Holy Thursday Mantilla: Life and Fashion

The Holy Thursday mantilla is a magnificent and striking tradition in Spain, on display in Seville yesterday, where many women of the city gathered to participate in Easter solemnities.

holy thursday mantilla
Bowed heads on Holy Thursday, March 24, 1016, in downtown Seville. The traditional black lace head coverings or mantillas are mounted on elaborate combs and gathered together in the back with ornate broaches. The combs are called “peinetas” . Source: Hotel Becquer Tweeter feed.

During Holy Week the cathedral and other churches in Seville and many other cities in Spain are decked out in glorious splendor. Spectators line the streets to watch masked members of male religious fraternities process through the streets carrying richly decorated statues of the Pietà. They are followed by penitents carrying crosses. Many walk in bare feet.

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Member of a religious fraternity during Holy Week in Spain. Source: ABC Spain.

With women it’s different. Women have mantillas – elaborate transparent veils, usually black. The Holy Thursday mantilla is worn with formal black clothing and black heel pumps (no stilettos). The only light parts are supposed to be the pieces of jewelry (old silver or gold). But this is only during Holy Week. On other days you have options:)


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A classical Spanish pump by Unisa.

Other Uses of the Holy Thursday Mantilla

Mantillas are used by Spanish women, especially those of the upper class, on many important occasions like weddings, coming of age festivities, and other milestone events.  Mantilla is a traditional symbol of Spanish identity. Sometimes the mantillas are white, but that depends on the mood. Black mantillas are not necessarily a symbol of mourning.

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Here is the late Duchess of Alba, the famous Cayetana, in her youth, displaying her luxurious mantilla. Source: Pinterest.
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Jackie Onassis, Duchess of Alba (to the right), and another Spanish aristocrat at an event in Madrid during Jackie O’s visit to Spain in the 60s. Source: Pinterest.

As you can see, while Jackie O and the “Cayetana” are wearing white mantillas, the lady to Jackie‘s left is wearing a black one. I think that the choice was an aesthetic one.

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Spanish ladies posing for photos in mantillas. Source: Vintage by López-Linares.


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Facebook profile picture of Maria Victoria Martin Sanabaria from Valencia, Spain, a follower of Spanishoegallery’s Facebook page.

This photograph of a lovely girl in her mantilla was taken many years ago. On the Facebook profile this picture is set in front of a photo of Maria Victoria today. It’s obvious that she identifies with and is proud of her mantilla. I don’t know whether it is a family heirloom, but the mantilla must have been part of some of the most memorable and precious moments in Maria Victoria‘s life – as a coming of age festivities mantilla, a Holy Thursday mantilla, a wedding guest mantilla etc.

Mantilla in Spanish Fashion

Spanish fashion designers get inspired by the mantilla a lot. How can they not? It has so much mystery to it and it opens a field of possibilities in fine crafts.

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Francis Montesinos created this elaborate head dress that includes a gorgeously embroidered silvery lace mantilla. Francis Montesinos FW15-16 show at the MBFW Madrid. Source: Vogue Spain.

There are mantillas made of cheaper transparent materials and there are your high-end mantillas. An aunt of mine from Santo-Domingo has an antique mantilla that was sourced for her in Havana, Cuba. That one is probably made from silk lace. (I haven’t yet got around to ask). She poses in it at her children and grandchildren’s weddings. She does not use the comb – “peineta”.  Peineta combs are definitely a vintage look (Victorian ladies used turtle shell peinetas a lot). Many fresh versions are available today.


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Turtle shell peinetas are usually available from a popular site www.flamenco-fashion.com.
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A typical mantilla or Spanish veil, made of 80% rayon and 20% nylon in the mixed chantilly and blond lace styles, available at www.flamenco-spain.com.

Flamenco and traditional dress designers (who thrive in places like Seville and also Valencia, because of the Fallas festival) especially relish the creative promise of the mantilla.

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Semana Santa (Holy Week) inspired flamenco dress and mantilla-style shawl composition by the Sevillian flamenco fashion designer José Galvañ.








About Me

Ann Mailsi is a writer and social media buff based in the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada. Her interests include fashion, technology, and nature adventures.

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