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Lady Violette

The Romantic Lifestyle

Archive for February, 2024

A Dachettes Cloche Hat by Lily Dache in Emerald Green Felt for Saint Patrick’s Day

Thursday, February 29th, 2024

Beautiful 1950’s cloche hat – a Dachette by Lilly Dache in an emerald green Italian felt trimmed with a black ribbon. Hat is hand stitched and hand sculpted. Really beautiful! and perfect for Saint Patrick’s Day!

Lilly Dache was a French born American hat designer who said “A woman’s hat tells you who she is or who she wants to be…” she was tremendously successful designing hats for socialites, actresses and “stenographers who had to go without lunch for a month to afford one of her creations” – in her own words. Her hats cost 10x what other hats did. She had a 9 story building on 56th st. in NYC where she designed and manufactured on the 7 lower floors and lived in the 2 story penthouse on the very top! She employed hundreds of people and became very wealthy! All from the popularity of her hats which were sold all over the world. At the height of her success she was producing 30,000 hats per year!

Using her French connections she also opened a shop in Paris.

She counted Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard and Garbo as her clients. Their hats were a great deal of what made them mysterious and alluring. Lilly Dache was a great designer. And she said. “I made everything with love, affection and excitement.” Personally I think this shows in every one of her spectacular designs. 

This green beauty is not only a fabulous hat, it is also a piece of important millinery history and a piece of art – a lovely hat to wear, display or collect – and a great study piece.

It reminds me of a hat in an Edward Hopper painting. It is gorgeous!  I think it was worn only once long ago when it was purchased as it is in such great condition. I like it worn with black so the hat is the main focus of the ensemble. 

Lilly Dache apprenticed with hat designer Caroline Redoux who is credited with inventing the cloche hat in the 1920’s Paris – however Lilly created her Dachettes line in the 1950s so this hat must have been made in the 50s in New York City in Lilly’s famous workshop. The cloche is generally thought of as a 1920’s style but it was popular among hat lovers from the 1920s onward. 

This beauty has been carefully stored in a box for decades. It is in excellent condition. Felt has a nap so you can smooth is out carefully so it all lies in the same direction. 

You would really stand out wearing this on Saint Patrick’s day! More green hats and ideas for Saint Patrick’s Day in this post. //

Rare and beautiful historic clothing and accessories are for sale in my online shops. If you see something on this blog that you are interested in buying, but do not find it for sale in my shops message me on Etsy or Ebay and I will get back to you about availability. I check messages daily and can always prepare a special listing for you if you do not find it already listed in the shops.

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutiqe

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

Fashion Conservator: Lady Violette Boutique


Mantons for Dancers

Friday, February 23rd, 2024

What are the various different types of Mantons available? Which best suits each situation? And where can you find them? I’ll start with Mantons for Dancers. And what to Look For.

A flamenco dancers shawl is also known as a Manton de Flamenco.  Weight is very important. To dance with a Manton it must have the right substance – a proper breadth and weight for a dancer to be able to move it and move with it to the best effect. A good vintage Manton weighs more than a kilogram – the heavier the weight – achieved by the heavy weight silk, the density of the embroidery and the fringe – the higher the quality of the shawl and the more beautiful it is both to wear and to dance with. The shawl and how it moves is actually is a great part of the choreography of a flamenco dance. It is an important tool for the flamenco dancer. It is an instrument of her art – like a violin to a great violinist. 

Flamenco dancing with a Manton is a highly skilled technique – an art form in itself – as exquisite as the shawls themselves. When the two are brought together – a beautiful shawl and a skilled flamenco dancer the result is a performance of breathtaking beauty. Also, handling a relatively heavy shawl while dancing is an athletic feat that demands strength, excellent timing, grace and flexibility on the part of the dancer. The dancer must work with a coach to learn to move and control a shawl and she must practice many hours to condition her body to handle the Manton as an extension of her very self. This requires dedication and discipline – it does not happen automatically. 

Of course a flamenco dancer selecting the exact right shawl and learning to work with it is similar to a musician selecting the correct musical instrument – somehow the dancer will know on an artistic level when a shawl is the right one. It will choose her and she will choose it and then they will embark on the journey of discovery to get to know each other and become partners in her dance. 

When a dancer finds her perfect shawl they come together during her performance in a fusion of movement, music, passion, art and personality. Much of what happens during such a performance is intuitive as the dancer responds to the movement and character of her shawl. 

These shawls are also stunningly beautiful as fashion pieces that can be worn with many outfits and, when not being worn can be used as unique accents in your home decor. For example, as a piano cover, as a table cloth, as a wall hanging, as a bed or sofa cover. They are elegant works of wearable art and should be used and enjoyed. A carefully selected shawl will become a treasured possession and your personal trademark.

