another shift in focus

I’ve been having difficulty with my pattern book mainly because I want it to be both a manuscript and a useable work to work from. But Gosh. Have a look at this.

Institution: Hessisches Landesarchiv – Staatsarchiv Marburg
Typ Kolorierte Zeichnung
Thema Mode
Zeit 1566
Material/Technik Papier
Sprache deutsch
Identifikator HStAM Best. 3 II Nr. 55

In Stuttgart it was desired that the bridesmaids, who were to be provided in equal numbers by both courts, should be dressed in the same way. Therefore, in November 1565, the bridegroom was sent two sheets of paper on which the front and back views of the two dresses made of black velvet and golden-brown shimmering taffeta desired for the maids were drawn in great detail. Fabric samples and sewing instructions were also given.

Oh now much would I love to find the instructions! But I have come to a dead end searching.

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mantua musings

Of course my “simple” mantua project would turn into something bigger. My focus ever since I fell in love with costume has been on pattern. How simple changes in seams produce extremely different styles.

So when I find garments called “mantua” that look like they are straight from a couple of tailor’s manuals? I get a bit suspicious that maybe the term is being over used.

“Ropa de chambra” have the stitched down pleats, the firmly pleated sleeves, and fairly equal distribution of fabric from front to back. This fits in really neatly with the timeline of manuals I’ve shared:

So I’m tracking down any and every example of the unequal wedge shape extension to only the front panels. There are a number of them. And to help with this I’m also looking at later mantua where the train is even more deviated from traditional tailoring before and after. I still very much need to fill in a few gaps when it comes to legal matters about the production of garments.

While doing this, I’m also looking for stays that will do what I need. My “lovely long lungs” (my radiologist’s words) come with a lovely long ribcage that will distort all stays into the same hourglass shape no matter what. I cannot get my ribs to taper. I learned how to breathe for classical singing and never stopped. It’s how I breathe at all times. Think about how you are supposed to stand with your knees slightly bent so you don’t hyper extend them.

Anyway. The stays I need have some panels that have boning on a diagonal, and there is always a little wedge or curve through the waistline in side-side back panels. And that has given me a bit of confidence in what I have made so far. Those little gaps allow the fabric to ease a little.

My Effigy stays work so well with the boning in parallel with the grain. I’m much more nervous about panels that have bones that end at the waist. Again, with an hourglass shaped torso this means those bones will dig in. But the diagonal lines complicate that a bit more. Potentially with very narrow boning I can use neighbouring channels to prevent that.

So now I’m sorting all my late 17th-1800s extant garments and manuals to look for when the shift from vertical to diagonal channels really got underway. It was fairly early. But I also got distracted by the 1660s shape and how the curved seams were used to help bend the body. It’s very cool, but I need to use some firm cardboard to illustrate it.

So we go from vertical channels in simple panels, to vertical channels but using curved seams to bend the body, to diagonal panels of boning to push the body forward. And I need to find more examples between the latter two.

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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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Elsa mantua inspiration-2

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.

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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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