What does Latin Mass have in common with Wedding Veils. The Mantilla! Today I wanted to share with you what there is to know about this beautiful lace garment.

The “mantilla” can be broken down to a form of manta (blanket), manto (cloak), or manton (shawl). It’s a ceremonial Spanish veil made of lace often worn over a high comb called “peineta”. The first examples of the use of mantilla among the common people of Spain was after the end of the Reconquista.

Firstly, the veil was not worn as decoration by ladies from the highest social class only but solely as a head cover by any woman. Each region had its own specific design, for example, in colder areas, the mantilla served as outerwear, and therefore it was made of wool. On the contrary, in warmer regions, mantilla was made of light and soft fabrics that made this garment more luxurious and decorative. Little by little, the heavy fabrics were replaced by lace. But it wasn’t until the 18th century to see how representatives of the higher social class began to wear mantillas.

Queen Isabella II (1833–1868), a great lover of complex hats and tiaras, began to popularize the mantilla. Women started to wear this item of clothing in various social events. After the overthrow of Isabella, the lace veil became less popular. Although in Madrid, where the wearing of mantillas were so deeply rooted that noble women turned it into a symbol of protest (by wearing the veil with a comb instead of hats) against the king of the new dynasty – Amadeus I of Savoy and his wife Maria Vittoria. This historic event is called “La Conspiración de las Mantillas” but by 1900 the mantilla was mainly used for the holy week, weddings, bullfights and mass attendance. (Holy Week is the period of religious devotion between palm sunday and easter.)

The veil is a circular shape, with a delicate embroidery and lace all around the edges of the veil. White was meant for unmarried women and black for married or divorced women, but this tradition changed often over times. Among many varieties of lace types, the Bolillo (handmade lace) was used most often for “Blonda Mantilla” and “Chantilly Mantilla”, the two most popularly chosen. Blonda is characterized by being made of two types of silk, flower patterns and large glossy plant motives along the edge (Puntas de castañuela). While chantilly was made of light and elegant materials and was abundantly embroidered with various flower- and leaf patterns and was more suited for black mantillas.

The veil became a heirloom and was passed on through generations. Spaniards that moved to Mexico, Central and South America, brought the traditional cultural custom of wearing the mantilla with them. Now mantillas are spread across the whole globe.

written by J. Litman