The highest quality shawls are pure silk – the heavier the weight, the higher the quality, and the better the shawl is able to support the embroidery, the substantial macrame latticework and the long weighty fringe. And the better it is able to move and dance with. The right shawl is like having the right dance partner. In a way the shawl is a type of dance partner. Silk is like a living thing, it should match you. Choosing a shawl is like choosing a friend. She should click with you. She should make you very happy. When you meet her. You should act, right away, Please don’t haggle, do not think for a long time, as there are not many of these shawls left and they are actively being bought up by serious collectors. 

The specialty workshops in Canton that originally produced these shawls have been closed down and the skilled crafts people who produced them in old China have essentially vanished. The exquisite high quality antique shawls from Canton are no longer being made and are becoming increasingly rare. Modern versions which I consider to be imitations are being made in China, Pakistan, and India. They are not the same thing. And there is an industry in Spain making all levels of shawls and qualities of shawls from completely hand embroidered silk ones of high quality all the way down to machine embroidered lightweight polyester versions sold to tourists as souvenirs.

The antique originals are the most valuable of the Mantons de Manila or “Spanish Shawls” and are the ones sought after by serious collectors. I have put the term “Spanish Shawls “ in quotes because I want to clarify it – The shawls were produced in Canton, China, then taken to Manila and then to the Americas, both North and South – and finally to Spain and other markets in Europe. Because the shawls were originally produced for export to Spanish Colonies and because they eventually became popularly associated with Spanish Flamenco Dancers they became popularly known and referred to as Spanish Shawls – they are also referred to as Manton – and they are also referred to as Manila shawls because they were brought to the American market from Manila on the Manila Galleons, and they were called Canton Embroidered Shawls because they were produced in Canton. All these terms refer to the same thing. And, because it eventually became popular to drape them over a grand piano they also became known as Embroidered Silk Piano Shawls. Understandably all these terms mixed together can get a little confusing when you are just starting to learn about these shawls/ mantons! It is also important to know that the word manton means shawl in Spanish.

A high quality antique made in Canton Manton de Manila shawl should weigh at least a kilogram, the heavier they are the higher the quality is. Bigger is better and heavier is better up to a point. I will go into the size issue further below. You should look for a shawl that is hand embroidered and double embroidered on both sides so there is no wrong side. A high quality shawl is completely reversible. 

Consider how the shawl looks when folded as a triangle – in half on the diagonal – along the hypotenuse – as this is the most common way to wear it. Also consider how it looks folded in half across the middle side to side in a rectangle as it can also be worn over the shoulders that way. And, finally – consider how it looks spread out flat on a table or bed as you might want to use it some of the time to cover a bed or a sofa or as a table cloth, or over a piano. 

Read my suggestions on how to care for a shawl in an earlier post – so you understand how to straighten and maintain the fringe – you may find one with badly tangled and/or frayed fringe that has not been properly cared for and you may need to access whether you can straighten out and restore the fringe. Sometimes people who were frustrated by tangled strands cut the fringe off of beautifully embroidered shawls or cut it shorter which damaged the proportions of the piece. I advise you to stay clear of shawls with cut off or cut short fringe – the fringe is an important part of the character of a shawl. Also cutting off the fringe devalues the shawl as an antique. I’ve seen some very tangled fringes straightened out and rescued. It just requires a lot of patience! 

Size and Shape of a Shawl: Carefully access the size and shape of a shawl – They were initially intended and designed to wrap around the shoulders and reach almost to the floor like a long cape when worn. When they first became popular as fashion shawls women were wearing crinolines and the shawl had to cover both the woman from her shoulders downward encompassing the entire crinoline all the way to the the ground. It was an era of extreme modesty so absolutely everything had to be covered!

If you intend to wear the shawl as a fashionable wrap, it is wise to consider the length as it may be important to you that the proportions are right for your height.  If you intend to use it as an interior decor piece it may be important to you that it will cover a certain size bed or sofa, or fit across your table or piano in a pleasing manner. The shawls were usually made in square shapes but some were made in circles, some in triangles and some in rectangles. All the shapes and sizes are wearable when you learn how to fold and drape them properly.  I have examples of all these shapes in my personal collection and I will eventually have pictures taken showing ways to wear each shape. For flamenco dancing however, you should acquire a large square shawl. 

For fashion you can figure out pleasing ways to wear any of the available shapes. The various shapes can be worn in different configurations and they all have their own charms. 

