Image 01

Lady Violette

The Romantic Lifestyle

Posts Tagged ‘Embroidered Purses’

Two Antique Manton de Manila Embroidered Silk Shawls From The San Francisco Gold Rush – 1850

Sunday, January 28th, 2024

Part One in a Series on Antique Mantons de Manila, Antique Embroidered Shawls from Canton, Antique Embroidered Silk Piano Shawls, Embroidered Spanish Shawls and Spanish Flamenco Shawls ……..


During the Gold Rush, San Francisco was a frontier boomtown, a slice of the Wild West that was rapidly civilizing with the influx of money from the mining activities. In the early 1850s, two sisters attended the traveling opera in San Francisco, in a makeshift music hall with wooden chairs for seats. They wore their status on their persons, in the form of two dramatic, embroidered silk shawls, imported all the way from the exotic Far East by rickshaw, rail and sail. As they made their way up the steps, the shawls flowed around them, adding a sense of glamor and drama to the evening before the opera even began.

These women wore Cantonese, via Manila, Mantons – exotic heavy silk shawls hand embroidered in Canton for the export market, originally produced for well to do fashionable women in the Americas.  These two shawls were acquired by a ship captain in Canton and brought by ship to Manila, the capitol of the Spanish Colony in the Philippines. Then they traveled on the Manila Galleons from the Philippines to San Francisco where they were purchased by a gentleman gold miner who had struck it rich from the sea captain in 1850 during the heart the San Francisco Gold Rush (1848 – 1855.) It was socially and economically important for this businessman to exhibit his success by dressing the women in his family in the most expensive and fashionable attire of the times. In those days the opera was the place to see and be seen as well as the place all manner of social and business transactions were conducted. It was the perfect venue in which to exhibit these exquisite and expensive shawls and show off his beautiful wife and sister…

Provenance: His niece wrote, 

“This Spanish Shawl was bought in California ($150) in the years of the Gold Rush  – 1849 by my father’s Uncle, Nathanial S. Harold, for his sister my grandmother, Margaret Case, who gave it to me about February 1881. My uncle bought these two shawls from the captain of a ship that came from a far country for his wife and my mother and these two ladies wore them to the Opera in San Francisco.” Estylle M. Davis.

 Incidentally $150 in the years of the San Francisco Gold Rush (1850) is equal to $6,090.24 today! (January 28, 2024.) These shawls are now 176 years old!

The black and white shawl covered with camellias is one of those two shawls worn to the opera so long ago. It is wonderful and unusual that I know the provenance of this beautiful shawl. I acquired it 45 years ago from an antique dealer friend of mine who purchased it directly from the elderly niece of the original owners described above. I have both shawls from this transaction. The niece wrote the above statement on a card that accompanies the shawls in her own handwriting. I expressed interest in meeting Estylle M. Davis herself and my friend was able to arrange it! We visited her in her family home on Clay Street in San Francisco and she was so kind and lovely! She was happy that the person who acquired her shawls appreciated them and her family history. She showed us photos of her family from the Gold Rush days up to the present period which was 1986. She was in her late 90s when we met! I later learned that she passed away at the age of 103! She explained that the shawls were left to her by her female relatives when she was very very young – too young and small to wear them. She was the only female relative in the family to leave them to and they wanted to be sure that she would have them, as part of her history when she grew up.

Her motivation in selling her shawls was that she wanted to find them a home in which they would be treasured and cared for. She only had sons and they were not at all interested in the shawls. My antique dealer friend assured her that they would only be sold to an appropriate person. She was actually delighted to meet me and fortunately I was approved and passed inspection! Here is the note Estelle wrote:

Ideally, Estelle Davis wanted these two shawls to remain together as they had been purchased by Nathaniel Hawthorne from the sea captain and worn by his wife and sister, Estelle’s grandmother, Margaret Case. I promised to do so and so far have managed to keep them together……

The second shawl is ivory silk covered in a profusion of brightly colored birds, butterflies and exotic flowers skillfully hand embroidered in silk thread. A large peacock with its tail spread open occupies the center of this shawl, while colorful pheasants, flamingos and other exotic birds fill out the four corners. It is finished with a heavy white silk macrame lattice and long ivory fringe. I call this one The Birds of Paradise Manton. Manton is, simply, the word for shawl in Spanish.

