The Spanish mantilla is, along with the Manila shawl, the national accessory par excellence. A piece of lace with which the hair is adorned at religious or festive times and is usually complemented by a comb. A symbol of mourning and religiosity, but also of power, elegance and tradition.
You may think that it is something more typical of our grandmothers or that it is limited to those ladies who go as godmother at weddings… but you’d be surprised to see that some of the older girls cold who daily go with sneakers and bags from Zadig et Voltaire they have succumbed to it. From the Duchess of Alba portrayed by Goya to our beloved Vic, from Jackie Kennedy to Carmen Lomana, all of them have worn this garment that is so much ours.
At ELLE we wanted to review its history and, hand in hand with the experts, compile some tips to wear it with style and without losing sight of the protocol. If with the coming dates you dare to recover the tradition, take a look here.
History of the Mantilla
This accessory was already used in the 17th century as a cloth or stole with which to cover oneself, but it would not be until later when the ladies of high society would adopt it for their outfits.
Initially, its function was to hide part of the face and head Women’s. Let us not forget that Spain was Muslim territory for centuries and their customs had inevitably penetrated ours. In some provinces, such as Cádiz, this habit of being covered was even greater (and is still preserved in some traditional costumes such as the the Shelter of Vejer).
But it was this idea of the mantilla as a veil to cover oneself, which would make it disappear during a period of time in which prohibited in certain public placessuch as, for example, in the Buen Retiro Gardens.
In those years, nobles and commoners dressed alike; black, the quintessential tone of Spanish clothing. It would not be until the arrival of the French influence when the people of the court and those close to them would begin to use a greater variety of garments and colors. And, although Frenchification gradually influenced all classes, there was a contrary current that claimed our most traditional clothing as a way of rebelling against the French, the so-called Majismwhich would be more typical of the popular classes.
Victoria Eugenia de Battenberg (1887-1969), queen consort of Spain, wife of King Alfonso XIII, portrayed in this painting by Joaquin Sorolla.
Little by little, that traditional castiza dress would lose use in favor of the fashions that came from France and that were adopted by the higher classes, until little by little it permeated the whole of society. You hardly ever saw ‘manolas’ on the street and the mantilla would be relegated to Holy Week and the bulls.
Was the Duchess of Alba who, in the last decades of the 19th century, would recover some Spanish customs and revalue the use of the mantilla. She, always close to the bullfighters, the majos and the people, but still Grandee of Spain, it gave him that power with which today we can associate the mantilla.
How to wear it
We asked the expert Mila, from Lina 1960 to help us with some advice when wearing the mantilla dress.
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What accessories can not miss?
Earrings, matching brooch, stockings and bag. The rest of accessories such as gloves, rosary, necklace, etc. are optional.
What hairstyle is usually best to place the mantilla?
Picked up at the middle of the head so that the comb fits perfectly and does not move.
Can I wear any flashy earring?
For Easter, the ideal is an old silver earring with a crystal stone and if you want to put a color that is black or amethyst.
You can also wear slightly brighter silver earrings that darken less than old silver, always matching the brooch.
How is the perfect mantilla dress?
A sober suit, with half-length French sleeves, with a flattering but not excessive neckline.
A forbidden accessory in the mantilla look.
And the shoes?
Black court shoe. You can wear a high heel but as long as you can walk naturally.
This is how celebrities have worn it throughout history
Janet Gaynot, one of silent film’s biggest stars, wearing a white mantilla in 1928
Jackie Kennedy in Seville, at the 1966 Fair where she attended the bullfights with the Duchess of Alba. Grace Kelly also walked through Seville on those dates and the expectation among Sevillians could not be greater.
Lady Di, at the Vatican in 1985
Queen Letizia at the Vatican in 2004
The Infanta Elena at the royal wedding, wearing a Christian Lacroix outfit and a white mantilla, a highly embossed and elegant look that would go down in fashion history.
Blanca Rivera, on the catwalk with a white mantilla and intense makeup.
Carolina de Monaco, at the mass of her father, Rainero de Monaco, in 2015.
Inés Sastre, with a very elegant mauve suit and black mantilla in an act of the Armed Forces in Seville, in 2017.
Tana Rivera, at the Ronda bullfighting fair, 2021.
Princess Charlene of Monaco, covering her head at the Vatican, in 2016
Spanish fashion has always been an inspiration for creators and artists; bullfighter jackets, ruffles, polka dots and even the Spanish mantilla have been taken to the catwalk literally or, most of the time, out of context. The Spanish mantilla has not been an exception, it has been reinterpreted in a thousand ways and we have even seen it on Kate Mosss or Sara Jessica Parker. It has been mixed with casual clothes, with ultra-sexy dresses and even lingerie, playing with all the taboos and with its
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