The embroidery: An amazing variety of designs and colors were made. Because they were each embroidered by hand no two are alike. Personally, if I am attracted to a shawl and impressed by its colors and the design of the embroidery it is probably a good shawl. I trust my intuition and my personal taste. I have seen and used a lot of these shawls by now so I have knowledge from experience. I will try to impart some of this to you.

Here are some links to beautiful examples of flamenco dancers dancing with shawls to inspire you. Note how large the shawls are and how long the fringe is and how skillfully they handle them.

For dance this is exactly what you need:

Size and shape: You will need a square Manton that measures 52 – 55 inches ( 135 – 140 centimeters) on each side not including the macrame lattice and the fringe. The fringe should be no shorter than 12 inches long, but is usually an additional 18 – 26 inches long. Sometimes even more! Your Dance Manton should cover both your hands when folded in a triangle across the hypotenuse and worn over your shoulders. If it does not cover both hands it will not work for flamenco dancing! Do not buy one that is not large enough. Larger is generally better. It may seem very large to you at first but when you get used to it you will see that it works the best.

A Dance Manton needs to have a certain amount of weight and substance in order to move properly. The fabric, the embroidery thread, the lattice and the fringe all contribute to the final weight. The fabric and the way it handles is very important.

A traditional manton is made of silk, embroidered with silk thread and finished with heavy fringe. There are other types of mantons available nowadays including satin, rayon aka artificial silk, polyester, synthetic fabric blends, even wool! And in theory they would be good for practice, less costly and easier to clean. But, in practice, they are too slippery, or too light, or too heavy, etc. There are some adequate “dance practice” mantons available, however, without embroidery, but still made of silk, so they will handle correctly, with good long weighty fringe. These tend to be less expensive than embroidered manton but are often still attractive enough to use for performance.

A traditional Manton is made of silk, embroidered with silk thread and finished with a heavy silk fringe. There are other types of mantons available today, such as satin and rayon, even wool! And, in theory they are good for practice, but they may be too slippery, too light, or too heavy.  There are some adequate “practice” mantons available, without embroidery, but still made of silk, with good and weighty long fringe.  These tend to be somewhat less expensive than an embroidered Manton , and are often still attractive enough to be performance worthy. They will usually be a solid color but some are made of printed fabric in bright colors that mimic the designs of the fine embroidered shawls. I’ll list some options below. 

Polyester and rayon or artificial silk mantons are available and in theory are not bad for practice. All manor of other synthetic options have been made in an effort for makers to create something cheaper, however, in my experience these polyester and rayon and other synthetic fiber mantons are too small and too lightweight, are often triangular, not square, thus they just don’t work. I recently ran into a square one that was a mixture of silk and rayon that was large and had been copiously embroidered. I was curious so picked it up and tried it out. It was slithery and awful. It would not stay folded and was no substitute for the real thing! 

So, be careful! There are a few decent options however, which I will discuss in detail below.

Cost: 20 years ago you could get a decent antique hand embroidered silk manton from China for $250. Those days are gone. Now, getting a manton in the U.S. has become much more costly. A basic embroidered manton is going for around $400 and up now, although you can still buy a “practice” manton without any embroidery for $100-$250. Beautiful antique Mantons de Manila that were made in the Canton, China embroidery workshops and brought to the New World on the Manila Galleons now start at around $700 and go up to almost $4,000. 

When you find your special antique embroidered made in Canton Manton de Manila use it for select performances as a costume that is a performance show piece. It will be precious and expensive and you will want to protect it. By all means use it but do not tear it up by using it as a learning piece.

-DO NOT invest in that $1500 – $3,000 antique manton thinking you will use it for dance class! You will be slapping your new dance manton all over the floor, ceiling, walls, getting its fringe tangled in your shoe buckles or even with your fellow dancer’s shoes, boots or mantons, and it will start to show wear. This is inevitable! Your practice manton can be beautiful for years (depending on how much or how hard you use it), but it will get sweaty, dirty and frayed. It can be dry cleaned, but you can’t avoid some wear and tear, so get a nice, economical manton for dance classes and rehearsals rather than an exquisite antique treasure you will want to pass on as a family heirloom. Use that special piece for select performances.

A word of advice about colors, dark colored silk shawls are easier to keep looking nice as dancing mantons than white, ivory or pastel shawls. They are also safer to have dry cleaned if you need to clean them because the colored silk embroidery thread is not colorfast and can run onto the lighter colored silks and ruin them. My dry cleaner who is from China and specializes in vintage textiles will not dry clean light colored shawls or other embroidered pieces for fear of ruining them. They cannot be washed, no matter how careful you are, either, because the colors will bleed. It is best to spot clean a shawl immediately if it gets dirt or a stain on it. But it is best of all not to get sweat, makeup, fake tan, perfume or dirt on it in the first place. 

