I’m still working through my files, so here is another of my favourite Mantua. A deep blue silk covered in silver embroidery.
Right now I don’t have access to the printed materials so I’m mostly inspired by the over all effect, and as my lace has a very uneven but scalloped hem I’m using this to help with what to do with it. I wish I had noticed the hem protection earlier as I am going to want that, and I can do that by machine. If the machine work is over in my lace I’m going to reserve my hand sewing for where it will have impact.
We tend to think of all open robes of the 1680s to early eighteenth century as “mantua” or “manteau.” However there are at least two documentable pattern types to over gowns of this era.
The mantua as often described is a garment with a very unique construction. It puts all the side skirt shaping on a single wedge of fabric, made of several widths of fabric, entirely in line with the front panels. The angled top edge lined up with the side of the back, the short piece (with the grain) in line with the front. This leaves the bottom of the piece to the hem that keeps the grain perpendicular to the floor no matter how long the train becomes.
To create my own pattern I collected and redrew every pattern of an extant garment published and redrew them to the same scale (1/4) and overlaid them to understand the interplay between each pattern piece. I ignored facings, cuffs, and petticoats and focused on the over garments.
Pattern type 1
A traditional method of dividing the side fullness between the front and back can be seen in the patterns of Albayzeta from 1720. Included are several “ropa de levantar.” The
edited from: Geometria y trazas pertenecientes al oficio de sastres …. Juan Albayzeta por Francisco Revilla, 1720 – 95 pages
This pattern is for a garment with a very long train, though there is also a secondary hemline drawn where the skirt back would just touch the ground- most of the patterns for “rope de levantar of this book are of the shorter type.
Of the extant garments that have been patterned the Danish gown most closely resembles this. It’s possible to find the parallel seams joining fabric widths as well as a seam between the two diagonal sides.
Moden i 1700-årene Author: Ellen Andersen Publisher: [København] : Nationalmuseet, cop. 1977. Series: Danske dragter
I have divided the pattern so that the shapes can be compared more easily to the other garments- this garment has the sleeves cut with the body. The pattern can be easily put back as the dividing lines are the only diagonal lines in the draft.
Of special interest is the length of the front of the mantua. It is quite short (see image of overlaid pattern drafts.). Holme confirms that this is a common feature of mantua.
“A mantua is a kind of loose Coat without stayes [sic] in it, the Body part and Sleeves are of many fashions as i have mentioned in the Gown Body; but the skirt is sometimes no longer than the Knees, others have them down to the Heels. The short skirt is open before, and behind to the middle.”
This next garment from 1720-1730 and is housed at the Museum of London and patterned by Zillah Halls in Women’s Costumes 1600-1750: London Museum. This garment is not currently digitised or on display.
Another garment at the Museum of London was patterned by Nora Waugh, but not photographed. It is from 1735-1745 and uses the same construction. The train has been pinned up to the waist in the illustration but the pattern does not indicate any change in the construction.
And again this mantua is shorter at the front than the anticipated petticoat hemline (see image of overlaid pattern drafts.)
These are unfortunately the only garments with patterns I have been able to find but there are several more that have been catalogued and the skirt layout captured in photographs.
Manteau without patterns
The Metropolitan Museum has another early mantua example and the photographs do suggest the construction is of a kind- comparing the alignment of the pattern to the outside of the side back join in fabric shows it is in line with the hem not the seam.
Mantua Date: ca. 1708 Culture: British Medium: silk, metal Credit Line: Purchase, Rogers Fund, Isabel Shults Fund and Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1991 Accession Number:1991.6.1a, b
A mantua in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London has been dated to 1733-1740 based on fabric (earlier date) and cut (later date). This gown has been photographed to show the construction of the skirt. This photo shows the brocade has been reversed from below hip level of the back panels and most of the side panels. This is so that only the face of the brocade is seen when worn and pinned in place.
Mantua Place of origin: Spitalfields (probably, woven) Great Britain (made) Date: 1733-1734 (woven) 1735-1740 (made) Artist/Maker: Unknown Materials and Techniques: Brocaded silk, hand-sewn with spun silk and spun threads, lined with linen, brown paper lining for cuffs, brass, canvas and pleated silk Credit Line: Given by Gladys Windsor Fry Museum number: T.324&A-1985
The Lincolnshire Mantua has been dated to 1735 based on the fabric and over all pattern pieces. This particular mantua has the train and most side panels reversed so that when pinned for display only the face of the brocade is seen.
