English Court Mantua
1755-1760 (made), 1753-1755 (fabric woven). England (made), France (woven).
This richly brocaded ensemble illustrates the style of dress worn by women at court in England. Known as a mantua, the gown consists of a bodice with a train at the back. A very wide petticoat of matching silk completes the ensemble along with a triangle of silk known as a stomacher, in the centre front.
Although considered stylish daywear in the early 18th century, the mantua had become very old-fashioned by the 1750s and was worn only for court dress. Wide hoops were beginning to go out of style, but kept their extreme width at court. To make up for its conservative cut, court dress was always made from the most fashionable as well as expensive fabrics and trimmings.
This example is made from an ivory silk brocaded in a pattern of stylised flowers and leaves. The abstract form of the motifs is accentuated by the non-naturalistic colours of the precious metal threads. Such a design is typical of French silk weavers and the fabric was probably imported. However it could also have been woven in London, as English weavers copied French designs very closely. | V&A