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Lady Violette

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Archive for the ‘Manton de Manila’ Category

The Restoration Process of a Vintage Purple Cross Mink Fur Trimmed Coat Explained

Sunday, March 10th, 2024

This coat was made in the early 1960s and the design has to have been inspired by historical garments such as royal robes made for kings, queens and high ranking clergymen in olden times that were made of purple cloth trimmed in white winter ermine fur with black tips on the tails.

In a future post I will explain the origin and complex ancient process of making purple dye and dying.

This coat is a textured purple wool and it is lined in cranberry colored satin acetate. The fur trim of creamy white accented with black fur is cross mink. My experienced professional furrier Rene Vogel explained that cross mink is achieved by breeding two colors of mink together – in this case a natural white mink and a natural black mink which yields a creamy white mink with black mottled sections such as you see here. This coloration of mink is not dyed. It occurs naturally when the two colors of mink animals are crossbred. There are many different colors of cross mink: black on white, brown on white, gray on white, black on grey, delicate cream with the lightest brown called pearl cross mink, etc. I’ve seen women wearing some elegant full coats made of various colors of cross mink but I did not really know how the colors were achieved until I asked Rene to explain it to me.

I think the designer of this coat was inspired by a Medieval queens elegant long purple robes trimmed in ermine fur and fastened with real jeweled amethyst buttons. The coat has eight domed purple buttons set with four purple Swarovski crystals each positioned two by two on either side of the cross mink fur band extending down the front. These fasten with loop buttonholes made of the purple wool fabric. I include a closeup picture below to help you see these buttoning loops around the buttons. They are a bit hard to see because the coat is a dark color and they are partially covered by the fur – so they are subtle but a very nice detail to the styling of the coat and easy to button. The crystal stones in the buttons are also subtle but they catch the light and sparkle brightly when you see the coat in person.

The coat was made by Joymoor Fashions styled by Molle and sports a lovely heavy vintage satin designer label. When I acquired this coat it was in excellent condition except that the original thread used to sew it together and apply the covered snaps, anchor the buttons and stitch the fur trim to the wool coat had begun to deteriorate. This is a common issue with vintage clothing because it was assembled with either silk or cotton thread which decomposes over time. The coat was also in need of professional cleaning as it had gotten dusty hanging in a closet for many years without being used. In order to clean these antique fur trimmed coats the fur portions have to be removed so the wool cloth coat can be dry cleaned and the fur trim can be cleaned separately by the furrier method in a special fur cleaning machine. Vintage coats with fur trim cannot be cleaned without removing the fur trim and cleaning it separately. After cleaning the cloth and the fur portions separately, using the proper different processes for each one, the fur trim and the fur collar have to be sewed back onto the coat. This is harder to do than it sounds.

About 20 years ago, before I found Rene Vogel, I had a fur collar removed and had the vintage yellow wool coat it was on dry cleaned. The dry cleaner I went to had an excellent reputation and had two alteration ladies on staff. They sent the fur collar out to a fur cleaning service. It came back clean and the alterations ladies tried to re-attach the collar to the coat. They tried and tried but could not get it right. It was a frustrating situation so I had to give up on re-attaching the collar to that coat. Two years later I was discussing this problem with someone who told me about Rene Vogel. She had met him years before when he worked for I. Magnin and successfully shortened a fur coat for her. She told me he did an excellent job, but I. Magnin had closed many years ago and she had no idea where to find him now! Armed with his name and this recommendation I began searching for Rene. I was teaching ballet classes in the Highlands in Seattle and it turned out that a grandmother of one of my students sent her furs to fur storage at Leather Care in Seattle every summer. She suggested I call Leather Care and ask if they knew how to locate Rene Vogel. I did this and, luckily, they had his phone number and gave it to me. He was located in Bothell, Washington, and agreed to meet me to look at my collarless coat project. He affixed the fur collar on that vintage yellow wool coat right away and I then took him a big pile of furs that needed identifying, cleaning and various repairs. Voila! I had found the man I needed! I had begun selling vintage clothing online and I also had some unusual antique fur pieces I was not able to identify.

