History of Fashion In Spain – A Case Study

History of Fashion In Spain – A Case Study

When you’re mentioning the most influential countries in the world relating to fashion, countries like France and Spain come to mind. The history of fashion in Spain shows that it has always been a notable contributor to the fashion world. Although France dominated the industry in the last few centuries, the US and UK seem to be catching up recently. Most people don’t know that in the early 16th century, Spain was at the forefront of world fashion because of their beautiful embroidered designs and, ultimately, the use of colorful clothing. 

Today, most fashion designs have been heavily influenced by traditional Spanish dresses. During cultural events in the rural parts of Spain, tourists could see these colorful traditional dresses in use. They brought out these clothes on special occasions. People usually come from around the world to see fashion hosts hosted in Milan and Barcelona. To date, Spanish fashion designers have significantly influenced the fashion industry. In this article, we’ll walk you through the history of fashion in Spain and how Spain came to influence style as we know it today.

The History of Fashion in Spain – Politico-Geographical Influence

Starting from the 1500s, the customs and culture of the country have always had a significant influence on Spanish fashion. It also influenced the world as Spain sold their cultural products and clothing to their former colonies. With many timeless fashion trends and styles in the country, it’s even harder to trace the history of fashion in Spain and create a timeline. This is difficult because of the multicultural society that formed the early Spanish empire. There was also a constant shift in its political and economic relationship with the rest of the world. 

From the beginning, Spain has been a country of contrast. The Moors partially occupied the country for more than seven centuries, and during this time, it saw the coexistence of different faiths like Christian, Jewish, and Muslim till 1492. During this period, it became the champion of Catholicism, heralding the Spanish empire’s golden age. Due to geography, climate, and language differences, Spain embraces different regional identities. Spain’s climate also allows it to grow other materials for textile production. While wool grew from the plains of Castille, Flax grew in Galicia, and sericulture and silk weaving started in Valencia and Andalusia.

The Spanish colonies started producing exotic dyes, creating the deep blacks and bright reds that defined the Spanish preference in regional, fashionable and religious apparel right from the beginning of the sixteenth century. The history of fashion in Spain also showed that in the nineteenth century, Spain became more automated. Despite this, skills like leatherwork and embroidery have remained valuable. 

History of Fashion in Spain – The Common Traditional Pieces

Spanish fashion has been modernized over the years. However, traditional Spanish outfits are still worn on religious and special occasions. Some of the traditional Spanish traditional styles today survived changing times and climates. Even better is the fact that people can differentiate them by cultural customs. Some of the most common pieces are popularly worn during fashion parades, events, and festivals. They’re seen on the matadors and flamenco dancers; we’ll explain their differences below.

Traje de Flamenca

This is the flamenco dress and is usually worn by female flamenco dancers. The Traje de Flamenca are long dresses, and they come with a defined neckline that hugs the waist and then opens at the up, all the way to the ankles. The skirt and sleeves are usually embellished with ruffles. The flamenco dancers usually dress traditionally in red, white, and black. Their hair is always up in a bun, and there’s always a rose behind their ear as an accessory. 

Traje de Luces

This is another traditional dress in the history of fashion in Spain. It is an ornate cloth that traditional bullfighters popularly wear. This conventional wear has remained constant over the years, and its name means suits of lights. This is a reference to the heavy and detailed embellishment of the costume. The pants and jacket of the costume are usually the same color and feature intricate gold, black, or silver embroidery. It also comes with Austrian knots and sequins.


A traditional Spanish veil piece you just must know about is the Mantilla. You might know it as the veil worn during festivals like weddings, the holy week, and even bullfights in Spain. The veil usually comes as a lace or silk scarf on a high comb and is worn over the head and shoulders.


Another classical, traditional fashion piece is the gilet. This has been adapted to more of a modern style over the years. It is usually a sleeveless jacket similar to a vest or a waistcoat. It is typically a staple of traditional Spanish attire and features fittings and embroidery from the past. Today, these conventional jackets come in a contemporary style, and people wear them for warmth.

History of Fashion in Spain – The Middle Age

Now that you know the traditional pieces of Spain, take a trip down the history of fashion in Spain with me. The middle age and 21st century were a time of growth and evolution for Spanish fashion. The 10th and 13th centuries featured surcoats, mantles, and tunics in silk brocades. There was heavy Arab influence because the materials were sourced from these Muslim-dominated regions. 

