Women's Court Mantua Dress, Georgian
People dressed very differently in the Georgian period to us today. Fashions changed far less frequently. A person’s social standing and wealth was evident in how elaborate their clothes were. All the Georgian clothes in the Tullie House collections were worn by the wealthy or the middle classes.
The shape of the dress dominated women’s fashions throughout the Georgian period. For much of the Eighteenth century the shape was achieved by hooped petticoats lined with rows of split cane and tightly laced corsets stiffened with whalebone which emphasised the waist.
The mantua was the most bizarre style of dress. It had the widest skirt ever worn, measuring up to 1.5m across. Although totally impractical one of the reasons it was fashionable was because it displayed the expensive heavy silk cloth of the dress to advantage so well.
Mantuas were worn by wealthy married women at court for formal gatherings such as royal birthdays and weddings from the beginning of the eighteenth century until 1820. The mantua was open at the front revealing a matching petticoat and had a train at the back. This dress is slightly modified with a skirt and small train at the back. Margery Jackson (1722-1812) from Carlisle possibly owned this dress but it is unlikely that she wore it as she never married.
- The Mantua is the widest skirt ever worn by women! Some women had to walk sideways through doorways.
- It allowed wealthy women to display a large amount of expensive embroidered fabric, to demonstrate their high status
- Lots of structuring made from cane and whalebone was needed to create this shape.
I’m responsible for the art collections in the museum which cover fine art (paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints, sculpture) dating from 1650