These exquisite shawls were among the most treasured possessions of these two early San Fransisco women and were passed down to the niece who kept them carefully until she was an elderly woman in her 90’s, wearing them only on special holidays. These shawls were beautifully made and properly cared for and, as antiques, will continue to increase in value. They are both in excellent condition for their age – clean and free of damage. The embroidery is perfect. The hand macrame lattice is exceptionally elaborate and heavy and the silk fringe is dense and long. 

The embroidery on the Birds of Paradise shawl is unique in its imagery and imagination especially in the realistic depiction of birds from pheasants, to flamingos and peacocks – other atypical details include fanciful flowers and vines and plant pods insects and butterflies. Much of the embroidery is executed in satin stitch but the tails and wings of the peacocks and other birds are done in a fine herringbone stitch that imitates the texture of feathers. I do think some of the birds were fantastical combinations of different birds made by the designer embroiderer and I love this about it! The one below, in my opinion, is a kind of flamingo/ peacock combination!

When I discovered and acquired these two San Francisco Gold Rush Shawls I fell in love with them. I was fascinated by the highly skilled embroidery and the incredible designs as well as the history surrounding them. I began to investigate Manton’s de Manila and visit them in museums and textile collections whenever I could. And I began to assemble my own collection. I have now been collecting Manton’s de Manila for 45 years. In the process I have learned a lot about them and the women who originally owned and wore them. I have learned how these shawls were made and the history of the silk and fine embroidery trade between China, the Americas and Europe. I love learning the background history of the shawls as well as their beauty and especially value knowing about the women who originally owned them.

In future posts I will discuss the interesting history of the Mantons de Manila and share beautiful examples from my own collection and others. I am a dancer and I of course become interested in how the shawls have been incorporated into Flamenco and Spanish folk dance. I will show examples of their use in dance and how each art form has enhanced the other. Isadora Duncan, the famous modern dance pioneer, also initially from San Francisco, famously wore such shawls in performance and daily life with her famous Delphos gowns.

I will also explain how to care for these shawls properly, how to restore them, how to evaluate the originality, authenticity and quality of an antique Manton de Manila, and how to locate one if you want to acquire one for yourself. Because there is a lot of information to share I am choosing to do it in a series of Manton de Manila related blog posts.

The embroidery on the Black and White Shawl is executed in satin stitch. Both shawls are double embroidered on both the front and back in the same images making them completely reversible.

These shawls are large. The Black and White one is 60 inches square before adding the measurement of the fringe which is another 5 inches of macramé lattice work plus 13″ of long silk fringe. Thus another 18 inches of fringe all the way around the shawl.

When these shawls were made in the 1840s Western ladies were wearing enormous voluminous skirts that steadily grew in size through the decade! The large skirts were supported underneath by multiple petticoats, sometimes as many as seven at once. At least one of these petticoats would be a crinoline – a type of petticoat stiffened by horsehair. The steel cage crinoline was introduced in 1856. It provided immense relief from multiple heavy and cumbersome petticoats and allowed skirts to reach even larger new proportions especially between 1858 and 1862, relatively inexpensive, the cage crinoline was worn at all levels of society. The shawls were required to cover the lady and her crinoline skirt – thus the size! Today this size can adequately cover a queen or king sized bed as a coverlet or be used on a grand piano as a piano shawl or as a glamorous coverlet on a chaise lounge.

Shawls and beautiful historic dresses and other clothing and accessories are for sale in my online shops. 