The 14th century featured the elites supplementing their wardrobe from abroad to keep up with the changing styles. The era of Charles brought an austere black and white piece that symbolized religious influence. Buttons, gold chains, and jewels crafted from precious metal adorned this dress.

The Golden Age – A Fashion Forward Period

The period between 1556-1680 heralded Spain’s golden age. This era was one of Spain’s most powerful arts and fashion periods, and it flourished throughout the Spanish empire and its European neighbors. In 1580, there was a publication of the first Spanish book and manual on tailoring. This book indicated a change in perspective in fashion and styling. Later on, in the later half of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century, Spanish elites wore silk clothing that was colored vividly and adorned in gold or silver. 

However, Spanish noblemen isolated themselves during this period from their European peers regarding style. They ditched doublets, trunk hoses, and cloaks in favor of singular padded breeches. However, the Spanish women preferred ball gowns over the Spanish farthingale.

History of Fashion in Spain – The Catholic Effect

The 17th – Mid 19th centuries witnessed the catholic effect on the history of fashion in Spain. As stated earlier, Catholicism became the primary religion in Spain; therefore, the country’s styles and fashion adapted to the Catholic style. As a result, men and women started to favor black more, and to date, it is a staple color in the Spanish fashion. Black also became the color of formal court dresses, although there were religious connotations to wearing black. To date, the clergy and the grieving still wear this color.

Apart from the color black, Catholicism has had other influences on Spanish fashion. An example of this religious influence is wearing a veil to cover the head and shoulder or high collars. Also, in the 18th and 19th centuries, wearing rosaries on the hand because a women’s accessory that was visible to everybody. Women wore the black basque over their gowns whenever they went to church.

The Addition of a Wardrobe from Paris

From the 19th – the 20th century, the Spanish elites decided to patronize Parisian fashion. As a result, they frequently traveled to Paris to improve their wardrobe collection. Apart from elites, top Spanish dressmakers traveled to Pairs to attend the haute couture exhibitions. In this place, they usually acquired models for themselves or went to study top fashion designers so that they could modify their styles for their middle-class clientele. 

The Modern Age

The history of fashion in Spain from the 21st century till date marked the entry of the modern age with the entry of two fashion icons into the Spanish fashion space. Coco Chanel and Cristobal Balenciaga entered Spanish fashion in the 1900s, and they were like a much-needed breath of fresh air for the Spanish fashion industry. These two legends changed Spain’s fashion scene and pushed the boundaries of imagination and creativity. These two fashion icons are also responsible for introducing the modern Spanish style to the world. 

Balenciaga and Chanel easily made their way around Spanish art by collaborating with painters like Dali and Picasso. Sometimes, they decided to create fashion inspired by works of old Spanish art masters. For example, Balenciaga studied the works of Francisco de Goya and de Zurbaran to recreate Spanish fashion. This made up his primary collection in 1936. He also had a line of Spanish-inspired outfits with jewel-toned shades and opulent dresses. This was an ode to the classic Spanish rich textile and traditional embroidery worn by the aristocracy back in the golden age.

On the other hand, Coco Chanel is considered one of the most influential fashion designers who revolutionized women’s fashion. Her style symbolizes freedom and elegance, and she emancipated ladies from the shackles of corsets and laces in favor of pants and shits. Chanel also dived into creating fashion in collaboration with art by partnering with painters like Pablo Picasso. Soon, their partnership became a trailblazer for the perfect modern expression of fashion through art and art through fashion. 

Most of Chanel’s modern styles were revolutionary as Picasso’s unique cubism. Together they created a unification of fashion and art in the history of fashion in Spain. Chanel is also known to have worked with Salvador Dali, the father of surrealism.

Final Thoughts

Fashion continues to change, which is apparent in Spanish fashion, which has come a long way since the 1500s. From ball gowns to summer dresses and breeches to jeans, the history of fashion in Spain shows the steady movement from traditional to modern. Due to their outstanding success, top fashion brands like Zara and Mango have also made their mark in the fashion landscape. Due to their creativity and innovation, Spanish fashion will always be desired.

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History of Fashion In Spain – A Case Study Join us as we journey through the history of fashion in Spain. We’ll discuss all the major styles in Spain’s fashion history from the 1500s to date.
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