It is actually quite difficult to reposition the fur trim and the fur collar exactly correctly and sew them on securely in the original position at the correct angles so that the coat looks the way it was originally made. The dual process of cleaning the cloth coat and the fur portions, then reattaching the fur collar and trim and resewing the buttons onto the coat with shanks so they do not pull incorrectly on the cloth when the coat is buttoned is best done by a professional furrier. It is a time consuming process that must be done completely by hand. It takes an experienced craftsman or woman several hours to do properly. Rene Vogel and his wife Denise work as a team in his business Furs by Rene. Denise has over 45 years experience re-assembling and sewing fur and fur trimmed coats similar to this one back together. I am a good seamstress myself and I have tried to sew the fur collars back on other coats after cleaning them but it was challenging and I could not get it right! The coats are heavy wool and it is awkward and challenging to get the fur collars positioned just right – especially when trying it on yourself!

It is far easier to have a professional furrier position the collar on you while you try it on! Sewing fur onto heavy wool is also challenging and has to be done with a special new synthetic thread they did not have back in the days when these coats were originally created. The new threads will not deteriorate in the future as the original ones did. If your vintage fur coat, jacket or stole needs fur hooks and eyes replaced or added they can do a professional job hiding the mechanism in the fur hairs so it is invisible but holds the coat closed. They will use the right types of vintage sewing notions as well. I have recently tried to buy fur hooks and silk covered snaps myself at local sewing supply shops and could not locate them. I was told they are no longer available! They were also not available online. My personal standards are very high and I will not put anything in my shop unless it is clean, restored and ready to wear.

When I acquire new to me vintage furs that need work such as this one I take them to my personal professional furrier Rene Vogel to have types of fur accurately identified and get cleaning and repair projects like this one done properly. I have been using him now for over 15 years and highly recommend him for all fur services.

You can reach Swiss furrier Rene Vogel via email  Rene’ Vogel <> or by phone at (425)322-9638 to schedule appointments for all your fur related needs. Rene founded his business, Furs by René in 1982. He is a second-generation furrier from Switzerland who was trained in Europe and formerly ran the Fur Salons in Nordstrom and Frederick & Nelson in Seattle, Washington. He also did custom fur work for I Magnin & Co. in Seattle when real furs were in their fashion heyday. He and his wife, Denise, are experts in bringing pre-owned vintage furs back to life. They specialize in reusing and repurposing of old furs by cleaning and repairing them and, if necessary, altering, sewing, refinishing, and remodeling them. They can, of course, also work with new furs and even make a new coat or fur accessory from scratch. The Vogels now live and work in Snohomish, Washington 10 months of the year. The other 2 months of each year they spend at their family home in Switzerland.

I want to make it clear to my readers that I chose to write about Rene Vogel to share information I have learned from him about furs and to provide them access to him as a reliable professional furrier should they wish to find one. Rene is not paying me to write about him.

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. Some vintage furs and fur trimmed items are currently listed for sale in my shops and others will be listed as they are ready to sell. Items are always in process of being readied for listing so all inventory is not already listed and photographed. Feel free to message me on Ebay or Etsy if you are seeking something in particular as I may have it or be able to find it for you. There are contact seller buttons on all listings in the stores which allow you to write me messages.

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutique

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

Fashion Conservatory: Lady Violette Boutique



Thursday, March 7th, 2024

The quality of a fur is determined by the quality of the design, the pelts and the workmanship. The pelts must be well matched, light weight, supple and even in sheen. The workmanship must create evenly stitched seams and good matching of pelts.

This lovely long dark brown mink coat is made of female mink pelts and has a Russian sable collar. Sable is considered the most luxurious fur in the world. It is exceptionally dense and soft and has no nap so can be stroked in any direction. When I found this beautiful vintage coat I took it to furrier Rene Vogel to have the inside belt loops repaired and to have the fur hooks inside replaced as some of them had fallen off over the years. I also asked Rene to explain the difference in male and female mink coats. This is what I learned.

Female mink pelts are generally smaller than male mink pelts and are celebrated for their remarkable delicacy and featherweight quality. They have a higher luster and are softer and silkier than male pelts. Female pelts are perfect for elegant refined garments. Due to the smaller size of the animal it takes more female pelts to make a garment than male pelts therefor the costs of female mink coats are higher due to the higher number of more expensive pelts required.

I love furs. I also love animals. And I also love vintage furs. Most of the furs I come in contact with were created a long time before I was even born. I feel that wearing them and taking good care of them honors the animals they were made from. I do not buy or wear new furs. 

