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Lady Violette

The Romantic Lifestyle

Manton de Manila – Extraordinary Embroidery of Fantasy Flowers and Exotic Imaginary Birds

April 11th, 2024 by violette

Each antique Manton de Manila that I see seems to be more extraordinary than the last! The imagery is always unique and different than the ones I have seen before. This one features blue, orange and purple roses – and a few creamy white ones for balance. Blue and Purple roses do not exist in nature. The designer made them up as she also made up the interesting hybrid pheasant like birds in equally unrealistic color combinations . I love descending into the wonderful world of this artists imagination.

In addition to the blue and purple roses there are orange roses and orange anemones and many types of small flowers, berries and what look like seed pods of thistles……

I’m intrigued by the birds in imagined color combinations and the mixed up breeds! And by the landscape inspired by a combination of Asian and European trees, flowers and foliage.

The initial embroidered shawls made in the Canton embroidery workshops for export to the Americas were decorated with typically Asian landscapes scenes and included Chinese people and buildings such as pagodas and bridges. They notably included frogs which were regarded as symbols of good luck in China and they did not have any fringe. The silk, the colors and the embroidery technique was much admired by potential customers but the Images of the frogs dominating the centers and borders of the shawls were not popular! Wealthy Mexican and California women did not want to adorn themselves with frogs! They suggested images of birds and flowers as an alternative. And they requested the additions of the wide macrame edging and long fringes be added the edges of the shawls.

The women had discovered that long fringe, like long beautiful hair, moved gracefully and added an element of seductive exoticism to their attire. They essentially knew how to work the long fringe and requested it be added to the shawls. The wider the macrame lattice and the longer and heavier the fringe the better. And they were willing to pay for it. Thus, the Chinese merchants accommodated the desires of the clientele demanding the embroiderers add lattice work and fringe and focus the imagery on fruits, flowers and birds.

This particular shawl is an excellent example of all this – as it is huge, heavy and absolutely covered in embroidery. The macrame lattice is 7 inches wide and the fringe is an additional 18 inches long. Both the silk embroidery and the fringe add to the weight of the shawl which makes it hang and move really well.

The size is enormous because the shawl when folded triangularly in half was meant to wrap the wearer from the back of her neck to the floor completely covering her long dress and very full crinoline skirts. This shawl was made in the 1840s for the Mexican market. Today it would easily cover a king or queen size bed. I have spread it out on a conference table that seats 12 people – 6 along each side – so that you can a good idea of the size and the design spread out flat. This is an extraordinarily fine example of a Manton de Manila as an art form! Fortunately it is also in wonderfully well preserved antique condition.

The center embroidered section of the shawl is 60″ square and the fringe is an additional 25″ all around which makes the entire shawl 110 inches square. It is possible to fold and wrap it as a long evening dress as well as ware it as a long cape. I will create an post explaining and showing how to do this 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: LadyVioletteBoutique

Poshmark: cocovio   lette 

FashionCnservatory: Lady Violette Boutique


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