Swimwear on Spanish beaches differs from typical U.S. attire

February 13, 2013
Alpine Living | Courtney DaviesUniversity of Alabama student Lauren Killen models three outfits appropriate to wear on the beaches of Spain.

Alpine Living | Courtney Davies
University of Alabama student Lauren Killen models three outfits appropriate to wear on the beaches of Spain.

Throughout Spain, a modest and conservative dress code applies. Longer shorts and skirts are preferred in the summer, and crop tops and tight miniskirts are discouraged for religious reasons. There’s only one exception: beachwear.

Swimwear in Spain is viewed as anything but conservative.

“It’s super provocative and always controversial at runway shows,” fashion writer Kelsey Hendrix said.

Hendrix has worked for lines like Diane von Furstenberg and Henri Bendel, and she blogs about fashion for Vie Magazine.

“Although some might call this swimwear provocative at best, I find it to be fashion-forward and trend-setting,” Hendrix said.

Thong bottoms and more revealing styles are widely accepted in Spain, where most beaches allow some or partial nudity.

“Nudity is not taboo like it is in the U.S., so no one will look twice at you if you decide to wear a little less than usual,” said Meredith Julian, a University of Alabama graduate student. Julian has studied abroad in Barcelona and visited the Barcelona city beaches frequently.

Though one may experience culture shock during a first visit to a Spanish beach, it may be advisable not to let this show through words or actions.

“Whatever you do, do not stare at people who are dressed in less than what they would be in the U.S.,” Julian said. “This is seen as extremely rude. You will see people of all ages and sizes just enjoying their time in the sun and not thinking twice about the way they look.”

Both Julian and Walton agree Spanish beaches possess a high level of comfort not seen in America.

Alpine Living | Courtney Davies

Alpine Living | Courtney Davies

“I think what’s special about dressing for beaches in Spain is the fact that you don’t have to worry about what anyone is going to think of you,” said Taylor Walton, who studied abroad in Seville through Mount Saint Mary College.

And European swimwear is constantly at the forefront of the fashion world and of resort collection trends, according to Hendrix.

“Incorporating ready-to-wear trends like underwear as outwear and asymmetrical color blocking, recent resort collections have closely resembled styles found in women’s’ wear spring shows,” she said.

As far as brands, Spanish beachwear ranges from luxurious to thrifty. Affordable shops like Zara, H&M and Mango line the streets in cities like Madrid and Barcelona. H&M’s collection of bathing suits for summer 2013 are available online, with pieces starting at $9.99 and ranging to $29.95. For the high rollers, labels like Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana and Valentino are popular.

Since casual wear is not usually worn in the city, the beach is the spot to sport denim shorts and tank tops. However, more conservative outfits should be packed for spending time in the city before or after a beach visit. And, true Spanish fashionistas never forget to coordinate their shoes with an outfit to achieve a more “put together” look.

“Many Spaniards are very proud and conscious of their shoes,” Hendrix said. “Gladiator-style sandals are especially popular.”

Alpine Living | Courtney Davies

Alpine Living | Courtney Davies

She recommends investing in a pair of quality leather sandals before journeying to Spain. Ralph Lauren’s Iffingten II Vanchetta sandals, featuring crisscross straps and hand stitching, are available in mint, green, beige, orange and black. For those looking to save a few bucks, American Eagle’s faux leather Fisherman sandals are available online for $29.99.

In order to visit a beachside restaurant, however, tourists must also be prepared to cover up. Unlike the United States, a little more than shoes and shirts are required. More casual spots accept tops and shorts, but dressier places require skirts or pants paired with blouses.

Chances are, sunbathers see a bit of everything when visiting the Spanish coast. Revealing bathing suits, modest bathing suits and nudity are all present on most beaches. So, Walton advises tourists to feel free to wear whatever makes them feel most comfortable.

“You can feel comfortable in your own skin at the beaches in Spain,” she said. “Whether you choose conservative or revealing, you’ll fit right in.”