Mantua dated after these examples can be recognised by the folding of the train which follows the folding of the Lincoln mantua and the floral brocades mantua in the V&A as above.
One of the earliest is a blue silk mantua at the Victoria and Albert museum. From the 1720s it retains the extra length in the train despite being pinned up.
Place of origin: Spitalfields (textile, weaving) England (mantua, sewing) Date: ca. 1720 (weaving) 1720-1730 (sewing) Artist/Maker: Unknown Materials and Techniques: Silk, silk thread, silver-gilt thread; hand-woven brocading, hand-sewn. Museum number: T.88 to C-19788
A brown brocaded silk mantua is also of this earlier type and is dated to 1732-1740.
Place of origin: Spitalfields (textile, weaving) Great Britain (ensemble, sewing) Date: ca. 1732 (weaving) 1735-1740 (sewing) 1870 – 1910 (altered) Artist/Maker: Unknown Materials and Techniques: Silk, silk thread; hand-woven brocade, hand sewn Museum number: T.9&A-1971
Other garments described as mantua are harder to confirm from the photos.
The earliest is held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with a date of 1700. It is perhaps the most stunning example of its kind. A deep rich blue silk satin, the petticoat completely covered in metal embroidery, the sleeves and stomacher ditto, only the train seems to be more sparsely covered.
Woman’s Dress (Mantua) with Stomacher and Petticoat Italy, circa 1700 Costumes; principal attire (entire body) Silk satin with metallic-thread embroidery Center back length (Dress): 67 in. (170.18 cm) Length (Stomacher): 16 1/4 in. (41.28 cm) Center back length (Petticoat): 41 3/4 in. (106.05 cm) Costume Council Fund (M.88.39a-c)
A stunning embroidered mantua is held at the National Museum of Wales, dated to the 1720s though much of the train has been removed during the nineteenth century.
COLLECTION AREA mwl ITEM NUMBER 23.189.1 ACQUISITION Donation MEASUREMENTS height (mm):1400 width (mm):2000 (max) depth (mm):1500 (max) TECHNIQUES metal thread embroidery hand sewn weaving MATERIAL damask (silk) metal thread silver parchment flax (spun and twisted) silk (spun and twisted) LOCATION In store CATEGORIES Court
Another blue and silver mantua is held at the Kyoto Costume Institute and again has skirt panels reversed so as to always display the face of the brocade.
Dress (Mantua) 1740-50s – England Material Blue silk taffeta brocade with botanical pattern, buttons to tack train; matching petticoat. Dimension Length from the hips 183cm (Train) Inventory Number(s) AC10788 2002-29AB
While this garment has been dated to the 1750s i believe it is somewhat earlier. The skirt as displayed does not fit well suggesting it was not worn over wide hoops. The train has been folded and appears to show the fabric has been reversed in a similar manner to the above folded mantua trains. So it could be 1720-1740.
A COURT MANTUA OF CHINESE IMPERIAL YELLOW SILK DAMASK, THE SILK CIRCA 1740, THE MANTUA 1750S the bodice with long sweeping train of elaborately folded damask buttoning in swags onto two silk covered buttons at the small of the back, the bodice re pleated as a closed robe, the petticoats re-strung, shown here worn with a stomacher which is part of lot 141
I am not sure if the petticoat and front are original, if they are it’s a lovely example of a non matching set. There are a handful of these early mantua that are extant. The very delicate colour choices of pale blue and silver would have made this stand out in candlelight.
The shape on the left hand side is the shape I want so I’ll mark the levels so I can sew the tape. The side seams are diagnonal so really stretch in this lovely but soft sateen.
Interior views to show how the whole thing is actually quite light, but is maintained with tapes. At the moment the only tapes in place are in my original Robe de Style (pink) panniers and my normal sized Reitte (tan cotton).
ANd you can sort of see just how much bigger the hoops actually are!
But maybe this helps even more 😉
What is nice is that this hoop will work for her Confrontation gown as it seems to use a similar shape, and it will also work for a real court gown. But possibly mor elike a mantua than the silver gowns I adore so much.