Vintage Furs are Real Furs ….. completely natural and 100% reused. They are both affordable and high quality. For example you often can get a previously owned fur coat in excellent condition that would retail for $8,000 to $10,000 for $500 to $1,000. You can often find a perfectly lovely vintage fur stole for between $150 and $500 that would be perfect for a formal event. 

These furs are incredibly soft and beautiful and a natural resource that shouldn’t be wasted. I believe in rescuing and reusing previously cherished vintage furs and by doing so respecting the animals from which they came. 

When you acquire a vintage fur it needs to be carefully inspected and may need cleaning and minor repairs that have been made necessary by the passage of time. There may be tears in the lining, hooks and buttons may have come off, or a fur coat may need some alterations to make it fit you or give it a more modern look. 

This beautiful coat from the 1940s is called China Mink or Summer Mink. When I acquired it is was dirty and neglected but Rene cleaned and glazed it and brought it back to life. I especially like it because the color matches my natural hair color! This color and style of mink coat was particularly popular in the 1930s and 40s. It is called Summer Mink because it is naturally the lighter color of the mink’s summer pelt.

I collect vintage furs for my own use and to sell in my online vintage clothing shops. 

When I acquire new to me vintage furs I take them to my personal professional furrier, Rene Vogel who founded his  business, Furs by René in 1982. Rene is a second-generation furrier from Switzerland who was trained in Europe and formerly ran the Fur Salons in Nordstrom and Frederick & Nelson in Seattle, Washington. He also did custom fur work for I Magnin & Co. in Seattle when real furs were in their fashion heyday. He and his wife, Denise, are experts in bringing pre-owned vintage furs back to life. They specialize in reuse and repurposing of old furs by cleaning and repairing them and, if necessary, altering, sewing, refinishing, and remodeling them. They can, of course, also work with new furs and even make a new coat or fur accessory from scratch. 

Most professional furriers have closed their businesses and the furriers have retired out of necessity because fur has become unpopular and there is no longer enough business to support a full time shop with all the expenses of running a business. As a result it has become very difficult to find someone qualified to work with valuable fine furs in the old way. Rene is an old school craftsman and an absolute perfectionist. In this world of throw away fashion he is one of the few remaining fur experts of the past and an absolute treasure. 

He currently lives and works out of his charming home studio in Snohomish, Washington, where he also owns a small sheep farm. Ten months out of the year he takes fur clients by private appointment in his home studio. Two months out of each year he spends in his family home in Switzerland – more about that later. 

This fur boa is made of several Stone Marten pelts that are fastened together with clips. They can be configured in several different ways to wear over a coat or suit. They were popular from the 1930s – 1950s and are fun to wear now as authentic accessories for tailored vintage garments. Rene replaced the missing clips on this set and explained that the eyes are glass beads – not real animal eyes!

I visited the Vogels in their newly remodeled Snohomish Studio last weekend – taking them several of my vintage coats – to identify the types of fur – and to do some repairs. I like to get Rene’s expert take on what kinds of fur are used in an item and have him look over the fit and style to give me a professional opinion on the fit and styling. Over the years I have had some very unusual older coats and stoles made out of furs that I could not recognize and he has been able to identify what kinds of furs were used. Whenever I don’t know or question what kind a fur it is I ask him because I like to know what kind of fur I am dealing with. I have learned a great deal about furs as a result. 

This jacket is an Ermine. Rene showed me that the sleeves could be worn two ways rolled up with a cuff or straight and the jacket could be worn open or fastened with one fur hook. He explained that most people think of ermine as white fur with black tips on the end of its tail, but that is the color of the ermine in winter to use as camouflage in snow. The rest of the year the ermine is this rich reddish brown color. The fur is absolutely beautiful. Ermine used to be the fur of royalty and only kings and queens and certain high ranking clergymen were allowed to wear it. This jacket was made in the 1940s and it looks as if it was never worn. It is in perfect condition. It was probably kept in cold storage most of the time since it has survived so well. The lining is absolutely beautiful – a rich brocade with little flower carts decorating it.

And there is a beautiful label from the original furrier. Most of these old coats have elegant vintage labels which add to their history and charm.

