1775 maja, 18th century, projects, research

I May Need to Move to Spain

Valencia, specifically.  So, I am forcing myself to Stay On Target and am starting the Maja dress!  What, you may be asking, is this?  Oh, only a costume that I’ve been saying I’m going to make for about three years.

To recap:  it’s a mid-1770s (c. 1773?  1775?  I’ve seen conflicting dates, gotta look into that more) portrait of the Marquese de Llano wearing a masquerade costume of a Maja.  Majas/Majos were working class people who lived in Madrid in the late 18th and 19th centuries.  They spoke “pure” Castilian, wore elaborate outfits, and had a general swagger and bravado that captured the imagination of Spain.  In time, their clothing became adopted as the national traditional dress of Spain.

So in doing all this research on the style, I found a ton of cool resources, and then stumbled across Las Fallas, which is a big annual festival held in Valencia.  Why is this exciting?  Because they wear E-LAB-ORATE “traditional Spanish dress”… which is based on late 18th century Maja costumes.  Of course, it’s morphed over time, but it is totally gorgeous.  To wit:

Fallas Valencia 2010 (95)

Fallas Valencia 2010 (71)

Fallas Valencia 2010 (133)

Fallas Valencia 2010 (94)

I mean seriously, where do I sign up???  The hair!  The jewelry!  The fabrics!  The 18th c. silhouette!  Aiee!!!

There is, of course, a whole industry in Valencia around these costumes… but a whole lot of searching later, and it looks like not much of it is online.  Bah – I had gotten all excited about buying some shoes, like these (and I think Trystan needs these!).

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  • Reply Andrew April 14, 2011 at 3:06 am

    Okay, why does Europe get to have all the cool cultural stuff? I hate that our country is only 200 years old.

  • Reply kendra April 14, 2011 at 3:36 am

    Andrew – totally! Okay, we do have Colonial Williamsburg, but it’s not as SHINY. I want shiny!

  • Reply Trystan April 13, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Aiiiieeeeeee!!!!! Those shoes!!!! I’m dying!!!!

    Also, the hair, the embroidery, why don’t we live somewhere w/an industry devoted to that kind of stuff??? Not fair!!!!

  • Reply a traveller in time April 14, 2011 at 3:21 am

    OMG I’m in love. They have dresses they wear each year in a festival like that? I want to go to Spain. NOW! Thankyou for posting about this. Will you look at those materials! Breathing heavily!

  • Reply Natalie April 14, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Good heavens, who knew? Such dresses! Those shoes…makes me wonder if at least one shoemaker has some sort of online presence.

    Thanks for sharing a super discovery,

    natalie in KY
    longtime reader of your blog

  • Reply Clara April 14, 2011 at 8:14 am

    I totally agree……we need festivals like this!! I love the one on the right in the last picture. (The lady facing away from us)

  • Reply Natalie April 14, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Well, I’ve done a little searching, and have found the following, all from a newspaper ad here: http://servicios.lasprovincias.es/promociones/promo_trajevalenciana2011.html.

    This vendor sells accessories: http://www.carmenesteve.es/

    Here we have jewelry: http://www.aderezosypeinetasroda.com/nosotros.htm.

    The fabric manufacturer Garin 1820’s site is at http://www.garin1820.com/.

    Initially, I did a search for “where to purchase Valencia las fallas dresses”, translated via Google to “donde comprar vestidos Las fallas de Valencia”. That led me to the ad.

    There may be more sites out there. The jewelry and lace left me breathless.

    Very best,


  • Reply Melissa April 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Wow…I seriously want a pair of those shoes. They’d work so nicely with some of my 18th century stuff. So…along with the Jane Austin Festival in Bath, Carnivale in Venice, and Las Fallas in Valencia, what costumed events should we not miss in Europe? One of these years we need to seriously organize some field trips across the pond and make these drams a reality (though you got a great start with your trip to England!).

  • Reply Sarah Lorraine April 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    All that AND men in skirts! Where do I sign up???

