater to your own going-out tastes with whatever makes you feel comfortable — and fabulous!

Product Information: Dress, White Top, Shorts, Red Top, Jeans, Blue Shoes, Leopard Shoes

What do you think?

Are you planning to or have you studied abroad in Europe? Did you visit Madrid? Would you like to see more cities featured? (Next stop on my itinerary is the land of of 221 Baker Street, the TARDIS, and Platform 9 3/4!)

Posted on on March 7, 2013 / Filed Under: Inspiration / Tags: , , , , , ,

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33 Responses to “Study Abroad Style: Fashion Inspired by Madrid”

  1. 1
    March 7th, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    Love it!
    Please, please, please do one on Sydney!!! It’s such a beautiful city with so much to see and do!

  2. 2
    March 7th, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Tortilla is not an omelette! It includes potatoes

  3. 3
    March 7th, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    please do rome? :)

  4. 4
    March 7th, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    love this new series! I studied abroad last year in London and it was the best time of my life! PLEASE do a post on london and Paris!!!!

  5. 5
    March 7th, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    When I was abroad I sadly never made it to Spain, which has me dying to go back to Europe and visit! I’ve heard el parque de buen retiro is gorgeous (and I love the outfit you paired with it). If you get a chance to head over to Italy I highly recommend it! I lived in Florence for the summer and it was not only beautiful, but very inspiring in terms of fashion as well. (If you’re going later in the semester make sure to check out the Amalfi Coast in Italy – absolutely amazing). Great post!

  6. 6
    March 7th, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    I’m going on exchange to Austria this Fall/Winter, and I know it’s going to be cold, so I’m worried my suitcase is going to be overfilled with sweaters and stuff!

  7. 7
    March 7th, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    I really liked this post. If I travel to Europe, I will definetely visit Madrid (especially because I root for their soccer team).

  8. 8
    March 7th, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    This is so exciting! I studied abroad last year in Salamanca and I would give basically anything to be back in España. Please please PLEASE enjoy every second that you are there! It goes by too fast.

    Also, I like the destinations you chose for inspiration :]

  9. 9
    March 7th, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    love this post! i’m visiting there this summer and this makes me really excited to go!

  10. 10
    March 7th, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    this is perfect!! im studying abroad in madrid in the fall semester! can’t wait to see all these sites, and in the mean time, get some inspiration fro the beautiful sites!

  11. 11
    March 7th, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    Ooh, I am so looking forward to this series. Can we get some Asian countries in here please? I’m visiting Japan and Thailand this summer, and I’d love some Asian inspiration.

    If you’re sticking to Europe, at least for now, I did a summer abroad in Ireland. It’s super pretty, and I bet you could get some great inspiration from Dublin.

  12. 12
    March 8th, 2013 at 12:01 am

    The link to the bear earrings doesn’t work.

  13. 13
    March 8th, 2013 at 12:17 am

    OMG I totally love those tights!! BOUGHT!!

  14. 14
    March 8th, 2013 at 1:39 am

    Such a great post! You are living my dream; I want to study abroad more than anything. Really great information and outfits. :)

  15. 15
    March 8th, 2013 at 3:11 am

    Love it so much! Could you do one on Milan too? I could really use some inspiration with one of the fashion capitals of the world!

  16. 16
    March 8th, 2013 at 5:15 am

    Here’s a spanish CF fan. I like your post. It’s really interesting to know what foregings thinks about Spain. I laughted with “The Spanish take “salir de marcha” (aka going out) very seriously”.
    Enjoy this experience :)

    Hola! Soy una fan española. Me ha hecho mucha gracia tu post, sobre todo lo de salir de marcha. Es muy curioso saber que piensan los extranjeros de España. Espero que disfrutes mucho de tu experiencia aquí. Un saludo!
    Por favor, perdona mis errores en inglés. Estoy aprendiendo =P

  17. 17
    March 8th, 2013 at 5:24 am

    You have no idea how excited I am to have run into this! I’m currently studying in Madrid right now and I loveeee this!

