Making an early Mantua 1690-1700

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I have been wanting to have a go at the early mantua for quite some time – but since the end of the 17th century is relatively underrepresented here in the UK, with no events at which to wear it, the project was just simmering on the edges of inspiration. Then, out of the blue, we were asked to provide accessories for a shoot inspired by the famous, (or rather infamous) “La Maupin” – this was a lingerie shoot for Kiss Me Deadly, in a lavish London location – and we were told that we could come and shoot some historical stuff there too. Well, that was enough to get me going…. ( and the post on the shoot itself is here)

Fabrics were bought, research conducted and ideas considered – and we were ready to go.

The items I needed to make were – a petticoat, mantua and fontage headdress

Inspiration board – http://www.pinterest.com/priorattire/1670-1700-dress-more-or-less-/

Petticoat 

Fabrics:

Grosgrain silk (gold on top, olive on the other side) – 5m; gold lace – 8m, bullion fringe – 5m, button. ( pic.1)

1. colour scheme for the petticoat

1. colour scheme for the petticoat

 

Pattern – my own, based on the instructions in the Nora Waugh book – a very simple affair, a rectangle of fabric, with the grain going horizontally.

Method.

Again, a very simple construction – Cut the rectangle of fabric (the original petticoat is 124”, mine is 130”), the front length will depend on your height and shoes. The back can be trained slightly (as it is in the original, or cut to an even length.  I adjusted the length on the waist, so that the bottom hem has the grain running horizontally all around.

Sew the ends together, leaving an opening at the top – about 3-4 inches. Finish the seam (hand stich, securing the edges and press)

2. deep hem of the petticoat

deep hem of the petticoat

 

Hem the skirt and apply any planned decoration as wished – in my case this was a band of the same fabric but with the olive side showing, framed by the metallic lace and, at the very hem, the bullion fringe.

3.sewing the decoration on

sewing the decoration on

 

Cut out the waistband to the desired length, and pleat the skirt to fit it – the original has 13 pleats on each side, and I aimed for the same number.

4.pleating the skirt

pleating the skirt

 

Attach the pleated skirt to the waistband. Finish the waistband, add a button and work a button hole – and the petticoat is ready.

5.finishing the waistband, enclosing the raw edges of the pleated skirt

.finishing the waistband, enclosing the raw edges of the pleated skirt

 

6.petticoat finished

7.detail of the hem

 Mantua.

 Fabric:

8m of silk taffeta,

20m of wide metallic lace,

10m of narrow metallic braid,

Hooks for the train,

Pins for the stomacher

Linen (0.5-1m) and reeds for the stomacher.

If you are lining your mantua, you will need the same amount of lining as the top fabric…. Some mantuas are lined, some unlined, if you have a fabric that has a different shade on the other side (like my petticoat), that would work very well too.

For sewing I used silk thread.

Pattern

Again, Norah Waugh’s pattern – I even used the same measurements on all the pieces.

8. getting the measurements from the book

getting the measurements from the book

 

Cut out all the pieces in silk.  Put the sleeves, revers and neck pieces aside for the time being and deal with the main parts of the gown first.

Back piece – sew the skirts together at the CB (unless you cut on fold) and mark the pleating lines. Fold the fabric in the recommended direction on every pleat and pin.  Experiment with the depths of pins until the back measurement of the gown matches your own – the easiest way to do so is to use your block, or to try to pin on a mannequin of your size.

9. checking the pleats at the bck on a dummy

checking the pleats at the bck on a dummy

10. full view of the back pleats

full view of the back pleats

 

Once you are satisfied with the pleats, secure them with hand stitching

11. securing the pleats

securing the pleats

11a. back piece pleated, inside view-just the seam needs finishing-)

back piece pleated, inside view-just the seam needs finishing-)

 

Repeat the same process on the front pieces – experiment with the pleats on a dummy, or on yourself if you have help. Make sure to wear the undergarments that you will be wearing – in my case it was fully boned stays.  Without the foundation provided by the stays, the pleating  will not only result in the wrong silhouette, but will also be much more difficult – remember that a modern bra will give bust a natural round shape, very different from the flat, straight lines created by rigid stays of the era.

13. and then adjusting the pleats on a dummy for a more shape - the last stage is to try the thing on your stays and give it the final tweak then

adjusting the pleats on a dummy for a more shape – the last stage is to try the thing on your stays and give it the final tweak then

Again, once you have tweaked your pleats, secure them with hand stitching.

Prepare your revers – sew in the dart, sew lining (I used the same fabric) and pin onto the front. Again, experiment with the exact positioning and the shape of the front edge, and once happy with it, stitch together.

