Spanish version

Spanish Cape: Capas Seseña

SignCapas Seseña is located at calle de la Cruz 23.

The Founder

Its founder, Santos Seseña Rojas, came to Madrid when he was about 14 or 15 years old. He was from a small village, Yuncos, in Toledo and he came to the capital looking for more oportunities and a better life.
He started working  as apprentrice in a tailor´s Capas Seseñashop located at calle de la Cruz.
In 1901 he opened his own tailor´s shop, selling all kinds of menswear.

History of the Spanish Cape
The cape had always been a very popular garment that gave elegance and class. Men used it for special events and if they did not have one, they borrowed it.
It has been worn since the pre-roman times and reached its height in the XVIth century, being a sign of destinction and lineage. The shorter the cape, the nobler the gentleman. For example, the king´s cape went only to his waist, the gentlemen´s to their thigh, the craftsmen´s to their knees and the peasant´s to their legs.
Spanish CapeThe cape was usually worn by men, although in the times of Romanticism it was also used by women, specially in France. It was known as Spanish Cape.
Different types of capes were used for walking or riding, for the gentlemen or for soldiers or bishops.
In the XVIIIth century the cape got its longest size and it was the colour that distinguished the social class.
In the XIXth century most of the capes were black, brown, blue or dark green and they were shorter.
In the XXth century its use was more restricted being considered as an old fashioned garment, but at the end of the century groups of associations were created to promote its use.

Esquilache´s Riots
The importance of the cape can be seen in the fact that it originated the famous Esquilache riots in the XVIIIth century.
During the reign of King Carlos III people wore long capes and hats with broad brims. The Marquise of Esquilache, Chancellor of Treasury, wanted this garment to be substituted by short capes and three-cornered hats in order to avoid that criminals could hide weapons under the cape and conceal their faces under the hat.
Esquilache had liberalized the grain trade and the price of bread, oil , coal and meat had risen and, consequently, the population was angry.
Esquilache´s meassures against the use of the cape and typical hat were the last straw and the soldiers mobilized to make the rules be followed were attacked by the population.
The riot got worse and finally  King Carlos III accept the population´s demands which covered far more aspects than Esquilache´s Riots by Goyaonly the use of one cape or another, such as a government only with Spanish ministers or that the price of basic goods had to be lowered.
Being afraid of the populace the King fled to Aranjuez, causing new riots.
Finally the situation calmed down, King Carlos III remained in Aranjuez and he left the government in the hands of Count Aranda.
Count Aranda said that the use of the long cape and broad-brimmed hat was the hangman´s garment and that nobody wanted to be recognized as such. So progressively people started to wear proposed cape and hat.
There is a painting by Goya about these events, the Esquilache Riots.

Capas Seseña

When Santos Seseña opened his shop, the classical Spanish cape was not in fashion any more and its use almost disappeared in the first quarter of the XXth century.
Shopwindow with Manila ShawlBut Santos Seseña designed new models and even registered two of them.
He participated in the creation of the Los amigos de la Capa association  dedicated to promotote its use.
He also promoted contests in newspapers like the Imparcial and the winner got a cape.
In 1928 the Royal Household bought several capes for King Alfonso XIII and Seseñas´s shop was nominated as purveyor to the Royal Household. In those days Capas Seseña was one of few shops still making capes and this title made it even more known.

A Family Business

In 1927, Capas Seseña opened another shop in the same street. Tomas Seseña Palacios, Santos Seseñas´s son, managed this shop. He was only 23 years old and had become a lawyer. He worked there until his death in 1958.
Tomas Seseña was born in Madrid in 1904. He was very interested in literature, music, theater and movies and he participated in many cultural events in Madrid.
After his death the Town Hall granted him the Silver Medal of the city for his personal contribution.

The founder, Santos Seseña, died in 1960. So his daughter in law, Concepcion Diez Lafuente had to go on with the business. She was Tomas´widow and mother of six children.
In 1966 her youngest son, Enrique Seseña Diez, took charge of the shop, where he worked until the year 2008, when he retired.
Cutting a capeNowadays it is his son, Marcos Seseña Blanco, who manages the business since 1988.

The capes are cut and sewn in the shop, they are individually made for each customer.
In 1966 the shop stopped tailoring general garment and dedicated its efforts only to the Spanish Cape. Today they have the clasic cape, but also more modern types for men and women and also Manila shawls and brooches.
Today the cape has a romantic and adventurous air. It is not a common garment, but many people like to wear it on special occasions, like weddings, processions, concerts or popular fiestas.Shopwindow
It is also a valued present. The Spanish government and the Royal Household often present it to distinguished visitors.
Nearly 40& of their sales are to foreigners and the same percentage to men and women.
Their webpage is one the first made in Spain (1998) and they sell about a 5% through this page, mainly to other countries, but also to other places in Spain and even Madrid.
Among their most famous clients are Rodolfo Valentino, Picasso, Buñuel,Fellini, Philip Noiret, Gary Cooper, Yul Brinner, Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Alfredo Kraus,Plácido Domingo and  Rafael Alberti.
When President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary visited Spain, they bought several capes.
So four generations of the same family have brought the Spanish Cape to the XXIrst century, overcoming critical situations and taking the best decision in each case.
Thanks to people like them a little part of our history still lives today.

@Copyright 2008, 2009 Mª Dolores Diehl Busch. All rights reserved.
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