Rene has told me the stories of his early life in Europe, about helping his father in his fur business as a boy, attending trade school for professional furriers as a teenager in Switzerland and visiting traditional tanneries that had been processing pelts in Germany for centuries. I plan to share some of these informative and interesting tales with you in upcoming posts.

It is always good to hear his stories and experiences about his life in the fur business as well. He has a good sense of humor and is very entertaining. 

Here are some fur muffs. The dark brown one is Seal Fur from Alaska and has a picture of a baby seal carved out in the fur. I have never seen another one like it! Seal Fur is on the endangered list now and cannot be sold. The very dark brown one on the left is mink and the cream colored one is fox. Below is the baby seal skin muff again, and a sheared muskrat muff on the upper right which is very soft. Below, lying flat, is a fisher muff with the fur cut into a chevron design. Fishers are members of the marten family native to heavily forested areas of North America and Canada. These muffs have zippered compartments inside and function as purses as well as hand warmers. They were popular through the 1960s. I enjoy using them nowadays as well and always try to stock a few of them in my shop. Marilyn Monroe prominently carried a fur muff purse in the movie Some Like it Hot made in 1959.

During Covid the fur business on the West Coast died down because people were not going out at all, but it picked up a lot when people started to go out to dine in outdoor restaurants! Furriers I know in Chicago and New York City told me there was sudden demand for used full length fur coats and they would see women dining outside at restaurants in winter wearing long furs. It had suddenly become necessary again to have a fur coat in order to stay warm. A long dark colored mink became a staple of a woman’s wardrobe once again! It was far too cold to dine outside in below freezing weather unless you were wearing a fur. Here is an Astrakan black Persian lamb coat with a brown mink collar. This gorgeous coat was made in France and was the height of fashion in Europe in the 1950s. Rene told us about learning to match the Astrakan pelts when he was in school so that several matched ones could be used to produce one coat. And he told us about working in the professional tanneries in Germany.

In Chicago and New York City women are wearing their furs again and sales for vintage furs have picked way up. It is very cold there in winter and nothing else keeps you as warm while making you feel elegant and luxurious at the same time. The West Coast is still very casual, but the East Coast is more elegant and women are dressing up and going out to see and be seen in furs again. It is currently socially responsible and very fashionable to reuse beautiful vintage clothes of the past and there is no stigma attached to wearing a pre-owned fur coat or stole. In fact, if you can find a vintage one that suits you it is the height of responsibility and prestige to wear a vintage fur. Celebrities are even wearing them on the red carpet and to award ceremonies.

Europe has always been more fashionable than the US and Rene and Denise said they spotted many women this past fall wearing real furs in Europe …. usually in vintage styles that they had brought out to show off and enjoy again. This is an article found online that you might be interested in reading about the young people in England wearing vintage furs: //

Pictured above is a Kolinsky fur stole. It features fronts that can be worn down or folded upward and converted into a shorter style that also functions as a muff to keep your hands warm if desired!

Soft and luxurious fur stoles from the 1950s and 60s have become popular for weddings again. And they can be worn with a pair of designer jeans and high heeled boots any other time. Below a couple of models are shown wearing vintage furs.

They are both soft and warm. The most popular ones are mink, Kolinsky or Russian squirrel, and fox. They are very easy to find online and in thrift stores and are reasonably priced. This black and white one shown below is skunk and came with a matching muff! It is fabulous! I found it at the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital Thrift Shop. You can also support worthy causes such as this hospital by buying and wearing vintage furs! Rene cleaned and mended this set for me and really improved the look.

Above is a bleached Raccoon fur stole that was made for I. Magnin in the 1950s. It belonged to my aunt.

Above: This beautiful Edwardian Style Harris Tweed Coat was made by designer Daniel Hector in Paris in the 1970s. It is wool and features a real Mouton Fur Collar. Below: This long Harris Tweed Coat designed in New York City by Sabrina is also from the 1970s and features a fluffy real Coyote Fur Collar.

Both of these vintage 1970s tweed coats are made warmer and more elegant by their fur collars.

Next in popularity are mink coats and jackets, and wool coats trimmed in mink or fox collars. A fur collar adds a touch of luxury and real warmth around the neck. 

I’m going to share pictures of my own collection of vintage coats with you here and explain what type of fur each one is and what Rene Vogel has done with it to make it look its best. Hopefully this will inspire you to get out an old coat you already have and wear it again, or acquire a vintage one and start wearing it. 

