December 4, 2016: Hola everyone! Winter has arrived in Milwaukee and there are snow flurries today. Despite several hard freezes remarkably my "spikes" in two of my patio planters have absolutely refused to die. The rosemary and thyme plants I nursed inside the house through last winter spent the summer in their pot outside next to the side stoop off the driveway, where they get plenty of sunshine all day long. I transplanted them into a cozy sheltered spot right next to the stoop in October and they are still green and growing, too! With the delay in getting the drywall patching done in the relatively minor "reconstruction" work I had done in my kitchen, I am way behind my time in getting the house decorated. But yesterday I got my wreath decked out with extra lights and dressed the front door of the house, and my battery-operated traditional candles were put up on the window sills all around the house Friday evening. It becomes a ritual to go around at dusk and turn the tops to the right to turn the candles "on" and at bedtime to go around and turn the tops to the left to turn the candles "off." Today I put some "glittery" throw pillow covers purchased new last month from H&M on three of my sofa pillows to glam things up a bit in the living room and add some sparkle. Later on, after I sufficiently fuel myself up with wine and snacks and probably to distract myself while I listen to the Packers game on the radio, I will huff and puff and pull my artificial tree up from storage in the basement. I will decorate it simply this year. Every year I say that, and every year I end up throwing just about everything except the kitchen sink on the tree. I am very proud of myself this year, though. I did not buy a single new ornament or Christmas doo-dad for the house (throw pillow covers don't count!!!) Happy Holidays to all, with hope and fervent prayers for 2017. I've a feeling we're all going to need a lot of help from Goddess in the coming year. Jan

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fashion Report from Madrid

Back home from a week in Madrid, sigh.  Well, I am glad to be home, but we had a wonderful time in Madrid and the weather was FABULOUS!  Absolutely no rain at all even though the winter is generally the rainy season and the temperatures were well above-normal during the day - into the mid-50's F. At night the temperatures were still what this Wisconsin girl considers mild - around 32 F.  We didn't have a day without blue skies and lots of warm sun.  It was wonderful.

Of course I - doh - didn't think to actually take photos of the fashions I saw while there, so this is a written report, unless I stumble across something that I happened to catch in one of the nearly 600 photographs I took of the sights!

First of all, it is a lot different now how people dress than when we went for our first visit, in October, 2002.  Back then, people were more smartly dressed than now.  It was much harder, then, to tell the tourists from the natives. Back then, it was usually only Americans who wore jeans and sneakers and unfailingly were advised by travel websites NOT to do so, so as not to make yourself an easy target/mark.  As if anyone listened...  Well, I did.  I did take a pair of jeans with me, but no sneakers, in 2002.  My standard shoe for that journey was a hard frame flat that held up well to the pounding of the streets of Madrid and Toledo and the countless cobblestones we trudged over.  I "dressed up" - that is - I wore work clothes mostly.  Dress slacks, nice dress tops and jackets.  Here's a photo of me taken in Madrid in 2002 before the Acala Gate - I've got jeans on but also a faux-suede dress jacket that I regularly wore to the office with a short sleeve mock turtleneck underneath and my trusty carry-everything size purse.  Sorry about the image quality - the really good photos are stored on my ancient desktop that is no longer hooked up.  Hmmm, must do something about that...



January, 2012 was a whole different ball game. There wasn't anything remotely resembling a work or dressy outfit in my luggage this trip.  I had only 2 pair of jeans with me (one to wear and one spare), my worn-out clogs (comfy as all get out!) and I often wore my Green Bay Packers hoody (nice and warm with a turtleneck underneath). 


Here I am on January 9, 2012 sitting in the Plaza Espana waiting for Mr. Don to finish taking his photos.  The sneaky man snapped several of me when I wasn't looking.  We had our day trip to Toledo that day and I didn't want to trudge along with my too-big old winter jacket, so I had on a long sleeve turtleneck, over that a grey fleece sweater and over that a faux-suede big shirt.  Jeans, ratty old clogs and a different but equally large purse (comparable to the size from 2002) complete the outfit, along with my trusty sunglasses.  Hmmmm, not much difference actually, despite 9 plus years, except I need to drop a few more pounds...  Even my hair style (and color) is still pretty much the same.  Hmmmmm... 