14. front piece pleated and revers attached

front piece pleated and revers attached

 

 

That’s the most difficult and fiddly part done, really. Yes, there will be a lot of hemming and hand stitching later, but the crucial fitting is mostly over

Next step – connect the front parts with the back –at the shoulders and the sides.  Follow the directions in the book – part of the side seams are stitched wrong-sides together so that they won’t show too much when the train is hooked up in the back!  Stitch, secure, and press.

15. treatment of the inside seams in the mantua,here shown before pressing

treatment of the inside seams in the mantua,here shown before pressing

 

Prepare the sleeves – work the seam, secure the raw edges, add the cuff. Pleat the top, if applicable, and insert into the armscythe.

16. cuff ready

cuff ready

 

17. sleeve inserted,

sleeve inserted, before securing the seam

 

Hem the thing…. This will take quite some time as the train is very long, but if you plan to show it, do it by hand. If you plan to stitch decoration over, then a machine finish will be fine.

18.hemming the mantua

hemming the mantua

 

Neck pieces next. Tidy and secure the back neck edge, then attach the neck pieces, matching the centre back seam. Stitch carefully

19.working on the back neck pieces

working on the back neck pieces

 

20. neck pieces pinned

neck pieces pinned

 

21. stitching the pieces in place

stitching the pieces in place

 

22. back neck ready

back neck ready

 

. Your mantua is now ready to be decorated.

23. all ready, awaiting decoration

all ready, awaiting decoration

 

Decoration time. I used a fine metallic lace and applied it, well, everywhere really… On the cuffs and all around the gown. The inside of the skirts sports a narrow metallic braid, which finishes it nicely once the skirts are arranged.

24. lace on cuffs

lace on cuffs

25. lace on revers

lace on revers

26. braid on the underside of the skirts

braid on the underside of the skirts

 

. For arranging the train – attach hooks as indicated on the pattern. They simply hook up to the belt at the back

27. braid and lace showing once the train is arranged

braid and lace showing once the train is arranged

 

Stomacher next – I made mine out of 2 layers of linen buckram, fully boned in reed, then covered in the taffeta and lined it.

28.stomacher

stomacher

 

Your mantua is now ready!

To finish the look however, I need a headdress – the famous “fontage”. After some brief research I stumbled upon this little tutorial – and followed it more or less directly:
http://pyracy.com/index.php/topic/15155-how-to-make-a-late-17th-century-fontangefontage/

I tried it first in calico, as a mock-up

29. fontage mock up in calico

Once I was happy with the size and shape, I cut it in linen, hemmed the crescents, applied lace and pleated it. I then pressed and starched it and inserted the boning (reed), then stitched the pleats closed at the back.

30. linen crescent ready for hemming

linen crescent ready for hemming

31. lace applied to the crescents

lace applied to the crescents

32. pleating!

pleating!

33. pleated and with lace decoration

pleated and with lace decoration

34. stitching the pleats close once the boning is inserted

stitching the pleats close once the boning is inserted

 
Next, the bag was attached, (a simple circle gathered onto a band), and the long wide lace lappets finished the look

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On the day of the shoot, I wore the following items:

Silk stockings (American Duchess) and C17th shoes

Linen chemise with lace cuffs,

Fully boned stays

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trying the headgear without the hair… weird…

 

Silk petticoat (in red)

Decorated petticoat with the fringe

Mantua,

Fontage (worn over my own hair and curly hairpieces)

Jewellery by Gemmeus

 

I was surprised to notice that the stomacher needed only a very, very basic pinning at the top –  as once the train is hooked up to the belt (here a length of wide metallic braid) at the back, the tension keeps the belt taunt, and stomacher in place. The whole outfit looked far better that I had ever hoped – as, let’s face it, a fontage is a bit of a silly thing to wear on your head! But once everything was on, it all fell into place, and it all felt not only comfortable, but also correct and entirely in keeping in with the environs. Needless to say, I felt great – and didn’t want to take the thing off…..

We arrived on the location in a good time and managed to shoot our stuff way before we were overcome by glamorously bewigged girls in sexy lingerie, brandishing swords, fans and rapiers….  More information on the shoot can be found here: https://adamselindisdress.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/early-mantua-and-la-maupin-style-shoot/

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http://www.priorattire.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “Making an early Mantua 1690-1700

  1. I love your blog. Everything is so perfect! I also love your mantua. But to be honest, I have a question for you. What did people in the 1720’s/30’s? I can’t find anything, because there’s hardly any interest in that period, just as you describe in your post. I only ask you because I would love to reenact the late 17th/early 18th century, but I can’t because of poor resources. Just the title of a good book about the period or a link to an original garment would be fine. I do understand that if you don’t have time or don’t want to spend time to answer my question, you don’t answer it, but I would really appreciate it if you do.
    Many thanks in advance,
    Anne

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