  18. 18
    March 8th, 2013 at 7:40 am

    can you do vienna/austria? it’d be really interesting to see what you have to say about my hometown. :D

  19. 19
    March 8th, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Omg! I am a Spanish reader that lives in Madrid and I loved this! Madrid is finally getting some recognition!
    Only one mistake: It’s jamon iberico with and o!
    I looved this article and the outfits are great!

  20. 20
    March 8th, 2013 at 1:34 pm


  21. 21
    March 8th, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    Hii I am studying in Barcelona this summer please do that city!

  22. 22
    March 8th, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    I’m studying in Segovia right now, which is pretty close to Madrid, and I feel like most of this is pretty spot on- the part about “salir de marcha” made me giggle. I think it’s important to remember too that eeeeverything is done outside, so make sure that you’re always dressing weather appropriately!!

  23. 23
    March 8th, 2013 at 7:22 pm


  24. 24
    March 9th, 2013 at 10:38 am

    @Ana: Oops! Thanks for pointing that out! I’m always forgetting which words are masculine and which are feminine!
    @Ally: I’m hoping to make it to Italy in May!
    @Jessica: Ahh I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself when the program’s over. (I’m already halfway through…time is just whizzing by!)
    @Manuela: Thank you so much for commenting! (And your English is great–goodness knows how many ridiculous Spanish mistakes I’ve made!)
    @Haydee: I’ll be visiting Barcelona next month, so keep an eye out for in inspired-by post then!

    Glad you guys like the series so far!

  25. 25
    March 9th, 2013 at 5:20 pm


    I studied in Málaga (in Andalucía), but I was lucky enough to make it to Madrid twice to visit friends and I love your post! It’s so funny to see Kapital in the same category as Buen Retiro or El Prado, but it’s a place that all study abroad students to check out at least once!

    ¡Espero que te diviertas!

  26. 26
    March 9th, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Hey Shannon!

    I’m also a Spanish CF reader, from Madrid :) I love your post about my city!
    Before you leave you have to visit “El Parque del Capricho”, most madrileños don’t know it but it’s amazing, as well as the views of Madrid from the terrace of El Círculo de Bellas Artes (which is for free if you have an ESN card).

    Hope you enjoy the rest of your exchange and travel all you can! :)

  27. 27
    March 10th, 2013 at 9:29 am

    I live in Madrid and you got right the cargo jackets (you see them EVERYWHERE during these cold months), the lace tops, the brightly colored jeans (preferably indigo blue or red, other colors aren’t so common) and the wedges, but I honestly don’t know where you got the rest from.

    Maxi skirts, for instance, got out of fashion around here at least six years ago. Denim jackets are rarely seen anymore (thank god because they fit horribly!) although leather jackets are a must have. A popular kind of jewellry are very long necklaces that consist of a simple chain with a single, yet hefty pendant -usually made of some metal resembling bronze, and figures of animals like owl and deers are the most popular. Semi precious stones are very common too.

    What you WILL see young ladies in Madrid wearing: polka dots. LOTS of polka dots (okay they’re not as popular as they were back in 2007, but I don’t think they’ll ever go away). Stylish high-waisted shorts with dark tights (or normal denim shorts that are actually meant for the summer but are worn with dark tights when it’s cold) Maxi sweaters and leggings and boots in winter. Red lipstick for nights out. Well nothing out of the ordinary really.

  28. 28
    March 10th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Oh, and I forgot: how do you call those mini dresses that look like overalls but are of a lighter fabric and have shorts instead of a skirt? Usually with a thin belt at the waist? They were the craze last summer. Those and flowy pleated skirts (my favorite was coral with white tank tops).

  29. 29
    March 10th, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Hi! I live in Madrid! So good to know you’ll be spreading your fashionable style in town! Can’t wait to see the posts you may write from here! You’ll love Madrid!

  30. 30
    March 11th, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    that second outfit was amazing has to be one of the best ones posted

  31. 31
    March 16th, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    This is wonderful!!!!

    Could you please please PLEASE do one for Turkey or Greece?
    I am studying abroad in Istanbul this summer, and many of the places we will be going require a very moderate and more formal dress code. I’m struggling figuring out what to bring to make sure I’m being respectful to the culture.

  32. 32
    April 25th, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    London please!

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