The blog, Two Nerdy History Girls, featured Janea Whitacre, mistress of the millinery & mantua-making trades in Williamsburg in their last post about Accessories: Head to Toe, a symposium that was recently held in that historic city. Accessories Head to Toe: Beautiful Fashion From 1760 to 1830 showcases some images from the people of the Margaret Hunter Shop, where milliners and mantua makers still plie their craft.
An interview with Ms. Whitacre illuminates how fashion was made in those days, and how fashion and economics are tied together.
Janea: Mantua-making – that’s gown-making, so we’re the 18th-century dressmaker, and what we do is cut the gown to the person, so the lady is her own mannequin or her own dress form. So I don’t need to take measurements, I don’t do patterns. We cut to the person.
Lloyd: Okay, so at the risk of getting this wrong, what you are is what in a male version a tailor would be.
Janea: There’s a lot of overlap between the trades. The tailor is going to claim that stay-making and making ladies riding habits is his trade. I’m going to claim that it’s my trade. But the difference between the trades is really how we cut the fabric out. He takes measurements and does patterns. We usually don’t, because our customers are perfection in their stays. So as long as they have the stays, we’re ready to cut. Click here to read the rest of the interview on history.org