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutiqe

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

Fashion Conservator: Lady Violette Boutique


Beaded and Metallic Gold Embroidered Black Velvet Evening Handbag, Belt, Buttons, Scarf/Shawl ~ A Vintage Ensemble Inspired by Matching Accessories from India Circa 1930’s in Razia Zardozi Style

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Vintage Ensemble Featuring Accessories From India Decorated in Metallic Embroidery & Glass Beads & Stones ~ Silk Satin Evening Dress, Black Silk & Velvet Belt with Gold Embroidery, Sheer Black Silk Chiffon Scarf/Shawl Trimmed with Gold Edgings & Red Glass Stones, and Embroidered East Indian Evening Bag ~ all circa 1930. On the Table a Pair of Black Suede Evening Pumps Trimmed with a Satin Bow by Palter De Lisa circa 1950 with Large Black Velvet, Pearl and Metallic Gold Embroidered Buttons Used as Shoe Clips. Jewelry by Liz Palacios San Francisco.

I am posting more photos of the Vintage Black Velvet Indian Embroidered & Metallic Beaded Evening Purses and adding pictures of the matching accessory items ~ belt, evening scarf/stole/shawl, and buttons ~ of the same textile technique/ ethnic art form so you can view them as I described them in my post yesterday. I am often inspired to put together an entire look by a key piece, such as one of these evening bags, or by a technique used to create a textile or embellishment. I love this look! It reminds me of English  Elizabethan gowns, the glamorous movie stars of the 1930’s and graceful East Indian women in saris all at the same time. I have borrowed a little something from each of them to achieve my own unique look with items from my eclectic collection.

The Three Embroidered Evening Clutches that Constitute My Mini Collection of 1930's Indian Embroidered & Beaded Evening BagsI am often asked where I find the items in my collections and I am going to try to explain that as often as possible. It is not an easy answer ~ I don't just go to one place and buy them! They are hard to find, It often takes years of searching and a good trained eye to spot them. I patiently sift through immense amounts of junk to eventually locate just one treasure - I go to antique stores - where you find things at the highest prices, because they often know what they have. I also shop flea markets, fun because you never know what you might find there. Thrift stores, charity shops, church bazaars, rummage sales, hospital donation shops, the Goodwill, (but I don't find much there as they are now selling anything they recognize as special on their eBay stores.) The Salvation Army is doing eBay as well. I buy and sell on eBay sometimes, but I feel it is very difficult. I prefer to see, inspect, hold and decide on an item in person. Garage and yard sales, estate sales, sometimes auctions, antique malls with many dealers in small booths, consignment shops, estate sales, asking friends if I know they are moving, or not interested in those goodies they inherited in a trunk when Grandma dies, elderly friends who are downsizing and moving into retirement homes, the retirement homes themselves often hold senior sales where the residents can sell things they are no longer using and do not have space for. These are a great source for well cared for vintage hats, purses, costume jewelry, treasured sets of fancy antique dishes, vases, even old wedding dresses. I even got a sewing machine and button hole attachment at one of these. The people are nice and love to see their things go to young women who appreciate them.

Embroidered Evening Handbag #1 ~ Circa 1930




Embroidered Evening Handbag #2 ~ India Circa 1930





I am one of those younger women whose taste can be summed up like this: If your grandmother liked it I probably will too. So these ladies love me! I have bought something they had on display and started to talk to them and they make appointments with me to come back to see other things they think I might like that they hadn’t brought along to this sale. They love to have me over to tea and show me things and tell me all about the stories of their youth, when they wore the items and what life used to be like back in the old days. I also enjoy this! I have ended up making some wonderful friends and great connections by spending the time listening to these women tell me the stories. One lady, of 96 years had just recently remarried! She was like a young bride of 28! Full of joy, but also full of the wisdom of her age. She had moved out of a large home to live with her new husband and had had to downsize considerably. She was selling many of her belongings on Craig’s list. I answered her add for a Singer Featherweight 221 sewing machine. During the discussion she told me she had sewed all her own clothes for many years and still had all the patterns. I expressed interest! She was really pleased! When she returned from her honeymoon I visited her in her new home and she gave me her life in sewing patterns. And the stories of each outfit she had made and the fabrics she had used. I have Dorothy’s life in her sewing patterns! And it is an amazing story. I am planning to post this story on my blog at some point.

