I spent the day digitising a cheat draft for a mantua. It’s very similar to Hunnisett but what I have tried to do was show the rationale behind it. This pattern is for a
(Pattern on fabric on the fold.)
It uses minimal measurements just like the originals. From left to right are the discreet drops of fabric that can be torn before any cutting or pleating is started.
My previous overlays of extant mantua show a fabric width of between 50 and 65cm in silk and over 100cm in wool. So I have tried to show the pattern shapes on 150cm/60″ wide fabric. But I also tried to indicate 50cm divisions.
The front length is taken from behind the shoulder to waist to hem (over hips) plus turnings. Here the front is 185cm to include a generous turning (10xm.)
The side widths are extensions cut from the full width, here I have limited to the width of the fabric but these could be cut wider by butting more fabric to the far side and continuing the same diagonal line. Turning is automatically included this way.
The back length is taken from the shoulder to waist plus the length of the diagonal line of the side extensions, and then extra to taste for the curve of the train.
The underskirt is then two full width drops of fabric or 6 drops of 50cm wide fabric from waist to hem (over hips) plus a generous turning (10cm.) Original skirts are between 5-7 drops, records describe openings being at the side or Centre Back. If a CB opening is desired then the joins should be turned to the sides and the CB fold slashed about 2 hand widths deep. The front will then also be on the fold.
The sleeves can be cut from a single drop of fabric approximately the same length as is used by the body. These vary greatly by decade but this allows for pleats and length to elbow.
Facings and cuffs can be cut from the greyed out left over fabric or from a dedicated drop of your choice.
To alter for width the side seam on the front and back panels can be moved further out so that the diagonal line is entirely on the extensions.
This is based on my proportions and is very much a “guesstimate” as I tend to err on the side of extra length.
Construction starts with joining the underskirt turning up the hem then pinning to the form which has been dressed with a petticoat.. This ensures the hem is entirely across the grain and thus the waist will form a gentle wave.
The waist can be turned and overhanded to a waist tape (or two for side openings) the waist should be pleated or gathered, with the direction of pleats pointing to the back. This skirt should be lined or at least have a deep facing to allow the hem to hang neatly and with body.
The mantua will need a shaped lining that should be taken on the body or a stand correctly shaped with stays of the right shape.
This is then pinned to the form and the main fabric pleated over that.
The back of the mantua is the foundation for fit so start at waist and pin up for the centre back and then fold the side backs as desired. The fabric can be slashed at the side to avoid wrinkles at the waist. The side seam should sit slightly to the back rather than strictly at the side.
The fronts of the mantua can be joined to the extensions (seam allowance to the outside for a later style, to the underside for earlier) and the full hem turned. This again allows for the hem to be entirely across the grain and the fronts can then be pinned and pleated on the form again aligning the hem to the correct level by taking up or letting down at the waist. Then pin the front pleats and slash the side waist to fit.
The front side should be folded in and the edge tacked to the back, the join between the extensions and back should be sewn so as to be on the inside once draped.
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.
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.
Most garments with a straight front and back seam allow for narrower extensions on the front and back of the skirts, and this is true from the sixteenth century to modern times. The four gore skirt is built on this basic shape.
This distinction does seem to be borne out by Holme who wrote of garments made by a tailor and does differentiate between a gown and a mantua, later explaining that they are equally diverse:
“Of the Taylor, with the parts of the Doublet, Coat, Breeches, Cloak, Womens Gowns, Mantues, Wastcoats, and Petticoats… Of the Semster, Laundress, Needle-work Mistress, with the severall terms of Needle-work.
The academy of armory, or, A storehouse of armory and blazon containing the several variety of created beings, and how born in coats of arms, both foreign and domestick : with the instruments used in all trades and sciences, together with their their terms of art : also the etymologies, definitions, and historical observations on the same, explicated and explained according to our modern language : very usefel [sic] for all gentlemen, scholars, divines, and all such as desire any knowledge in arts and sciencesHolme, Randle, 1627-1699. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A44230.0001.001/1:7.3.3?rgn=div3;view=fulltext
This more traditional and sustained pattern type 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.”
edited from: Geometria y trazas pertenecientes al oficio de sastres donde se contiene el modo y orden de cortar todo genero de vestidos españoles, y algunos Estrangeros, sacandolos de qualquier ancharia de tela, por la Vara de Aragon y explicada esta con todas las de estos Reynos, y las medidas que usan en otras Provincias estrangeras Front Cover Juan Albayzeta por Francisco Revilla, 1720 – 95 pages
This pattern appears to be for a garment with a very long train, though there seems to also be 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. This garment has not been digitised and is not currently on display.
