Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The finished mantua

I finished the working class mantua and took some photos last night.  In period it would have been worn over a couple of petticoats, but I don't have the petticoats to go with it so you will have to imagine them.  I do plan to make the petticoats, but they aren't as interesting to construct as the mantua itself so I haven't done them yet.

Here you can see the bodice and skirt drape:

Based on my experience making this mantua I would say wool is an ideal fabric to use.  It drapes beautifully, and mantuas were all about the draping.  Even if I was doing an upper class version, wool would still be my first choice for fabric.  If, like me, you find wool itchy, remember that once you have a shift underneath it won't touch your skin anyway.

 The draped skirt looks really nice from the back:

One of my favourite things about this project is that even though it's very definitely a cheap version of the style and suitable for all your everyday chores, it's still an attractive dress.  It was fun to make, too.

The Challenge: Practicality.

Fabric: Three meters of blue wool.

Pattern: None.  I referred to patterns from The Cut of Women's Clothes by Norah Waugh and Patterns of Fashion by Janet Arnold to get the general shape and methodology, but mostly I made this up as I went along.  However, during the course of my research I discovered that Reconstructing History have a mantua pattern.  It's based on existing garments and looks pretty good, so if you want a pattern it might be a good option.

Year: Late 17th to early 18th centuries.

Notions: Linen thread, and you need pins to close it.  For now I've also used pins to drape the skirt.

How historically accurate is it?  I like to think my level of accuracy here is quite high.  There were things I had to guess at and I'm sure I've made a few mistakes.

Hours to complete: Somewhere around 20.

First worn: I did most of the draping on myself in front of a mirror, but I've also worn it around the house a bit.  It's warm and comfy.

Total cost: The wool cost me $34.


  1. The back is exquisite! It's harder for me to appreciate the front view without petticoats, but still, well done!

    1. Thanks Cathy! Yes, I agree it really does need petticoats. I'll have to get onto that.

  2. I love that you have made a working class mantua. I've actually been dreaming of making a blue one myself... :) But then I want to make at least three other versions of this gown.

    1. I know what you mean about mantuas, I love them too. They're so graceful and comfortable and quite fun to make. Thank you so much for your blog posts on mantuas - they were unbelievably helpful to me when I was making this one!

    2. I'm so glad it was helpful to you! I've added your Mantua to my 17th Century resource page; I hope you don't mind!

    3. I don't mind at all; I'm very honoured!