History of tanning I

Fashion with UPF50+ sun protection

Not a ray of sun! Oh oh oh

Throughout history, women in all civilized cultures have tried to protect themselves from the sun. What clothes did women wear when they were not exposed to the sun?

Tanning, showing off a tanned complexion achieved based on hours of sun exposure has been part of our customs for very recently. We could say that it responds to an aesthetic of the 20th century. Until then, society hid from the sun and its priority was to maintain white skin as proof of status. In fact, they were the lower classes, the peasants who worked in the fields, the only ones who wore a dark complexion as a result of long hours of work in the open air.

During the 9th and 10th centuries, men posed with their arms raised holding their swords to exhibit their paleness and their veins showing through said whiteness. Do you know the expression “blue blood”? Well, that’s where it comes from, the whiter the more purity of blood.

Throughout history, women in all civilized cultures have tried to protect themselves from the sun . In ancient times, even true madness was committed to be white –paradoxically almost the same as to be dark–, in the 16th century the women of the European nobility used arsenic to give their faces a “deadly pale” appearance.

In a more recent and healthy way, the cosmetic use of rice powder which, in addition to acting as a natural barrier against the sun’s rays, further enhanced the whiteness of her skin. In Japanese culture, paleness is still coveted as part of its aesthetic concept, and let’s not forget that they are one of the societies with the healthiest lifestyles on the planet.

The must of the season for sun protection

In this historical journey there have been many garments and fashion accessories that have shaped the history of the suit and whose primary objective was to cover the body and protect it from the sun. Gloves, hats, umbrellas, capes and mantillas . Simply the natural thing was to go covered. This should make us think to what extent the customs and habits that we attribute to social conventions are primarily pure defense mechanisms. In this case, against the aggressions of the sun.

Gloves, an essential fashion accessory, thousands of years old, from the Middle Ages, in addition to protecting from the cold in winter, were used to protect women’s hands since a hand tanned by the sun was something frightening . They even kept them on at home to do housework or slept in them.

Both the hat and the parasol were born to literally provide shade and have accompanied all social classes with all possible designs and materials.

The climatic factor can also be seen in the mantilla, our most traditional garment spread throughout the peninsula, which lasted longer in the South with fine fabrics. This garment that we now know for uses such as Easter or weddings, was a cloak for everyday use with which the woman went out to the street and covered her body and head.

history of tanning
history of tanning

La Tapada, game of seduction

Until the middle of the 17th century, the act of covering oneself with the mantilla had, to a certain extent, a sensual aspect since it was part of a game of seduction. Women covered their faces and heads, allowing them to do unthinkable things with their faces uncovered. The veiled face gave them the power of anonymity.

This custom of covering up was ended in 1766. Any clothing that did not allow the wearer to be identified – it also included a wide-brimmed hat or capes for men – was prohibited and in this way women were forced to fold their mantilla and put it in their pocket when entering public places.

Goya's mantilla

It was the Duchess of Alba María del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva who, around 1785, recovered the mantilla and made it fashionable, claiming what was traditional and national compared to the French fashion that had been prevailing. The Duchess was portrayed by Goya who made numerous paintings of aristocrats dressed in the mantilla, establishing it again as the garment of seduction and refinement .

So much so that there is a pictorial genre, the so-called ” maja-type portrait ” that precisely describes a woman dressed in a mantilla. In the same way that among all the mantillas, it is possible to differentiate the “ goyesca ” defined by the painter through all his work from the first stage.

Years later it fell into disuse and a revolt of women to protest and claim the use of the garment ” the conspiracy of the mantillas ” women took to the streets dressed in their mantilla to protest the influence of French fashion.

Fashion with UPF50+ sun protection

All these garments from the history of fashion have served as inspiration for the creation of the Zazou® cape.

The Zazou UPF50+ cape is a light garment that provides shade to your body and that of your children, protecting the areas most vulnerable to burns and that accompanies you during the day. Being a garment that can be put on and taken off several times a day, it has been designed so that it can be rolled up and put in a small bag that facilitates its transport (just as in its time the mantilla was rolled up and stored to access public places).

In the 20th century until the 1920s, women continued to hide parts of their bodies at certain times of the day. Which reaffirms the theory that the covered does not respond solely to a question of morality. The use of the blanket spread much further south, it is logical to think that they withstand more hours of sun and high temperatures.

When is the turning point where women discover themselves and stop wanting white skin? I’ll tell you about it in the next post! If you want you can subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss anything.

From Sun With Love

Sun-tastic & Protective Apparel

Photographs: Walk by the sea, Sorolla 1909. Women in Victorian dresses in 1909. Atlantic City Beach 1906 ©Shorpy. Portrait of Isabel Porcel with a mantilla. Goya 1805. Zazou cape for women. Portrait of a woman Edward Cucuel.