Notice the group of people behind me.  These are Madrilenos.  How can I tell?  Because two of the ladies are carrying a shopping bag and both men are wearing hats and are not sloppily dressed.  Notice what they're wearing: one man has on blue jeans and a suede jacket, the other man has on a black leather jacket and grey cords or jeans; one of the ladies is wearing a knee-length black coat that seems to be perfectly matching her dark hair.  Her hair is loose and down to her shoulders.  One of the ladies looks to have grey or perhaps pale blonde hair, is wearing a light colored jacket and slim-cut black slacks.  The third woman has tawny-colored tresses and her jacket seems to also match her hair color.

This trip I couldn't help but notice it seemed EVERYONE was in jeans and a lot of people wore sneakers.  Boots of all types were very popular with the ladies, and skinny jeans with the younger women, whether they had the figures for them or not.  It was hard to tell who might be a tourist and who might be a Madrileno, unless she (or he) was obviously dressed up for work.  The general uniform for teenaged Madrilenos was tight jeans, boots (tall heeled, short, every height in between), or Ughs or Emus, also saw many younger women wearing wool-knit booties with faux-fur cuffs.  Honestly, walking into the James Joyce Irish Pub, I could not tell the difference between the people and their outfits there and any bar in Milwaukee! 

The older women of Madrid wear fur coats this time of year and generally have well-coifed hair.  People still wear their "Sunday best" on holidays and, of course, on Sunday.  Friday, January 6th was a national holiday and a holy day for the Catholic Church -- the Feast of the Three Kings (Epiphany), so people were off work.  Children were busy celebrating their last days of freedom before returning to school at the close of the holiday season.  The entire weekend I saw well-dressed families out strolling up and down the streets of Old and Bourbon Madrid and in the many plazas, squares and parks that dot Madrid.  Little girls were dressed in skirts or dresses and tights with Mary-Jane style shoes and velvet-collared coats!  No casual jeans for them.  They were dressed up to the nines, with well dressed hair, often with ribbons woven through braids or clipped in.  They were just so precious!

Many of the women color their hair - you see many different shades of red, blonde and shades of caramel and light brown, as well as high-lighted and frosted hair.  Many of the older women wear their hair chin length or shorter, while I saw many young women wear their hair mostly shoulder length or longer, and wavy, layered with streaks of caramel highlights.  I don't want to stereotype, though. I'm speaking generally in "averages" because I saw many young women who were what I would call "avant garde" in their fashion choices, including all kinds of piercings and ripped up clothing, etc. and extreme hair colors like deep black, purple, and pink-streaked, among others.  Those, however, were rather less common than you would see say, on the streets of New York or Chicago or LA.

It is the norm for couples in Madrid to walk arm and arm.  Generally the people are not "tall" -- it was quite evident when Mr. Don and I were holding our places for the Feast of Three Kings parade on the night of January 5th that we of average American height often towered over the natives!  Don is all of 5' 8" and I'm just under 5' 4".  You do not generally see obese Madrilenos, which is a little surprising to me because they seem to have a lot of sugar in their diet - but perhaps not much fat, which is an issue with what Americans eat.  Yes, women of a certain age appeared to have the usual "middle age spread" due to hormonal issues but I didn't see any 200-300 pound or larger fatties walking around.  Generally the people are handsome.  Many of the women have the most amazing cheekbones, and many of the men are darker and very handsome, with flashing eyes and dimples.  I saw a lot of flashing male eyes and dimples, I must say :)

Well manicured hands are the norm among both females and males.  This being Spain, it seemed the majority of men I saw had nice leather jackets.  While many women wore leather coats too, woolen coats of all types (along with the fur coats) seemed to be preferred by the ladies.  The lengths of the coats that the ladies wore were all over the place.  I saw mid-calf length all the way up to waist length, and all different sorts of styles: pea coats, button downs, flared, belted, fur-collared and not, funnel-collared, etc. etc.  In short, pretty much what you would see fashion wise in any sophisticated major urban area.

What I did not see too often was women wearing those ridiculously high spiked heels.  Wearing such a shoe in Madrid's streets would be akin to asking to have a fatal accident.  There are cobblestoned streets and sidewalks everywhere; I do not recall seeing such a thing as what we in the US consider a "sidewalk" of plain old concrete.  And often, the sidewalks consisting of marble squares were undeven, pitted with holes and missing tiles, or the mortar has come loose and the tiles wobble when you walk over them!  I, in particular, seemed to have a penchant for finding loosed tiles on the sidewalks.  The women I saw wore very fashionable (not dowdy and definitely not granny-style) but mostly low-heeled shoes.  I was soooo glad to see that! 

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