In most European countries, the toughest thing for females working in male dominated companies is not the work itself - it's finding suitable clothes for the job! When I was about to start my job and had to find something else to wear than the old jeans and woolen sweaters I had been wearing all the years before, I found out it is almost impossible to find good professional clothes for women. There seem to be hundreds of shops selling excellent ties and shirts and suits for men, while the female section (if there is any!) is usually very small and made for women over 40.
In my job, it is quite common to wear very dark suits (well, for men basically no other colour than black or dark grey or at the most dark blue is allowed, women can wear what they want, but to avoid being taken for a secretary it is also helpful to wear dark colours). It is hard enough to find suits and blouses, but if you do, they are usually badly cut or too big. Only if you start looking at expensive designer stuff things start getting acceptable, but then these are usually unaffordable. That's why I was extremely happy to discover there is a place to go. So if you have job offer or an internship pending and you need to buy some suits and shoes and blouses for your new job, all I can advise you is to hop on the plane fast and go to Madrid!
First of all, there are excellent shops for professional female clothing. Second, they are very cheap compared to other European countries. Third, sales started this weekend and will go on for another 2 months. Your next chance to catch cheap and excellent clothes will be the summer sales in August, so even if you can't get on the plane now you should read on...
The perfect shopping district in Madrid is the barrio de Salamanca, where you'll find all the typical brands like Massimo Dutti, Zara etc., but of course I have some more specific advice. The two shops that solved all my problems at excellent prices are VILAGALLO on the street Hermosilla, 35, and JAIME MASCARÓ in the same side street, Hermosilla, 22.
I can't understand why VILAGALLO hasn't expanded into all of Europe yet, somehow they have three branches in Madrid but that's it. They sell excellent suits and blouses of many varieties and colours that fit perfectly and are really inexpensive, especially now during the sales (a beautiful, perfectly cut suit will cost you around €135). At the left is a little picture I took with my mobile of the types of blouses they sell. I love this shop because you can try on any suit and they all fit perfectly, so if you need three suits you could just buy them there and all your problems are solved for the rest of the year.
The next shop I recommend is a shop by the Spanish shoe designer Jaime Mascaró who is quite well known throughout Europe, but his shoes here usually cost around €150 to 200, while during the sales in Madrid you can get them for as cheap as €60.
I love it the same as Vilagallo because you could basically buy any shoe in their store and each choice would be excellent. The shoes are very stylish and extremely comfortable (look at the picture I took on the left - would you say no to these shoes?).
After getting all the essentials in these shops, there are lots of other nice shops on the two main shopping streets Calle Serrano and Calle Goya. One shop I especially like is Adolfo Dominguez on Calle Serrano, it is a Spanish designer not very known outside of Spain, the clothes are quite original and very accessible,
especially during summer and winter sales.
The Salamanca district is also an excellent place to have tapas. One place I find especially excellent was El Rincón de Goya on Calle Lagasca (crossing the earlier mentioned Goya street). There are also many hotels in the same area
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