Camino de Santiago Photo of the Week – March 24, 2013
Something different this week. I’m including a guest essay and posting from Jane Blanchard who has a terrific book out right now, Women of the Way Embracing the Camino. Jane’s become a friend and fellow traveler on the journey to sharing our Camino experiences. She also has a helpful blog on the challenge of getting those experiences published as an indie writer.
Below is an excerpt from her book. Enjoy, and pay her sites a visit.
By Jane V. Blanchard
During the late 60s I read James Michener’s Iberia. At one point, he finds a code of conduct posted on a church door. In this 1943 directive by a local bishop, ten of the twelve points restricted women and girls in dress and demeanor:
- Women shall not appear on the streets of this village with dresses that are too tight in those places which provoke the evil passions of men.
- They must never wear dresses that are too short.
- They must be particularly careful not to wear dresses that are low-cut in front.
- It is shameful for women to walk in the streets with short sleeves.
- Every woman who appears in the streets must wear stockings.
- Women must not wear transparent or network cloth over those parts which decency requires to be covered.
- At the age of twelve girls must begin to wear dresses that reach to the knee, and stockings at all times.
- Little boys must not appear in the streets with their upper legs bare.
- Girls must never walk in out-of-the-way places because to do so is both immoral and dangerous.
- No decent woman or girl is ever seen on a bicycle.
- No decent woman is ever seen wearing trousers.
- What they call in the cities ‘modern dancing’ is strictly forbidden.
I lived in Spain in 1971. This was during the Franco regime and to my dismay, little had changed since 1943 in terms of expected conduct for women. Women were very conservative in dress. My American roommate Joannie was criticized for wearing bold colors: orange sweater over yellow pants; my red miniskirt dress was frowned upon both for its loud color and leg exposure.
After Franco’s death, Spain transitioned to a democracy. Social values changed as hundreds of thousands of Spaniards left the countryside for urban settings or migrated for work to France, Switzerland and Germany. European tourists began to flow into “sunny Spain;” this increase in tourism exposed Spain to different social values. Most important, Spaniards returning from working in liberal countries brought back more liberal customs and tastes.
As I prepared to walk 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago, I wondered what type of clothing to take. I wanted to be comfortable and not offend the Spaniards. I read that Spaniards, and most Europeans, dress in a dignified manor; “classy” might be a better term. They still do not wear loud colors, usually wear a bra, coordinate their outfits and accentuate them with beautiful scarves, belts, and matching shoes and handbag. Everything is tasteful, age appropriate, clean, and ironed.
Out of respect for the Spaniards, I packed just-above-the-knee length hiking skirts and sleeveless single-colored tops made of quick drying microfiber fabrics. When my backpack chaffed my shoulders, I purchased short sleeve shirts and wore these for the remainder of the pilgrimage. My hiking boots and sandals did not fashionably coordinate with my outfits, but were practical.
What I found was that women in the small towns along the pilgrimage dressed more traditionally (conservatively) than the women in urban settings; these women also tended to be older and clad in knee-length skirts or in neutral-colored pants suits. In the cities, especially for clubbing, you might see younger women wearing clothes that are bright, tight, and skimpy. In Barcelona, a rather cosmopolitan city, I saw younger Spanish women in miniskirts, knee-length shorts, or tight jeans with classy tops and coordinated accessories; in Madrid I did not see shorts—but, it was October and cooler. In either city, the shorter shorts, printed T-shirts and sneakers typify tourists. I did see short shorts on the topless beach in Barcelona, which leads me to believe that clothing for Spanish women is reflective of style rather than conservatism.
Typical female modern-day pilgrim clothing
Most restaurants that offer a pilgrim’s menu, a specially priced meal for pilgrims, do not have a dress code. During the day, many pilgrims arrive with back packs and the restaurants accommodate them. The evening meal usually starts at 8 PM and many pilgrims arrive sporting hiking clothes. In Astorga, Spain, the upscale Restaurant Gaudi welcomed pilgrims and made no distinction between us and the more elegantly dressed patrons.
There are many churches along the way and pilgrims often stop to pray or visit. In Barcelona, women are turned away, not for having an uncovered head cover but for wearing sleeveless tops. To remedy this, vendors sell shawls at the entrance. This was the only time I saw women turned away because of dress. Many European women carry scarves and use them to cover bare arms, out of custom and respect for the church. I would recommend packing a silk or lightweight nylon scarf—for fashion and function.
In Spain, the women’s dress code has changed since 1943 and even 1971. What has not changed is the Spanish woman’s pride in dressing: neat, modern, chic, feminine, sophisticated. They have a real sense of style, are well-dressed and well-groomed. They are keen on designer clothes, but quality and price have more import than designer names. As in many nations, mature Spaniards dress more conservatively than younger ones; the seasons affect the style; and certain locals within the country have a distinctive style. If you are planning on walking the Camino, consider your age as well as the Spanish culture when planning your wardrobe for the hike.
Jane V. Blanchard is author of Women of the Way Embracing the Camino. You can purchase the book on Amazon or the e-book at most e-book vendors. To view the book trailer or purchase an autographed copy, visit Womenoftheway2011.com
Jane’s blog provides strategies and support of indie writers.
Each week adamnathan.com features an image or piece of writing that captures something special about the Camino de Santiago. If you have a photograph, video, artwork or Camino-related writing that you’d like to share, please submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your contact information and a few words about the submission