Vintage/Antique mantons are a good option if you can find an adequate one. Prices are all over the map: many sellers see silk and embroidery and instantly label the item a vintage masterpiece worth $3000, when it was made actually made last year in China and machine embroidered and sells for $400. That said, if you pay close attention to the details such as the type of silk used, the weight of said silk, the measurements, the type of embroidery – motifs, thread type and colors, types of embroidery stitches used, the execution of the macrame lattice, etc. – sometimes you can find a good buy on Etsy or eBay. Search “Manton de Manila” or “Piano Shawl.” Also understand that your vintage manton may be in more delicate condition than a new one, and may shed threads or start to disintegrate if you dance intensely with it .… So look for a manton in good shape, and not too shabby chic for dance. 

If you find a beautiful one you love for historical reasons or its provenance, for its unique embroidery pattern, motifs and colors, and it is a price you can afford seriously consider buying it as an art or fashion piece. Just think twice before using such a piece for dance – it may better to enjoy it as an art piece than to destroy it in one night of passionate dancing! OLE!

During my lifetime I have seen these exquisite textiles grow in popularity and value and I know they will continue to do so. I believe they are becoming scarcer because many were bought up during the 1970s by bohemian hippie chicks and heavily used which led to their destruction! At least these girls enjoyed them to shreds! But an awful lot of them were torn, damaged by candle wax drippings or by people smoking and dropping burning ashes on them. Fringes were caught on things and torn off often taking a substantial hunk of silk off in the process as well. Portions of these damaged shawls may be usable as textiles from which to make pillows or other small objects!

Silk is a strong natural fiber and you can use and enjoy an antique Manton de Manila if you are careful with it! Personally I feel they are a good investment that will retain its value and continue to increase in value. 

Spanish Shawls are actually being handmade and hand embroidered in Spain now and are made to the correct specifications for Flamenco Dancing. They are your safest bet for buying a dance shawl that will work for you at an affordable price. This is exactly what to look for: 

An extra large square all silk manton size 53” – 55” square, plus approximately 19” – 20” of fringe. Estimated weight of 1 lb – 1.65 lbs . Hand made in Spain. Prices: $280 – $500 

I suggest looking for them at Flamenco Dance supply shops. You can search for these online. The people who run these shops are knowledgeable and can refer you to sources if they do not have exactly what you need.

If you can go to Spain you will be able to find specialty flamenco dance supply shops that carry a large selection of newly made high quality shawls and antique shawls in a full ranges of sizes and prices. These will be clearly labeled as hand or machine embroidered. This is a good place to do comparison shopping for types of shawls available and costs. Here you can look at recently produced shawls specifically made to the specifications required for flamenco dancing through rare antique Mantons de Manila. They will also carry shawls made specifically for fashion purposes as beautiful embroidered mantons are still popular attire for special occasions, holidays, and ceremonies like weddings.

I will be writing a post on the influence of the original embroidered Canton made Mantons de Manila on contemporary fashion soon.

Rare and beautiful historic clothing and accessories are for sale in my online shops. If you see something on this blog that you are interested in buying, but do not find it for sale in my shops message me on Etsy or Ebay and I will get back to you about availability. I check messages daily and can always prepare a special listing for you if you do not find it already listed in the shops.

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutiqe

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

Fashion Conservator: Lady Violette Boutique



Selecting a Manton de Manila & Various Uses

Saturday, February 10th, 2024

There are several things to consider, for example, are you looking for a beautiful authentic antique Manton de Manila, an antique to admire and enjoy in your home and wear as a fashion piece, and , eventually turn into a family heirloom?  Or, are you looking for a a manton to take to dance class because you have begun to study flamenco dancing? Or, are you a professional dancer looking for an exquisite manton to use in your performance art? Or, are you an advanced or professional dancer looking for a really good practice manton to use in daily dance class and rehearsals? Or, perhaps you really admire these shawls as works of art and are becoming a serious collector of antique shawls? Or, perhaps you are not a dancer, but want one for interior decor. All of these are very legitimate reasons to consider acquiring a beautiful colorful true antique Manton de Manila.

Possibly several of these catagories apply to you and you will need several shawls to accommodate your various needs. I fall into this category! So, we have the following categories of shawls to consider: 

1) Special Antique Mantons – old mantons with provenance and history such as my two San Francisco Gold Rush Mantons and my Wisteria Manton shown in recent previous posts.

2) Antique/ Vintage heavily embroidered sturdy showy mantons to be used for fashion, interior decor purposes and occasionally performance only – but not as dance practice shawls. 

3) Class and rehearsal practice mantons – usually without embroidery and sometimes made of printed silk fabric – these will be heavily used by dancers on an almost daily basis.