Embroidered India Evening Handbag #3 ~ Circa 1930

These Indian Handbags came respectively from a #1) thrift store in Seattle, WA, in 2002, #2) an elderly lady who was moving in Portland, OR, in 2000, and #3) a church charity store in Houston, Texas in 1998.

Collecting vintage items is both fun and frustrating. One of my friends who is in IT and is an online gamer compares it to World of Warcraft for guys! He says it is all about the joy of the hunt. You never know what you may find! what unique and fantastic treasure may be lurking around the corner!  Once he came up with this explanation I seemed to be able to be more tolerant of his interest in gaming and he understood why I like going to estate sales and antique malls and charity and  thrift stores! But he won’t go with me! He has not got the patience for it. Thus he doesn’t get the rewards – except for the current favor I have done him by showing him that you can find fantastic designer and vintage silk men’s ties in the same types of places I find my treasures! And these are good for the times you have to dress up in business suits and look good and don’t want to spend $130 t0 $180 on a new tie! The vintage ties are often more beautiful and in great condition. And I find them for $2 to $12 versus the $80 To $200 range in better men’s stores.

Besides, recycling is so good for the environment! these lovely items from the past are in good shape and beautifully made and deserve to be used and appreciated again! And your style is so much more fascinating and original if you mix new and old together to create something totally original and unique!

The Three Exotic East Indian Evening Handbags Juxtaposed ~ Circa 1930's ~ Black Velvet Decorated with Metallic Embroidery, Cabochon Stones and Glass Beads

So, here are the Three Vintage Indian Circa 1930’s Handbags, again, and I will also list the matching accessory items I have found over the years: A slim velvet evening belt trimmed in the same metallic embroidery, two large buttons which can be used to fasten a black jacket or cape or to decorate a pair of evening pumps, and a sheer black silk chiffon scarf/stole/shawl trimmed with matching embroidery and stones at each end to wrap around your neck or drape seductively around your shoulders! I saw a gorgeous black velvet evening jacket completely covered in this metallic embroidery and cabochon stones and beads attributed to the 1930’s in a thrift shop in Philladelphia. It was totally encrusted and weighed a ton. It was also an extra large size and extremely expensive. Due to the huge size and weight of the piece I couldn’t even consider it! I am small and it would have drowned me, but the decorative work was utterly amazing! I mention this so that you know these pieces exist and you might be lucky enough to find one! I think the jacket was priced at about $500. It looked as if it had never been worn. I think these kinds of items survived because they were very dressy and people only wore them for special occasions then kept them carefully wrapped and boxed up in a drawer or closet. This is good for us as they have survived in good shape for us to rediscover and use again!

Shoes Trimmed with Buttons as Shoe Clips

The pretty evening bags surface from time to time. I think they were popular gift items too and also were given as Christmas, birthday, anniversary and Valentine’s Day presents. I have a theory that beautiful bags, gloves, scarves, men’s silk ties, lingerie and costume jewelry often fell into that category and being valued as special occasion treasures were worn very little. I have often found them in their original boxes or paper wrappings with the gift card enclosed ! ~ from 80 years ago!

Details ~ Handbag, Belt & Shawl

This is utterly amazing! I posted a blog about my three Indian Evening Bags yesterday, and began to write and photograph this piece. Then I had to go to an appointment and found another one that very afternoon in a horribly junky little thrift store in Kirkland, WA. It was just dumped into the filthy purse bins in the back of the store. Fortunately it hadn’t been crushed! But it was very dirty. I brought it home and cleaned it up and now it looks quite good! It is different that these three! It has more green stones. I have to mend it a bit, but then I will post photos so you can see it. I’ll post a photo of all four of them so you can see how the designs differ. I love the fact that they are handmade and no two seem to be alike!