Before I moved to an Andalusian town in the fall of 2008, people gushed, “Spanish women are so fashionable.” I was intimidated. The gushing people were wrong.

A week after I moved to Arcos de la Frontera, my roommate and I got caught in a downpour. We had dance class but the clothes we brought were soaked through, so we quickly ducked into a Spanish clothing store. She pulled a few pairs of exercise pants to try on, and I found a few tops. After a few minutes, she emerged from her dressing room, horrified.

Why is your crotch at your knee? Why, for goodness sake, why?

“There’s something wrong with all of these pants. They…they just don’t fit right!” she exclaimed. And thus we were introduced to harem pants. We had arrived just as the trend really started to kick in, and soon it was impossible to go a day without seeing a young woman or man wearing pants where the crotch was at the knee. This trend was hideous enough that I expected it to expire within a few weeks, but, alas, we were subjected to it the entire year we lived in Spain.

The only reason not to wear harem pants, it seemed, was to match the shade of your pants exactly to your shirt. I’d see a woman wearing canary yellow from head to toe one day–yellow sweater, yellow jeans, yellow high heels–and spot her all in fuchsia the next day. I saw outfits constructed entirely of fire-engine red and outfits of Granny Smith green.

Can you spot the author amid the polka dots?

This trend, at least, seemed to have its origins in flamenco, a piece of Spanish culture that I deeply love. When a friend of mine who lived in Paris at the time came to visit, I took her to my favorite place in Sevilla: a flamenco dress store. Having come from a land where women had only two colors in their wardrobes–black and gray–her retinas burned at the bright colors.

Only bold statements could compete with bold colors for popularity among Spanish youths (no matter if these statements were in English and therefore completely incomprehensible to the wearer). There were the usual attempts at sauciness blazoned across one’s chest–“I’m too sexy for this shirt” or “My eyes are up here”–the kind that make you cringe on an English-speaker let alone someone who has no idea what they’re projecting to the world. English words were frequently misspelled on these shirts, and sentences verged on ludicrous. But there was one sweatshirt I saw for which the statement was such a mess that I stopped dumbstruck in the middle of the street and wrote it down as soon as I regained feeling in my brain. The message? “Every body lovering so we all love.”

Spain, you and your fashion sense are so crazy. I’ll never stop lovering you.