Place of origin: England, Great Britain (made) France (woven)
Date: 1755-1760 (made) 1753-1755 (woven)
Note the length of the torso, the film version bodices are not that inaccurate in that specific regard, but they are a bit out of time. And the actual shaping is modern, it’s why I’m looking forward to making the support for the bodice, as it is so unique- and while other actresses had really defined modern busts, they left Norma to have the long quite flat shaping. In this gown at least. But there is clever seaming going on to create that illusion.
If this is a copy it’s a remarkable wonderfully accurate copy! I know there was a lot of interest in historic costume and collecting extant items in the late 19thC especially but this has a good cut.So I’m keeping this here until I know for sure. There is a fold under the right arm that looks like a long dart, but that would be closer to the 1950s in terms of placement, as the same kind of side darts in the 1920s were shallower and longer on the whole.
So if this is a copy, this is the kind of copy I aspire to. It’s so well made that you have to look for details that show modern workmanship- the weave of the fabric, the order of construction, and nods to contemporary wishes. However this bodice keeps the conical shape while fitting for a more curvy shape than the fashionable ideal. The curved front join is correct for the period but also only until the late 19thC and it’s rare to see a garment deviate from established systems of cutting.
Now this is what I mean by the MFA looking so close to the original. The placement of the trim (There are two distinct placements of trim on Jubons) the shape of the shoulder wings, the texture of the main fabric, the shape of the nib front, the proportion of the waist tabs. The most obvious difference is the set of the shoulders in the MFA.
As far as fitting this has a very similar method of shaping, which is to do the bulk of the general size in the back and pull the fabric from the sides to the front to pinch out for customised fit. You bring in under the bust and to the waist then smooth over the bust and over the point. And spread the fabric from the bust up and out to the shoulders. This way the most stable part of the fabric, the closest to the grain is under the bust and to the waist which then allows some ease over the bust and to the throat.
This is sort of similar to Victorian fitting as well and was mainly lost in modern pattern draping and drafting systems. It is still seen today in modern tailoring. ANd that is because these garments above were made by a tailor, dress making came about with the rise of the Mantua and lead to a very different kind of patterning and construction.
Medium:silk, metal thread
Credit Line:Gift of Bashford Dean, 1926
This garment is earlier than the rest but shows a shaping feature often overlooked in the various tailoring books, the side front seam. This appears to be optional as they are only drawn in occasionally but they do sit in the same place. But you can see some issues with trying to sew on this slight curve on the outside of the seam to our right. There is more fabric eased on the outer curve than on the opposite side.
This garment was patterned for Blanche Payne’s History of Costume. It’s not easier than the normal three part bodice types but it does allow for a little more ease over the bust and into the armscye.
Vlasy Markéty Františky Dietrichsteinové – Lobkovicové, Eva Drozdová, Ph.D., ÚEB Biol PřF MU, Ústav antropologie – Biologická sekce – Přírodovědecká fakulta. A dissertation on the hair of Margaretha, mostly analysis of the hair strands but includes in situ and detail photos as well as.
Patterns: I am waiting on the copy of the Costume article, however Johannes Pietz has made remarkable studies of the Kostümsammlung Hüpsch im Hessischen Landesmuseum Darmstadt. This thesis included detailed patterns for each layer (shell, lining, facings, interlinings) and this bodice would suggest the same care has gone into this gown not just having a striking visual appearance but transforms the wearer through careful use of support and shape.
Patterns: The closest patterns are those of the Kostümsammlung Hüpsch im Hessischen Landesmuseum Darmstadt as incredibly detailed in the dissertation of Johannes Pietsch
Originaltitel: Die Kostümsammlung Hüpsch im Hessischen Landesmuseum Darmstadt Originaluntertitel: Bestandskatalog der Männer- und Frauenkleidungsstücke; Studien zu Material, Technik und Geschichte der Bekleidung im 17. Jahrhundert Übersetzter Titel: The Hüpsch Costume Collection in the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt Autor: Pietsch, Johannes Jahr: 2008 Dokumenttyp: Dissertation
This gown is in remarkable condition, extremely remarkable condition. The slashes in the skirt have been faced with the same fabric which allows them to remain very firmly closed.
The jubon clearly has some fine tailoring with pad/stay stitching in the upper back and shoulders- this can be seen through the neckline.
The gown is on display for a few more months at the time of writing.