4) Fashion Shawls – for wearing as wraps and as accessories with clothes, not for use in dancing. This category includes embroidered mantons both old and newly produced, printed fabric shawls, Russian shawls, various other types of fabric shawls, lace shawls, knitted and crocheted shawls, cashmere shawls, various ethnic shawls, etc. There is a lot of variety in this category. 

When you are looking for a Manton de Manila there are a few things you should know. There are different qualities of embroidered shawls. For people who do not have first hand experience they may not, at first, be able to tell the differences of what they are looking at especially in tiny pictures online. It helps to look at a lot of shawls. If you possibly can, I also recommend looking at some examples of the real thing in museums in person. 

I also recommend looking at examples online. I am showing lots of examples of high quality antique Mantons de Manila from the Canton embroidery workshops on my blog. I am making an effort to show photographs or the entire shawl laid out flat, as well as details of color, embroidery, stitching, fringe, macrame lattice work, etc. I will also attempt to show some of the other alternatives available for informational purposes. As I am demonstrating with the two examples of rayon shawls below.

As a result of their popularity in mid 1800s Europe less expensive versions of embroidered shawls were made in smaller sizes on lesser quality silk or on rayon – also known at that time as artificial silk. The development of the sewing machine during the industrial revolution led to the development of several embroidery machines. Then came shawls with machine done embroidery and less elaborate rayon fringe. These began coming out by the thousands to meet the demands of the masses. They were initially produced in Switzerland where they had the best embroidery machines. They were sold in mid level shops all over Europe. They were colorful and very affordable. I often see such shawls listed for sale as hand embroidered silk piano shawls and priced as real hand embroidered silk Mantons de Manila, but they are not at all, even remotely, the same thing as the high quality heavy silk hand embroidered shawls from Canton! They are lower quality mass produced imitations made for the mass market. Of course, as such, when they were made they were less expensive. They should continue to be less expensive. Unfortunately I have actually seen many such shawls marketed by vintage and antique dealers who should know the difference between the real deal – the authentic real hand made in Canton, China, Manton de Manila, and the machine made imitations made for the mass market. Here I will try to sort this out for those who are seriously interested in learning how to tell the difference and how to identify the real thing.

The red shawl with repeating pink flowers shown below is an example of one of the machine embroidered rayon shawls made by machine for the European masses in the 1920s. Notice how the embroidered flowers are exactly the same just repeated over and over in rows, notice how shiny the rayon thread used for the machine embroidery is. Notice the machine finished edging and the simplistic rayon fringe applied along the edge with no macrame lattice. If you were able to see and feel the red fabric in person you would also see that is has a slippery finish and is very thin in comparison to the heavy silk used in the high quality shawls made in Canton. This red rayon shawl is also considerably lighter in weight and smaller than the real Mantons de Manila. I am not saying that this red rayon embroidered shawl is completely unattractive and and useless. I am just saying that is is not a high quality hand embroidered silk Manton de Manila. It is a machine made shawl of a different material and these were mass produced so that women who wanted the look of an embroidered shawl and could not afford an expensive hand made one could have something inspired by the real thing. It can be styled to look pretty and serves a purpose of its own. It is lightweight and feels flimsy in comparison the to the silk shawls. It lacks the substance of the silk shawls from Canton and is not heavy enough or large enough to be used for flamenco dancing.

The black shawl above is another example of a 1920’s rayon machine made and machine embroidered shawl from the same era. Note the same type machine done edging and fringe applied around the edge in the same manner of the red one shown above. The fabric is the same type of thin rayon also known as artificial silk when it was produced. The embroidery design is again done in four repeating blocks in the same shiny rayon thread. The fringe on this example got caught on something and tore off taking a sizable hunk of the rayon fabric with it. These shawls were a lot more fragile than the silk ones! This one has a large tear in it so it can no longer be used as a shawl. I will eventually do something creative with the fabric however. You sometimes see pillows made of the good parts of this fabric for this exact reason – the original shawl was damaged.

Compare the two rayon economy version shawls above to this rich turquoise hand embroidered true Manton de Manila from the specialty embroidery workshops in Canton made during the same time period 1910 – 1920. Note the heavy high quality silk fabric, the fine silk embroidery thread used in the ornate hand done embroidery, the refined job of finishing along the edges and the elaborate hand done macrame lattice that provides strong support to the heavy silk fringe. Note the density of the silk fringe and the overall beauty of the complex hand done embroidery design. Note the subtle sheen of the silk embroidery thread, the bouquet of colors used to produce the elaborate floral design and the general over all superior quality of the entire shawl. You can see the difference can’t you? The Turquoise Manton de Manila is also much larger and heavier than the rayon ones. It is also much stronger. And the color is incredible!

