So, What Exactly is a Mantua?

January 28, 2010

In my “Random Thoughts” posts I have shared some delightful information from a book called The Ladies Self Instructor in Millinery & Mantua Making, Embroidery & Applique. This DIY guide was first published in 1853 by Leary & Getz of Philadelphia, PA. As the title states, among its’ many gems of needlework wisdom is a chapter on mantua making…a term synonymous with dress making. As a matter of fact, the terms are used interchangeable in this book.

For the record a mantua is a loosely draped-style gown. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Timeline of Art History, it was thought this style displayed the silk designs to their best advantage since the fabric was draped rather than cut. The dress was believed to have been named after Mantua, Italy; a major producer of expensive silks. (Another school of thought suggests the garment’s name was derived from manteau, the French word for coat.) No offense Mr. Shakespeare, but a dress by any other name…

Note: The photograph of the mantua is courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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