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all over the place but still somewhat focused

After a pretty amazing day of collecting information on extant garments and manuals I’m sorting out my timeline of both. It’s a little tricky as many books fit into multiple categories that I’m really thinking about using the Dewey decimal system. Just to save character limits in file names.

I’m sort of doing that by separating out artforms and eras.

Self care sometimes means tidying and reorganising.

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For obvious reasons I’m finding it very hard to concentrate on anything and the pressure of unfinished projects has woken me up a few times this week so I have redirected my focus and I’m really excited about adding to collective knowledge.

My pattern book is heavily dependent on multiple factors. The first is to piece together information from tailors manuals. The second is to add into that extant garments. The third is to match each of these to art by region and date to find the direction of influences. And the fourth is to test my theories for places were there is no physical record.

I’ve just found a great source, but I think I want to subscribe to a publisher to be able to translate parts. And they also publish a few other articles I really want access to so I need to create a list and that means working through my bookmarks etc.

But it’s been very useful.

I have some of my extrapolated work supported, so that’s pretty fantastic.

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Gosh, I have so little energy to even get through my physical files to create online content. But I’ll keep going because my school motto is “Kohia Nga Taikaka.” I was given a chance at 13 that I never, ever, expected and it changed my entire life.

So I want to share my understanding but I also don’t want to share misinformation so I spend even more time trying to prove my ideas are wrong than I do following paths that confirm my ideas. That it’s taken more than 15 years is a testament to just how underserved we are.

External stress is making it even harder to have energy left over.

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My “easy” project has turned into a little bit of a research fest. I might have found a copy of an out of print book with two mantua patterns. On the plus side I’ve got enough information to now screen cap larger files to incorporate into both my own project and a resource database.

My research site has a category called “The Baroque Frock” and I don’t aim to do more than others, but I am trying to focus very much on frocks from about 1690 to 1730.

Mantua have a very distinct pattern. And I’m trying to find the earliest explanation for that as it still makes no sense. There are contemporary robes made by tailors with the classic four panel pattern with lines of joins in fabric.

But mantua.

So weird.

Not even related to linen work.

There are extant garments that use a linen type patterning in very expensive fabric, but mantua are just weird.

And exciting for that weirdness.

If I take a moment to consider the standard explanation of how they evolved? It’s incredible!

Linen work uses rectangles with triangles. Front and back usually the same, diagonal of triangle to the straight. So that is what I would have expected when a trade expanded to work with silks and wools.

But no.

Mantua have a single long right angle triangle to connect front and back rectangles.


Why one side?

Tailors still divided the angles section between front and back, so this is a very cool and very specific solution.

So yes, it now means learning about trades just prior because I think I’ve got a bit of a gap over that time.

I have to admit I really didn’t like c1700 dress.

I wrote a restoration comedy at 17 about Nelle Gwynn. Then wound up playing an over the top character for our restoration comedy pieces at performing art school. Not going to lie; I rocked that character and totally deserved my marks because I took everything I knew about the fashions of the era (c1700) and the actress path as well. I knew that only an established actress would have played the role. An actress who had massive clout to get the best frocks, with her own makers, to steal the scene.

I still am not on board the fashion print train, but extant mantua are just so very delicious.

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Elsa mantua- unusual inspiration 1

While I edit and standardise some files I thought I’d also share some of why I decided on a mantua over a francaise: The Blue second Managers gown from Phantom of the Opera.

The 1870s had a heady mix of 18th century inspiration. Right across the Baroque to Rococo.

So there are times where self fabric or matched colour trimmings mimic or reference the latter part of the century, so too are there times the mantua is a clear inspiration.

This is especially true for the late 1870s as the waist dropped a little, and the bodice hem dropped further. The entire style was narrow, with a focus on the tablier (front of skirt panel) and a looped back train.

It’s possible to consider pannier style drapery as the extension of the front of the mantua robe, and the water fall as the back of the robe. The apron drapery can even be brought in separately though usually these seem to be of a different material.

I am quite enjoying the fact that my mantua can be used to illustrate the similarities and differences in cut and fit and in construction as I used my library of patterns for both my own Blue dress and Mantua.