Recently small cheap synthetic fabric shawls have shown up on Amazon marketed as Mantons de Manila, Spanish Flamenco Shawls and Piano Shawls. These are terrible inferior products – nothing like the real thing, So buyer beware. Also, very cheap, inferior quality “Spanish Shawls” made in China of polyester with awful looking machine done embroidery and synthetic fringe have shown up on sites such as Amazon and Ebay. These are blatantly awful and after looking at a few examples you should easily know what to avoid!  These are made of low quality synthetic fibers, even recycled plastic bottles. They sell for $48 – $60 before tax and shipping. They are throw away fashion.

Originally the most beautiful silk shawls featuring the most exquisite embroidery on the highest quality silk fabric were made in Canton, China and now, ironically, the lowest quality ugliest shawls claiming to be the same thing are being produced in and exported from China. How sad! 

During the Industrial Revolution machinery was developed that could rapidly embroider a square piece of fabric in a repeating design. They produced rayon shawls like the black and red ones I have shown above, usually one square yard in size covered with a repeating design of machine embroidered flowers. Pink roses were a popular motif. This machine embroidery was relatively neat and tidy on one side – the top, right side – if you did not look at it too closely, but a mass of crossed threads and knots on the under side – the wrong side. You had to wear or display one of these machine done shawls carefully folded to show only the good side. The thread used was rayon and was very shiny. The nuances of color in high quality silk embroidery thread were absent – an expert in embroidery can tell the difference between hand and machine done embroidery work in a split second. And she or he can also tell the difference between silk and rayon or other synthetic fabric quickly. Thus it is important to learn to recognize these differences when you are shopping for a real antique, embroidered in Canton, Manton de Manila.. When you understand the differences between the real thing and an imitation you will only be satisfied with the real thing. 

However, some of the smaller, lighter weight, lesser quality hand and machine embroidered shawls are attractive in their own way and have their own specialty uses – being worn as colorful scarves around ones neck for example. Or as lightweight lingerie shawls or scarves that can be worn draped over the shoulders with a negligee – They should be classified as a completely different garment or accessory,  not compared to or substituted for a Manton de Manila or a Spanish or Flamenco Shawl or a Piano Shawl.                                                                                                                                

The machine embroidered rayon shawls are their own thing and should be marketed as such, not called a Manton de Manila or an embroidered silk piano shawl. The real antique Mantons de Manila are large and can be heavy and hard to handle until you learn how to work with them. They are not right for every situation in which you might want to wear a shawl or scarf. In many fashion related contexts a smaller scarf or shawl is necessary – a big Manton de Manila would be unwieldy and awkward. The thing I object to is sellers mis-identifying the rayon machine done shawls as silk hand embroidered Mantons de Manila and hand embroidered silk piano shawls. I do not like when sellers do not understand what they are selling and when they claim something is rarer and more valuable than it is. To me this is dishonest.

It is really unfortunate when they claim it to be something really special like a totally hand done antique silk made in Canton Manton de Manila and price it as such when it is actually a machine made rayon shawl. Yes, the rayon shawl is legitimately vintage and a shawl but it is not the same type of product or workmanship and should be priced accordingly. Later on in this treatise on shawls I will go into valuation and pricing.

Coming Next: What are the various different types of Mantons available? Which best suits each situation? And where can you find them?

Rare and beautiful historic clothing and accessories are for sale in my online shops. If you see something on this blog that you are interested in buying, but do not find it for sale in my shops message me on Etsy or Ebay and I will get back to you about availability. I check messages daily and can always prepare a special listing for you if you do not find it already listed in the shops.

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutiqe

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

Fashion Conservator: Lady Violette Boutique


ORIGINS and ASSIMILATION – Understanding the History of the Manton de Manila / The Spanish Shawl / The Embroidered Silk Piano Shawl

Thursday, February 8th, 2024

These beautiful embroidered silk shawls were originally produced as wearable works of art for fashionable women and later became popular for Flamenco dancing.  They were originally made in Canton, China, but they were produced specifically for the export market. Chinese women did not wear shawls of this type. The shawls were taken by ship to Manila and from there by the Manila galleons to both North and South America where they were sold to and worn by wealthy fashionable women. This is why they acquired the name Manton de Manila. The word Manton simply means shawl in Spanish, so Manton de Manila means shawl from Manila. Interestingly the shawls were made in China and only passed through Manila on their export journey but, because the ships on which the traveled were known as the Manila Galleons, they acquired the name Manton de Manila. I assume some were purchased and worn by some women in the Philippines who could afford them, but the destination was initially the Americas and later on Europe. //

Manila became the seat of the colonial government of Spain when it gained sovereignty over the Philippine Islands in 1565. The period from 1565 – 1898 is known as the Spanish colonial period. Under Spain, Manila became the colonial entrepôt ( transportation port) in the Far East. The seat of the Spanish government was situated within the fortified walls of Old Manila. The walls were constructed to keep out invading Chinese pirates and protect the city from native uprisings. The city became the center of trade between Manila and Acapulco, which lasted for three centuries and brought goods from Southeast Asia to the Americas and vice versa. The exporters got paid in silver ingots when they sold their valuable cargos in Acapulco so it was a very lucrative enterprise. 

