The importance of digitised records

I’m still skirting outside my 16thC research because I need a little bit of distance from it. So I’m just trying to enjoy my mantua work. One of the questions is where did the term Mantua come from in the first place. This is where digitised records are so very important. One of the likely sources of the term is the French term “manteau.” So far so good. But neither term really brings up a lot of digitised books or archives.

But what if you realised the spelling of the time (late 17th-early 8thC) was very different. And it was “manto” and “mantoes.”

Try saying that out loud.

So I think the French connection is the stronger one than the embroiderers who migrated to England in Henry VIII’s reign from Mantua.

And it helps with connecting to the French fashion plates with the same early style.

I’ve been overlaying the patterns from the disparate sources but am hoping the expanded Patterns of Fashion 1 and new volume 6 does have all of them with much clearer lines and the new colour blocking. These are in various volumes of Costume, the little Museum of London book by Zillah Halls, History of Costume by Blanche Payne, Cut of Women’s Clothes by Nora Waugh.

I did also get a little further boost to what I believe is going on with them. One is from a written description from a book I already have, another is related to how fashions were communicated, and the last is my own timeline of dressmaking. I had to add back in some tailoring books and household books. The latter mostly deal with recipes and how to spot adulteration of foods and toiletries. The quality of digitalisation now means it’s easier to pick through the hundreds of close typed pages to find advice that I’ve otherwise missed out on.

But my timeline of patterns has probably tripled since I published it. And that covers from the 16thC to 2000s. It’s a lot to wrangle and I’m sure people wonder why I do it. But no one repository has all of them, and even when they do the coversheet rarely explains what you are getting. So my preview images are of the bodice at least and a full gown where possible. It really helps to illustrate just how much experimentation went on once dressmakers were responsible for most frocks. They had to get inventive because the tailors were really unhappy and kept their trade secrets secret.

And that is a preview of the kind of depth and breadth of research needed for context of any one era. And a hint as to how expanded my timeline and mantua pages are going to be.

I haven’t even touched on the different tools developed in the 19thC.

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