    And seriously, FINALLY, a national costume that looks FABULOUS.

  • Reply Aniara April 15, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Just look what you have done!:) I have to get shoes like that! I asked my Spanish friend to call one of the shoe manufacturers on Monday (http://www.descans.es/). Then I will know how expensive these shoes are and are they shipping them abroad… I’ll let you know what happens if you want!:)

  • Reply kendra April 15, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Aniara — FABULOUS! Let us know what you find out!

  • Reply Kay Morgan April 18, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Dear Kendra,

    A Spanish fan here! This post was pointed out to me by a member of the Sociedad Victoriana Augusta (you may have heard of us, you have many admirers in our midst).

    I am really glad that you find Spanish traditional costumes interesting. I had already read about your Maja project but I didn’t comment there because your research is perfect and I couldn’t be of any help.

    I just wanted to point out something that from outside of Spain may seem as a moot point but that is really very important for traditional costumers here. The Fallera costumes do not derive from the Maja costumes, as they originated in different regions of Spain. Odd as it may seem, each region of Spain has a different regional traditional costume; they usually derive from the attire of the working classes (pheasants mostly) of the said region, and they reflect designs and elements from roughly the 16th to the 18th centuries. As far as I know, most regional traditional dresses have developed through centuries of countrymen and women adding layers, fabrics, trimmings, accessories, jewellery, etc. to the outfits they wore to celebrate important religious festivities (a sort of “Sunday best”). The design was based on their everyday clothes, but they used finer materials and collected adornments that showed the wealth of the family and were passed from one generation to the next, as they still are passed today within those communities that maintain the traditions.

    The Fallera costumes originate in the pheasant traditional costumes from the Comunidad Valenciana (the most eastern region of the Peninsula), from the 16th century I believe.

    The case of the Maja costumes differs a little from other Spanish regional traditional costumes. The Maja costume originates in Madrid, which didn’t become the capital city of the country until the 16th century. Madrid’s history is somewhat newer than that of other Spanish regions and important cities. Therefore, an identifiable traditional costume didn’t develop until the late 18th century. And the Majos and Majas were somewhat more “urban” characters, the style having a less “rural” origin, although it still stemmed from the popular classes. I am aware that I’m explaining this very badly, perhaps the Wikipedia entry will make it clearer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majo).

    I should clarify that I am not an expert on the matter, quite the opposite. But I thought that this information might be useful to you in your future research. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you ever need a hand translating from Spanish, it’s the least I can do after all I’ve learned from your work.

    Best regards,


  • Reply Kay Morgan April 18, 2011 at 8:51 am

    I just realized I’ve been writing “pheasant” instead of “peasant”. I’m truly sorry about that, I really need to polish my poultry… I mean, my spelling. Facepalm.

  • Reply Loren April 18, 2011 at 10:39 am

    I want those SHOES!

    Man, it really does make one want to go to Spain, doesn’t it?

    The gowns remind me of the ones someone on LJ posted a while back that are made for some special Spanish event in Texas , I’m blanking on name. I can try to dig it up if you missed the post.

  • Reply Aniara April 18, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Okay, a shoe update. Descans could make the shoes, but you’d have to provide the fabric yourself. That’s understandable, but a bit tricky for us not lucky enough to live in Spain. If I understood correctly, leather made shoes could just be ordered. Their prizes start from 120 euros ( not bad if the quality is good). Problem: I don’t want leather shoes!:)

  • Reply Marjolaine Belley April 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Oh…I LOVE these costumes!
    (Our family sews quite a lot of historical and folk costumes….)

  • Reply Katherine April 19, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Have you seen the “Balenciaga & Spain” exhibit at the deYoung?

  • Reply Nana Brauner June 30, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I am from Valencia, if you need some advice or just want to know some people interested in historical costumes here, let me know! I love your works!

  • Reply Nana Brauner June 30, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    By the way, the fabrics are very heavy and very expensive! There is also a simpler version, the “huertana” costume.

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