This description of a shawl exhibited in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, beautifully illustrates the journey of one such shawl. The caption on the display reads: “ A silk shawl embroidered with birds, butterflies, vines and flowers in colored silk thread is exhibited. From Canton, China. They would have been imported from China to the Philippines, then brought by Manila Galleons to Acapulco and shipped overland on the Camino Real from Mexico City through Chihuahua to New Mexico. The shawl exhibited here belonged to a prominent New Mexico woman in the early 19th century.” 

Over time the beautiful embroidered silk shawls from China by way of Manila made their way across the Americas to Europe where they were immediately popular with women of fashion in court and high society. They came from China via the Manila galleons, via the Americas and finally to Spain and the rest of Europe. 

These exquisite high quality embroidered shawls became fashionable with European women during the mid 19th century and were a popular garment worn in portrait paintings of society ladies and artists . They could be seen worn in court and to the theater and at social events by the great beauties of the time. Here are links to a few of the famous paintings. 




Its incorporation into the European feminine wardrobe arrived after a long journey in time starting off in China, where the material and characteristic styles of embroidery originated and where the original shawls were made, which were then taken to Manila and from there to the Americas and finally, from the Americas to Europe. American and European women had influence over the evolution of the shawl designs. When initially produced in Canton, China the shawls were decorated with oriental scenes and distinctly Asian motifs. The oldest shawls exhibit Chinese scenes and landscapes, pagodas and Chinese people in Chinese dress. The flowers, foliage, animals, birds, insects and plants depicted are Asian. An interesting example was the use of toads who were a symbol of good luck in China but had other connotations in America and Europe! The shawls with toads sitting in all four corners were hard to sell to fashionable South and North American ladies. The women of Mexico City and San Francisco wanted colorful shawls and their preferred embroidery designs featured flowers, butterflies, colorful birds, and fruits. These ladies also discovered that long swinging fringe, like beautiful feminine long hair, was a charming and seductive feature of the shawls and they demanded longer and longer fringe. Yucky toads, snakes and other reptiles were eliminated from the embroidery designs. Flowers, butterflies and colorful birds came to dominate the designs and the fringe and elaborate macrame lattice around the outer edges grew to longer and more elaborate proportions to cater to their desires. 

By the time they got to Spain the shawls had become extremely colorful and elaborate with long exotic fringe. Flamenco dancers began incorporating them into their dances. They became so popular in Spain during the 19th century that they became a necessary accessory to the Spanish woman’s dress. That is why they are often referred to now as Embroidered Spanish Shawls. The  incorporation and assimilation of these beautiful shawls originally imported from China into the Spanish culture was so effective in the 19th Century that is has continued until the present day. 

The popularity and demand for colorful embroidered silk shawls in Spain was so great by this time that the labor intensive hand embroidered shawls produced in Canton and imported to Europe could not fully meet the demand. The prices for the antique Cantonese shawls were also beyond the budgets of every Spanish woman, yet every woman wanted at least one! They were so popular that they eventually evolved to become a bonafide element of the Spanish woman’s national costume. 

Thus enterprising Spaniards inspired by the shawls from China started to produce their own versions in Spain and added their own touches and interpretations to the embroidery designs. By now embroidered shawls were part of the Spanish woman’s regular wardrobe as well as the national costume. An experienced eye can tell which shawls were made in Canton and which in Spain by examining the types of flowers and other elements in the design. The Spanish produced shawls often feature flowers from Spain versus flowers from China. For example camellias from China morphed into roses from Spain. At the same time the Chinese embroideresses incorporated European elements into their designs to appeal to the European market. Their camellias became roses and their wisteria vines became grape vines with bunches of grapes as well as wisteria flowers hanging from the same vines. The embroidery decorating the shawls sometimes became a fanciful fusion of East and West. Now both Chinese and Spanish antique Manton’s exist and both are very beautiful and desirable. 

