Commentary by Foreigners Visiting Spain

Mid-Sixteenth Century

"The women generally wear black, as do the men, and around the face they wear a veil like nuns, using the whole shawl (manto) over the head. And when they do not wear the veil over the face, they wear high collars with huge ruffs; and they use [excessive] makeup.."

Camilo Borghese in 1594 on a visit to Madrid, (cited in Garcia Mercadal, p. 112)

Mid-Eighteenth Century

"Women of all ranks wear their rosaries in their hands whenever they go to church, and always in such manner that every body may see them. They are a part of their church-dress. I am told that it is customary, amongst the lower ranks, for the young men to present fine rosaries to their sweethearts. Women of whatever condition never go to church but with the basquina and the mantilla on. The basquina is a black petticoat, commonly of silk, which covers their gowns from the waist down, and the mantilla is a muslin or cambrick veil that hides their heads and the upper part of their bodies. If they do not turn up their veils, as some of them will do both at church and in the streets, it is difficult, if not impossible, even for husbands to know their wives" (Bareti, p. 421).

Mid-Twentieth Century

"... striking ... are the differences in regional costumes. Except for the familiar Andalusian costume of high comb, mantilla, sleeveless bodice, and wide flounced skirts with large white spots, it is safe to say that nearly all Spanish regional costumes clearly reveal Moorish influence" (Bush, p. 69).

Islamic patterns—stylized vegetation, geometric motifs, stars, zigzags, and inscriptions in Arabic script. By the eleventh century the pilgrimage route across the north of Spain to Santiago de Compostela connected Spain with neighboring Europeans consistently and by the middle of the fourteenth century, the Spanish aristocracy and urban elite were wealthy enough to change styles in clothing regularly, enriching their wardrobes with fashions from Burgundy and Italy. The accession of Charles I (son of Philip of Burgundy) to the Spanish throne in 1516 sealed Spain's intimate relationship with both states and introduced the austere black and white dress so familiar from portraits of Spain's Golden Age: this formal dress (gala negra) was accessorized with lavish gold chains, buttons, and jewelry wrought from the precious metals from the Spanish-American colonies. The Spanish monopoly on logwood, a black dyestuff also imported from the new colonies, may well have had some bearing on this urban predilection for the color, as well as the devout Catholicism of subsequent monarchs (especially Philip II, III, and IV and Charles II) who, to some extent, eschewed overbearing ostentation. Nonetheless, descriptions of festivities throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries show that on holidays, those who could afford to do so often wore brightly colored garments of silk that were embroidered, brocaded, or trimmed in silver or gold. Spanish sumptuary laws made serious attempts to limit excess in the consumption of luxuries and to codify the distinctions between noble and bourgeois in the interests of protecting the Spanish economy and Spanish morals. References to the appropriate dress for Christian and non-Christian, promulgated in the first laws from 1252 onward, ceased after the expulsion ofJews at the end of the fifteenth century and Moors at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Throughout this period, such laws were of little relevance to the poor and marginalized who wore inexpensive undyed cloth in tones of brown, gray, or off-white. They thus earned the epithet "people of brown clothes" (gente de ropa parda), which instantly differentiated them from their social superiors (gente de ropa negra).

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