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A stately mansion such as Pottsgrove Manor would have hosted many social events for the owner's family and friends.
The "public" area of the house, on the first floor, used the Parlor as primary room for holding these activities, from elegant dinners to an evening soiree of music and dancing. Learning to play a musical instrument, and knowing the fashionable dances were part of the education of an upper-class lady or gentleman, and evenings at home were often passed with diversions for harpsichord, lute, or violin.

#1 MANTUA c.1700-1720

The first quarter of the 18th century saw numerous developments and variation in the construction of women's clothing. The Mantua, which became the later "Robe a l'Anglaise" style dress, began as a fitted gown draped onto the body, with many elaborate folds and stitched pleats to conform the fabric to the body's contours.

In the late 17th century and early 18th century, the silhouette remained slim, though the long train of the skirt could be left long or draped up toward the center back, creating a bustle effect. Olive green damask creates a rich, subdued effect for this gown, trimmed with antique gold passementarie on the stomacher and Robings. Cream antique lace engagents (sleeve ruffles) emerge from the wide cuffs. The gown fastened over a stomacher, and was worn with a petticoat, fashionably trimmed with horizontal rows of lace. Some were worn with a matching belt to accentuate the waist.

The Fontange headdress, of wired lace and silk, enhances the vertical style of this early fashion. The gown is based on a diagram by Janet Arnold in Women's Costume 1600-1750 LS

#2 FORMAL SUIT c.1700-1720
In the first quarter of the century, the gentleman's frock coat was full skirted and elegant, and though simple in cut, employed fabrics as rich as those on womens clothing. Early styles were knee length or below, with very full skirts , showing off the elegant fabrics.This coat is made in a heavy pewter color silk, and lined in cherry-red satin. Surface ornamentation of antique metal-thread gold trim along the front coat edges, the large sleeve cuffs and coat pocket outlines provide a rich counterpoint to the smooth silk of the coat. Gold-beaded ornamental buttons add more dimensional interest to cuffs and front edges. The long, sleeveless waistcoat is made in multicolored Italian floral brocade, which also features "old gold" metallic trim. Accessories include a white linen shirt and ornate lace cravat. Clothing based on Diagram XVIII, The Cut of Men's Clothes, N. Waugh. LS


#3 FORMAL ENGLISH GOWN c.1740-1750

The English gown, as the name implies, was a favorite of the English women who preferred the form-fitting look. Just as the sack back style of dress evolved over the years, there were small changes in detail for the English gown. The early gown had the back bodice panels cut in one with the skirt and a stomacher front opening. Large cuffs were in fashion until mid century with ample room in the sleeves for a very full chemise. Decoration was minimal at this time and simple accessories, such as a decorative apron, were common. Small panniers were worn for daywear.

This formal purple brocade dress with silver trim has an early feature where the front of the skirt is closed and not split down the center. Sometimes this style is referred to as a round gown. By mid century, the open robe was the most common form. The dress pattern was based on a sketch of an original, which appears in Costume in Detail 1730-1930, by Nancy Bradfield . ST


#4 MANTUA c. 1730-40

As the Mantua style slowly evolved, the skirt became wider, although the upper part of the costume remained essentially the same - a fitted bodice with stomacher and pleated front Robings. The dress back retained the numerous vertical seams which ran from neckline to waist, creating an attractive fitted upper back which opened into soft, graceful pleats in the skirt.

This gown is done in a multicolor floral brocade on a rose-pink ground, and shows the widening skirts of the developing "Robe a l'Anglaise" style, now worn over a plain silk skirt and small hoop or quilted petticoat for fullness. Sleeves are still comfortably wide, and have the cuffed edge and lace flounce common in the first half of the century. The stomacher is decorated with a "ladder" of graduated ribbon bows, also known as "echelles".

The Fontange headdress has diminished in size, but retains the long floating lappets down the back. Adapted from The Cut of Women's Clothes, by Norah Waugh, Diagram XII. LS




Within a lady's wardrobe, gowns and petticoats could match, harmonize or even contrast in color and fabric. The informality, or dressiness, of an outfit depended not so much on the style of the dress, but more specifically on the fabric from which it was made, and dependent upon this, the manner in which it was trimmed.

The most formal clothing for both men and women made lavish use of embroidery, fine fabrics, and metallic decoration, which of course, would have been made in genuine gold and silver.

The style of this gown, called a "Robe a la Francaise" or "sack back", is characterized by it's loose flowing back pleats. Favored by the French, this look is achieved by a tight inner lining to which the back pleats are only attached at the neck, thus maintaining a form-fitting front.

Gown and petticoat are made in garnet-colored moire, woven with a floral trellis pattern, with various gold laces, embroidered bullion trim and fly fringe add to the decoration. Headdress of silk flowers, ribbons and feather. Decoration and trim for this gown are adapted from a French gown in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gown stomacher also shown in upstairs Closet Room #19 Accessories grouping. LS


#7 MANTUA c. 1730-40

Textiles can often speak clearly, and tell us in which period they belong. This dramatic outfit began with a rich black and gold silk damask, in a large floral pattern of the 1740's, and is a closed robe, or "Round" gown.
The lady put on the dress, fastening the apron-like front panel at her waist, then slipped into the bodice of the dress and fastened on the stomacher. The fullness of the skirt hid the openings, and the stomacher filled in the upper bodice.

A matched set of embroidered cuffs and stomacher, created in gold bullion, ribbons, sequins and trimmings are based on an original set (in silver) in the Snowshill collection, England. Gown is styled after a portrait of Mrs.Charles Willing, by Feke (Winterthur Museum) and decorations after a portrait of Lady Frances Byron, 1733, by J.Highmore. LS

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