These shawls produced in Spain were technically actual Spanish mantons – Spanish shawls made in Spain for the Spanish market. They are still being produced as scarves and shawls for modern fashion and as shawls for Flamenco dancing. Specialty shops in Spain sell these beautiful textiles in many forms from wearable scarves, shawls and embroidered modern dresses to items for home decor such as pillows, curtains, table covers and upholstery. These shops carry a wide range of products descending from the original Mantons de Manila from modern machine embroidered versions, modern hand embroidered versions produced in Spanish specialty workshops, rare antique shawls – actual antique Mantons de Manila, and specialty shawls produced for the professional Flamenco dance community. Some of them also run a rental service in which they rent out valuable rare Antique Mantons de Manila for use on movie sets, in period dramas and for special events. They can be easily found by visiting shops selling supplies for Flamenco dancers. 

The shawls shown in this post are from my personal collection of antique mantons de Manila.

Rare and beautiful historic clothing and accessories are for sale in my online shops. If you see something on this blog that you are interested in buying, but do not find it for sale in my shops message me on Etsy or Ebay and I will get back to you about availability. I check messages daily and can always prepare a special listing for you if you do not find it already listed in the shops.

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutiqe

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

Fashion Conservator: Lady Violette Boutique


Wisteria Shawl – An Historic Manton de Manila

Tuesday, February 6th, 2024

This shawl exhibited here belonged to Maria Ignacia Jaramillo Bent along with 2 painted ivory fans, also from China, a triple strand of real pearls and a bible bound in leather with pages edged in gold leaf that were among her most treasured personal possession.

Maria lived from 1815 to 1883 in Taos, New Mexico. 

This shawl was made in Canton, China. It originally came from China to Manila, then to Acapulco via a Manila Galeon, and was then shipped overland to Mexico City. From there it traveled, via the Camino Real, through Chihuahua to New Mexico. It was bought by the fur trader Charles Bent who gave it as a gift to his wife Maria Jaramillo Bent. They lived in Taos, New Mexico. Bent & his 2 brothers had built up the largest trading post business in the West and was active in settling New Mexico and in local Taos politics. He eventually became Governor of New Mexico. 4 months after becoming governor Bent was massacred by Spaniards & Indians who did not want the United States of America to have New Mexico.

Charles and Maria had 5 children. . Her treasured private belongings were included in the Lohan Inventory lists of their personal properties and bequeathed to the Governor Bent Museum of History in Taos which is housed in their former adobe house. 

The museum decided it did not have space to store or display Maria Jaramillo’s treasured personal belongings and they were selected to be auctioned off in a de-accession to raise money for the museum. 

I purchased them at the auction in 1996. I have always been fascinated by the women in early American History. When I saw Maria’s treasures I liked them as much as she probably did and they made me feel as if I knew her. I wanted to rescue and preserve them. I guess I was the only person who cared as I was the only bidder. So, I ended up with them and have been taking good care of them ever since. 

The description in the auction catalogue stated: “Shawl late 18th Century early 19th Century, silk with silk embroidery. China and Fans: Late 18th Century early 19th Century, Ivory, silk, paint – China / France

I will take soon photos of the Maria’s Fans and add them in another post.

History lesson of the week – read about these interesting people! 

Charles Bent:  //

Charles Bent, Governor of New Mexiico:  //

Women of Taos : Josefa Carson and Maria Ignacia Bent: //

This shawl is very light in color and weight which makes it easy to handle and wear. The overall size is medium, the lattice is 4’ wide  & the fringe is only 8” long – not very long so It is easy to keep untangled which also makes it easier to wear. The silk fabric is different than the others in my collection -a bit lighter weight and somewhat shiny like a modern scarf. The color is a yellowish beige and the embroidery depicts blue wisteria flowers and green vines and pink and white passion flowers, The overall feel is light, fragile, delicate and antique. It looks and feels like it could be worn in modern times to a garden party, a wedding, or an outdoor summer concert.   

It would look beautiful worn over a blue silk dress the color of the wisteria buds, or one the pink color of the passion flower petals, or a green one the color of the leaves and vines, – a solid color would look the best so the shawl is the main decorative focus of the ensemble. I think a beautiful long necklace of graduated beads in some natural stone color like jade green, lapis lazuli blue or rose quartz pink would be an elegant accent. Matching earrings would also be nice. That should be the only embellishment  in my opinion so the focus remains on the elegant Wisteria Shawl. 

Rare and beautiful historic clothing and accessories are for sale in my online shops. If you see something on this blog that you are interested in buying, but do not find it for sale in my shops message me on Etsy or Ebay and I will get back to you about availability. I check messages daily and can always prepare a special listing for you if you do not find it already listed in the shops.

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutiqe

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

Fashion Conservator: Lady Violette Boutique