FOUNDATIONS REVEALED COMPETITION ENTRY
The Mantua Maker of Gloucester
Outline the story …
The Tailor of Gloucester was always my favorite Beatrix Potter book. Set in the 18th century, it is the tale of a poor tailor, his troublesome cat, and magical mice who save the tailor from ruin.
For my entry, I didn’t dress the tailor, but instead was inspired by the idea that a part of who we are is captured in what we create — with every stitch, we put a piece of ourselves into our work, imprinting them with the heart and soul we pour into them. While the tailor doesn’t wear the clothes he creates, they reflect who he is, and represent his life’s work in their craftsmanship. By using handsewing and other 18th century construction techniques, I felt like I was walking in the tailor’s shoes and becoming the character (or perhaps the mantua maker of Gloucester)
My piece is a reimagining of the Mayor’s wedding ensemble. The pet en l’air represents the cherry coat, with “roses and pansies upon the facings,” and the stomacher, the waistcoat, finished except for one single cherry-coloured buttonhole and a note — “NO MORE TWIST.”
The patterns on the quilted petticoat include the mice sewing by candlelight on Christmas Eve, singing birds, and Simpkin alone in the snow. The paisley shapes are inspired by a lady mouse’s gown, and the leaves by the pattern on the teacups under which Simpkin trapped the mice.
Unfortunately, I had no mice to help me, just a mischievous cat to steal my twist.
Outline the construction…
This was my first time sewing an 18th century outfit without modern construction methods and I really enjoyed the challenge. Everything is handsewn (except for gathering stitches for the robing), which allowed me to get more comfortable with different stitches.
The quilted petticoat took eight months to hand quilt, and is made of panels of silk taffeta, wool batting, and a worsted wool. I had never quilted anything in my life, so this was definitely outside my comfort zone. The thick wool batting worked well to give a trapunto effect to the quilting. I didn’t use a pattern, but looked at Patterns of Fashion 1, Costume Close Up, and other resources to figure out what typical construction was, and based mine on that. I used a linen thread instead of silk due to cost (I used over 1,000 meters of thread), and a backstitch instead of a running stitch for definition to make the story elements of the pattern more visible.
For the gown, I used the JP Ryan pet en l’air pattern, altering for historical construction using the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking and Ruth Watkin’s wonderful articles on the FR site as my guide. The gown is a cherry colored silk taffeta, with yellow robings and flowered trims, meant to emulate the floral embroidery on the mayor’s coat.
The compère stomacher is silk embroidery on taffeta, with fabric-covered bone buttons, hand-sewn buttonholes, and ribbon embroidery for the flowers. It is lined in canvas and boned.