The Manton de Manila is a large, square, embroidered silk shawl that has been widely used throughout Andalucia as a traditional dress accessory since the late 1700s. Flamenco dancers have developed their own technique to incorporate the Manton into flamenco dance, and today, along with castanets, the bata de cola, and the abanico, the Manton de Manila remains one of the most iconic elements of female baile flamenco.
Guidelines for buying:
-You need a Manton that is square, and approximately 52 to 55 inches per side (NOT including fringe and macrame edging)! If listed in centimeters, this measurement should be about 135 to 140 cm.
-Your fringe should be no shorter than 12 inches, and will usually be more like 20 inches or more.
-Your manton should fully cover both hands when folded in a triangle and worn over the shoulders. If it doesn’t cover both hands, it WILL NOT WORK for flamenco dancing! Don’t be tempted to buy one that is not large enough. Generally, bigger=better for mantones (to a point).
-Your manton needs to have a certain amount of weight to it in order to be able to move properly. The fabric, embroidery, and fringe are all things that give your manton weight.
-A traditional manton is made of silk, with silk thread embroidery, and heavy fringe. There are mantones available in other fabrics (like satin), but beware: they may be slippery, too light or too heavy! There are some good “practice” mantones available without the embroidery, but still made of silk with good, heavy fringe. These tend to be somewhat cheaper than an embroidered manton, and are still attractive and performance-worthy. I’ll list some purchase options below.
-Polyester or rayon mantones are available, and in theory are not bad for practice. HOWEVER, in my experience, these polyester mantones are often too small in size or light in weight, and often are triangular and not square, so watch out! There are a few good options out there, though (see below).
Even ten years ago I could get a decent (not great, but serviceable) silk manton from China for $150. Apparently, those days are gone. For some reason I don’t know, getting a manton in the U.S. has become much more costly. A basic embroidered manton is going for around $400 now, although you can still buy a “practice” manton (no embroidery) for $100-$250.
-DO NOT invest in that $1500 manton thinking you will use it for dance class! You will be slapping your new manton all over the floor, ceiling, walls, getting it tangled in your shoe buckle or even with your classmates’ mantones, and it will start to show wear. This is inevitable! Your manton will be beautiful for years (depending on how much or how hard you use it), but it will get sweaty, dirty and frayed. It can be dry cleaned, but you can’t avoid some wear and tear, so get a nice, economical manton rather than a treasure you will want to pass on to your grandchildren!
-Vintage/Antique mantones are a good option if you can find an adequate one. Prices are all over the place: many sellers see silk and embroidery and instantly label the item a vintage masterpiece worth $3000, when you and I know it was made last year in China and sells for $400. That said, if you pay close attention to the details (measurements, etc.) sometimes you can snag a good buy on Etsy or eBay. Search “Manton de Manila” or “Piano Shawl.” Also know that your vintage manton may be in even more delicate condition than a new one, and may shed threads or start to disintegrate when you begin throwing it around. So look for an item in good shape, and not TOO old.
If you go to Spain:
Mantones Juan Foronda is probably the premier Manton manufacturer in Spain, with a store in Sevilla: https://juanforonda.com/5-mantones
Borca in Madrid has a good variety, and there are other Manton shops nearby on the same street: https://www.borca.es/en/
In any medium-to-large sized town in Andalucia, there is likely at least one shop with Mantones, usually located in the center near fabric stores. Even department stores like El Corte Ingles will carry mantones in Andalucia.
New, silk, embroidered mantones
Flamenco Export: https://www.flamencoexport.com/lo-mas-vendido/mantones-de-manila-es-0-1248.html
Practice Mantones (no embroidery, aka “liso”:
There are more out there! Happy Hunting!