1690s Mantua Ensemble – Part 1: Foundations

 

For several years I’ve been very curious about late 17th century mantua gowns as the progenitors of so much of 18th century women’s fashion. I wondered how the process of making and wearing one would compare with what they later evolved into. I also wondered how they would look on a real body compared with the often-considered unattractive period images of them.

In 2018 I decided to take the plunge and try making one for myself, using Costume College 2018 as my excuse to finally do so – and boy am I glad I did because I LOVE this ensemble!

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White Cotton 1797 Gown

Ok, this post is a long one, but I hope you’ll think it a good one.

I’m using this as my (slightly belated) entry for the HSM ’16 (Historical Sew Monthly) January challenge: procrastination. Doesn’t it just figure I’m a little late with it o_O

I started this dress for last year’s challenge: out of your comfort zone, back in……May? April? Something like that. Considering I was feverishly working on finishing my PhD thesis at that time I wasn’t about to take on a whole new branch of sewing/needlework for this challenge. Instead I decided to take on one historical sewing technique that had long fascinated me but I’d been unsure of trying for some reason. The technique is a particular way of seaming bodices in the late 18th century. It consists of finishing the separate pieces of the bodice with their linings and then sewing them together with a very scant seam allowance (you’ll see what I mean in a moment).

The style of the dress is from (goddess) Norah Waugh’s Cut of Women’s Clothes, the 1797 open gown:

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