The following coats with fur collars were all cleaned and mended by Rene Vogel. `

The purple wool coat below is from the 1940s and has wide black fox fur cuffs. The mauve boucle wool coat from the 1940s features a removable Kolinsky fur scarf collar and wide cuffs that were dyed to look like mink. This coat was made in England. The grey leather coat has a grey fox collar and was made in the 1970s. The suede coat from the 1960s features an Autumn Haze colored mink collar. Audrey Hepburn wore one like it in one of her films so it was a very popular style.

I asked Rene to give us for some tips on caring for vintage furs. 

Fur garments should have enough space to hang freely with air space around them to prevent them from being smashed up against other garments. Cedar closets are ideal when storing furs at home, especially because they will help prevent moth damage. Some hardware stores sell small cedar planks with a hook at one end to hang in a closet to help discourage moths. Free-standing garment racks are also good because of the air circulation they promote. Heat, humidity, and temperature fluctuations can damage the leather of the fur by causing it to become dry and brittle. Ideally it is best to store furs in temperature and humidity-controlled fur storage facilities which are becoming very difficult or impossible to find in many areas. We had one in Seattle at a business called Leather Care – but this closed down a couple of years ago so there is nothing available in the Seattle area anymore. (All the professional furriers in the area used to store their clients’ coats and their own fur inventory at this facility.) Unfortunately, it is no longer available. 

This beautiful soft Stone Marten Cape from the 1940s was cleaned and glazed by Rene and looks brand new. It is one of my favorite pieces.

Lavender has been used traditionally for centuries to prevent moth damage. William Shakespeare even wrote about using it to ward off moths in one of his plays! I fill small silk bags with dried lavender and place them over the hangers of my coats. Lavender discourages moths and has a pleasing smell to humans so having some of it around is positive in many respects. Read about ways to protect against moth infestation in this post. // Never ever bring a moth infested item such as a rug or pillow or garment into your home. If you should find one enclose it in a sealed plastic bag and dispose of it. If you bring it into your home you will very quickly expose your other valuable belongings to moths.

As for hangers, you should search for deep-shouldered coat hangers. You can find plastic and wooden hangers that would also be suitable for fur garments on Amazon. The deep-shouldered hangers distribute the weight of heavier garments so they not only retain their shape better, but also help prevent the leather of the fur garments from weakening at the shoulder seams. It is also a good idea to use this type of hanger for expensive cloth coats as the wrong types of hangers can cause jackets and coats to become stretched and misshapen. I will take pictures of the correct type of hangers to use and post them soon.

Sometimes you find a vintage fur with the fur dented and smashed from improper storage. The fur in these garments needs to be brushed.

The following is the type of brush professional furriers use to brush fur garments://, a brush similar to this would probably be best, but a natural bristle brush would probably work as well.  

I live in Seattle where it rains a lot so I am often asked if one can wear fur in the rain and if it gets rained on what to do. Animals in nature do get wet when it rains. Rene said it is OK if it gets damp from rain but you need to hang it up as soon as you take it off in an area with good air circulation so it can dry thoroughly. Should you get caught in a terrific rain storm and get your fur coat terribly wet you will need to get it to a professional furrier immediately. It is best to carry an umbrella in cities like Seattle and London during the rainy season!

The calfskin jacket above from the 1950s was identified and cleaned by Rene. Now it looks brand new.

Below a natural grey fox fur stole and matching muff also from the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital Thrift Shop was cleaned and mended by Rene. It is now glamorous again and ready to go out on the town.

You can reach professional Swiss furrier Rene Vogel via email  Rene’ Vogel <> or by phone at (425)322-9638 to schedule appointments for all your fur related needs. 

I want to make it clear to my readers that I chose to write about Rene Vogel to share information I have learned from him about furs and to provide them access to him as a reliable professional furrier should they wish to find one. Rene is not paying me to write about him.

Rare and beautiful historic clothing and accessories are for sale in my online shops. I do have some fur pieces available now and will be adding more soon. 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. I do have inventory that is not yet listed so, if you want something you do not find already listed, let me know – I may very well have it or be able to find it for you.

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutique

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

Fashion Conservatory: Lady Violette Boutique


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.

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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