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Elsa mantua inspiration -3

I’m separating each inspiration source, so here is the Welsh Museum garment with a bit more information.

COLLECTION AREA Social & Cultural History
ITEM NUMBER 23.189.1
MATERIAL damask (silk) metal thread silver parchment flax (spun and twisted) silk (spun and twisted)

I don’t know if it’s possible to convey how much I love this gown.

A few people have managed to take photos when it has been exhibited and it does exactly as expected- the colour shifts to a more aqua tone.

British circa 1730 Teal Spitalfields Silk Court Mantua possibly belonged to Lady Rachel Morgan nee Cavendish daughter of the Duke of Devonshire. St Fagans National Museum of Wales


For a pattern and a lot more information:

Arnold, Janet, A court mantua of c. 1740,Costume, London,#6, 1972, pp 48 – 52.

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adding functions

As I’m making my Mantua I’m also in my files, digital, physical, and finding a few more resources, and so my reference site needs a bit of work. I need a new nested category for era (century then decade) as I think it is handy to see extant garments next to extant patterns and even my patterns. But it does mean now editing a few hundred pages, possibly attachments as well.


I can’t keep sending people page 4 of my list of manuals as that will change.

And I probably will need to change the layout to make room for multiple categories.

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Elsa mantua inspiration -1

My progress has gotten to the “piece very chunky silver lace into an invisible join” stage of my own Mantua, so to let my mind work in the background on that I’m using the front of my mind to look at my inspiration garments.

So the first is the one that started it all. Many years ago I was perusing the University library and a tiny book on some garments of the Museum of London. At the time I had the Arnold and Payne pattern diagrams of the Kimberly gown in the Metropolitan museum of art and was interested. But also I had all the fashion prints that show decorations are like very ornate piped icing on tall and narrow cakes.

It was not my deal. But the early London Museum mantua strips all the ostentation down to the stomacher.

Now this is “Me.” All the fit is in the pleats and turnings, much of which is done from the outside. What a nifty and frustrating way for someone used to draping and drafting toiles!

I wish I could link to the museum but they no longer have a record of the garment.

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Sweet Boo

Today is the anniversary of the passing of my darling costuming companion. I admit I have never really recovered. I haven’t. Within the year of my Baby Bunny Boy passing my website was attacked and I lost many posts about him that I also haven’t recovered, and then my studio was broken into and my equipment stolen.

I’ve just not felt secure since. I am working on this. I really am.

Working on my Mantua is tough, so tough, but it’s possible as there are lots of smaller elements.

I nearly went on a spiral after not being able to decide how to cut my lace- the repeats are on an angle and there is a top and bottom edge. But today I managed to decide where to cut through the repeats for the top edge and the join.

Tomorrow I baste the overlap of the piece- which luckily do match to the hem to then join it into one piece.

I’ll make some posts about more inspiration.

But for now;

Sweet Bolero and Sweet Zelda.

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Elsa Mantua foundations

I have all my stay pieces. They are a beautiful satin faced linen, a very close weave so still will be a bit warm.

I need to cut some straps, but all the channels are stitched and it is fully boned. Meaning no gap between bones. The majority of stays are like this. But the channels also tend to be much smaller. I’m using some left over cable ties as I can quickly swap out permanently bent ones. Without waiting on a package from overseas 🙂

Actually I do want to order a huge amount of ultra thin boning. I think I could actually get a better match to the extremes between my rib and waist that way but also I will be able to do so a bit more comfortably.

Cording just collapses.

I’ve had a look for stay patterns as close to 1700 as possible and I think I need to alter a few pieces. I’m missing a little extra at the waist in either a side front panel or side back.

I had to include Garsault here for the boning within each panel, but a c1700 Polish manual (scroll down to 2016)and a 1713 manual (there are two parts so I linked to my reference site) can be used with it.

The Linzner Schittbuch also includes some gowns.

I think I used Hunnisette for the basic shapes to allow me to have a little leeway for my ribs because they distort stays even like this. It’s very hard to get a conical shape, so the way Hunnsett’s works seems to work with me.

I keep really wanting to go earlier as well like these:

But look at how fine all those channels are. And these are not outliers. Most of the stays even from the 16thC have narrow channels.

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