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-/
Grosgrain silk (gold on top, olive on the other side) – 5m; gold lace – 8m, bullion fringe – 5m, button. ( pic.1)
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.
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)
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.
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.
Attach the pleated skirt to the waistband. Finish the waistband, add a button and work a button hole – and the petticoat is ready.
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.
Again, Norah Waugh’s pattern – I even used the same measurements on all the pieces.
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.
Once you are satisfied with the pleats, secure them with hand stitching
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.
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.
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.
Prepare the sleeves – work the seam, secure the raw edges, add the cuff. Pleat the top, if applicable, and insert into the armscythe.
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.
Neck pieces next. Tidy and secure the back neck edge, then attach the neck pieces, matching the centre back seam. Stitch carefully
. Your mantua is now ready to be decorated.
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.
. For arranging the train – attach hooks as indicated on the pattern. They simply hook up to the belt at the back
Stomacher next – I made mine out of 2 layers of linen buckram, fully boned in reed, then covered in the taffeta and lined it.
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:
I tried it first in calico, as a mock-up
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.
Next, the bag was attached, (a simple circle gathered onto a band), and the long wide lace lappets finished the look
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
Silk petticoat (in red)
Decorated petticoat with the fringe
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/