Moden i 1700-årene Author: Ellen Andersen Publisher: [København] : Nationalmuseet, cop. 1977. Series: Danske dragter
It seems to be fairly unique to this garment to align the single wedges to the back. Could this be a mistake- many dresses of the nineteenth century have the gores reversed at the sides- or deliberate. The skirt is narrow and is worn with a very solid and full underskirt. This arrangement could mean the best display of the brocade pattern was at the side back.
(ETA: detail photos of the grainlines)
Of the mantua type we are left with several garments in both English and American museums.
The earliest example appears to be the Kimberley gown held at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The earliest date appears to be 1695.
Mantua Date:late 17th century Culture:British Medium:wool, metal thread Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1933 Accession Number:33.54a, b
(ETA: I have divided the pattern so that the shapes can be compared more easily to the other garments- this garment is made in continual lengths from front hem to back hem with the sleeves not cut out but rather shaped by pleating. 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.”
The academy of armory, or, A storehouse of armory and blazon containing the several variety of created beings, and how born in coats of arms, both foreign and domestick : with the instruments used in all trades and sciences, together with their their terms of art : also the etymologies, definitions, and historical observations on the same, explicated and explained according to our modern language : very usefel [sic] for all gentlemen, scholars, divines, and all such as desire any knowledge in arts and sciences Holme, Randle, 1627-1699. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A44230.0001.001/1:7.3.3?rgn=div3;view=fulltext
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 is made from chartreuse silk and is again of this single wedge each side construction. This garment is not currently digitised or on display.
This mantua is again shorter than a matching petticoat would be (see image
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.
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 from 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 broacaded 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
Well this has been a tough decision and I’m still not sure.
First is my 100% dino shot taffeta. It’s a really heavy weight incredibly crisp and is such a beautiful shade I can forgive the content. But I usually have a very distinct line between historic and historic inspired.
Second is my black silk. Very heavy, very heavy. Also able to be used front and back.
Seriously torn as to which to make from it. Other options for the blue is a francaise or 1870s convertable gown.
The black silk can be anything from 16thC on!
Also my beaded silk? Sigh it really does look fab as a Reinette inspired gown. But I also want to go total fantasy with it and yet it drapes so nicely over hoops.
Also coming soon, a fancier Leia wig tutorial. Also her buns are so much bigger than most costumers realise… I need to do a scale diagram. But her buns sit on her dress collar.
They may also get bigger the more sass she expresses.
And also I am having major issues with the way the lace sits at the crown. I have already done major work on this so I may as well get the sectioning clips out to stitch that down!
It’s not surprise I am obsessed with the style. I have been for more than a decade but never found a fabric I thought would do the style justice. Well now I do have a fabric! And thanks to an online friend sharing images from her own research that connection was sparked and the final push to actually make one inspired!
Many moons ago a very well respected costumier who creates the most amazing 18thC gowns gave me information on a few mantua especially one of my favourite gowns ever, he shared privately but there is now an official source:
National Museets Samlinger Online Kjole med slæb, grøn silke
Kjole med slæb. Af grøn silke med broderet guldmønster, antagelig 1740erne. Fra Valdemar Slot, Tåsinge. (I have a pattern for this)
National Museum Wales:
Silver embroidered blue damask court mantua (an open fronted gown with an elaborate train), (mix of suggested dates, 1720-1740) Tredegar Collection
Date: late 17th century
Medium: wool, metal thread
Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1933 Accession Number: 33.54a, b (I have two patterns for this)
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Mantua (note the skirt is a series of reverse flounces!)
Date: ca. 1708
Medium: silk, metal
Credit Line: Purchase, Rogers Fund, Isabel Shults Fund and Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1991 Accession Number: 1991.6.1a, b
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Woman’s Mantua with Stomacher and Petticoat
Italy, circa 1700
Costumes; principal attire (entire body)
Silk satin with gold- and silver-metallic thread embroidery
a) Dress: Center back length: 56 in. (142.2 cm); b) Petticoat: Center front length: 35 in. (88.9 cm) Costume Council Fund (M.88.39a-c)
Collections of the Lincoln Museums:
Usher Gallery, The Lincolnshire mantua
(There is a pattern to a similar garment in the first PDF, also a skirt layout and layout of the train. All three documents are available to download and are incredibly fascinating!)
I have another favourite from the Museum of London but there is no link online.
I will share a thumbnail though and hopefully in time the museum will have this on their site:
Museum of London
Dress 1720-30 (no. 2) front view, with added STOMACHER, 1720-1730 (no.39) (I have a pattern for this)
This does not appear to in their collections, I will update as soon as I know more. I much prefer to link to the collections rather than take from a book, but I can at least, hopefully, generate interest in this garment!)
So I have a fantastic start, a nice range of extant garments to look at trends and to decide on particular style.