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This is the hidden meaning of the carnations that chulapas carry

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San Isidro is approaching and the streets of Madrid will soon begin to be dyed with colorful Manila shawls, smell like a mix between donuts and carnations and move to the rhythm of chotis. To celebrate the capital’s festival, Madrid residents will be able to take out the traditional chulapa suit.

This is made up of a chinese dress, usually red or light blue, with lantern sleeves. The skirt of the dress is long and tight at the hips, but with a wide flare at the ankles. The shoes will be black with a little heel.

Additionally, the outfit must include a Manila shawl with fringeswhich must be attached to both arms and a white scarf. This scarf must be worn on the head, folded into a peak and lowered, as tradition dictates, they must be onetwo or three carnations.

Carnations have a own language that has not been officially reflected in writing, but its meaning has been transmitted between generations of Madrid residents by word of mouth. This is the meaning of its colors:

  • Two red carnations: married.
  • Two white carnations: single.
  • A white carnation and a red one: engaged or with a boyfriend.
  • Two red carnations and one white: widow.
  • A pink carnation: girl.

The origin of the suit

The chulapa suit has its origins between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. A time when the identity of the Madrid native. “The pride in the minds of the common people of their social condition, taking them to the category of popular caste,” points out the Madrid Eterno Association.

The chulapos and chulapas were the residents of the neighborhood of Malasaña. According to the Royal Spanish Academy, they are the people from the popular classes of Madrid, who were also known as pimps. They were distinguished by a certain affectation and beauty in their dress and manner of conduct.

Chulapos and chulapas celebrating San Isidro.


The origin of the chulapa costume arises from the need to claim their popular class position against the Madrid aristocracy.

The chulapas were the women who They occupied the Cavas of Madrid, working as dressmakers, fruit sellers, florists, cigarette makers or laundresses.

Chulapas, chulas and pretty

The cockiness of the chulapas is an essential part of the costume. The cocky pose and arrogance are almost as characteristic as carnations.

This pose is complemented with a own vocabulary from which popular expressions emerged that have survived throughout history. “Be cooler than an eight” is the perfect example.

This expression refers to the tram that ran a route from Puerta del Sol to San Antonio de la Florida. During the festival season, he was loaded to the limit with the chulapos who came to the parties.

Dress like a chulapa today

Nowadays, the women of Madrid wear the typical costume at the city’s popular festivals and festivals: San Isidro (May 15), San Antonio de la Florida (June 13), San Cayetano (August 7), San Lorenzo ( August 10) and La Paloma (August 15).

On these dates, the capital is filled with joy with the colorful Manila shawls, carnations, the smell of donuts and the sound of chotis. During the holidays you can enjoy different cultural activities: shows, festivals, pilgrimages, concerts…

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