Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: 1720s green mantua

Mantua, ca 1720, silk with metal lace, National Museum Norway, OK-dep-01160

Thanks everyone for your support last week, and for showing that Rate the Dress was missed 💛  I didn’t manage a non Rate the Dress post last week, but at least I’m back with Rate the Dress!

This week’s we’re going back in time 200 years from last week to look at a mantua: a garment that started out as an informal alternative to fully boned bodices, and eventually evolved into the most iconic gown of the 18th century: the sacque.

Last week: a peachy pink 1920s dance frock

Well, you have have loved the return of Rate the Dress, but you weren’t so sure about the dress itself.  Some of you thought it was adorable, but some of you were very dubious about it, particularly about the gathered hip panels.

The gathered hip panels were actually my favourite part: they are such a ridiculous touch that is so typical of their era.  And I loved the dress, partly because it would have looked great on 18 year old me.  I was straight up and down – no curves at all to fight with the frills!

The Total: 7.6 out of 10

Not to everyone’s taste, but still a success.

This week: a 1720s mantua

If you’re a fan of early 18th century fashion, you’ll probably recognise this week’s Rate the Dress pick.  There are so few surviving examples of 1720s mantua that ‘the green one’ tells you everything you need to need to know to instantly identify it.  I generally try to avoid featuring very well known garments on Rate the Dress, but, when there are so few options for a decade, it would be a terrible pity not to feature a well photographed dress.

And this is a VERY well photographed dress.  You should definitely head over to the object listing at the National Museum of Norway to see a spinning 360 view, detailed photos of the petticoat (it’s lined in golden yellow! (although I’m not sure that’s original)) and stomacher, and best of all, inside views of the dress.  Be still my heart…

Of the full dress pictures, I particularly like that the museum shows us both the mantua with the skirts pinned up, and the mantua with the skirts down.  So fantastic if you’re trying to replicate a garment…

While the maker for this dress is unknown, we do know some things about the garment.  This type of brocaded silk, with its patterning that imitates lace, was a specialty of Lyons.  It definitely dates the dress to around 1720, as the fashion in brocaded silks moved from the bolder patterns of early ‘bizarre’ silks (read more about them here) to the more delicate designs that would characterise mid-18th century fabrics.

The delicate floral and lace design of the fabric is contrasted with the crisp pleating of that shapes the dress.

If this is like other mantua, the pleating is not just decorative, but fits the garment to the body with the absolute minimum of cutting to the fabric

What do you think?  Would a lady ca 1720 feel grand and gorgeous wearing this?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

A reminder about rating — feel free to be critical if you don’t like a thing, but make sure that your comments aren’t actually insulting to those who do like a garment.  Phrase criticism as your opinion, rather than a flat fact. Our different tastes are what make Rate the Dress so interesting.  It’s no fun when a comment implies that anyone who doesn’t agree with it, or who would wear a garment, is totally lacking in taste.

As usual, nothing more complicated than a .5.  I also hugely appreciate it if you only do one rating, and set it on a line at the very end of your comment.


  1. nofixedstars says

    i think it’s beautiful gown of its period and type. i love the green silk fabric, and i find it a very graceful dress for a lady to wear. it’s sumptuous looking but not garish or excessively trimmed. i would love to see it (a reproduction) modelled by a real woman, with all the accessories of the time.

    • Linda Craig says

      I would give it a 10 and I would wear it too.

  2. I’m so happy rate the dress is back! I love this dress – the color, the trim, the way the skirt looks when it’s both pinned up and down, and the trim and sleeve details are so pretty! The more I look the more I find to like about this dress.


  3. I could not love it more, and would wear it myself in a heartbeat. 10/10

    • Christina Kinsey says

      Beautiful , the pleated detail.on the.sleeves is lovely…i can see why so few survive as it must have been tempting to see a mantua as a source of fabric when fashions changed
      A lovely graceful dress , I like the skirt worn down for swishing about…
      A 10

  4. Susan says

    Beautiful, graceful and that pleating!! Love it, it’s a truly gorgeous dress.


  5. Anna says


    I really like it! So beautifully colourful and bold. This would be the kind of dress I’d make for myself if I had the skill and the time.

  6. Tracy Ragland says

    This dress is beautiful! The back draping is so graceful and I love the tiny pleats at the sleeves. A huge plus for the gorgeous fabric.

  7. Lynne McDonald says

    “Would a lady ca 1720 feel grand and gorgeous wearing this?”
    Oh, she so would!

    10 out 0f 10.
    Love it!

  8. Nicole Lee says

    I just love every thing about this gorgeous mantua. The colour and design on the fabric is refreshing and the shape and detail on the sleeves draws attention. It looks like it would move well and complement the wearer.


  9. Kathy Hanyok says

    I cannot believe how incredible this gown is! The pleating, the stomacher, and the fabric itself. I have a fabric ( not silk) that is similar, but only enough for the skirt. Now I know what to strive for. Love this gown! Especially the green, of course. What else but 10/10.

  10. Glenda Jackson says

    Oh my. Hands down 10/10. I love everything about it!

  11. I do not have time to study all the pictures. I have too much to do.
    I will keep repeating this to myself until I believe it.
    It may happen.


  12. Mard says

    10/10. Gorgeous. I love the fabric. Love it. I’ll say it again – love the fabric.
    Is the metal lace the part around the neckline and stomacher? I don’t love that quite as much – I wonder if it’s tarnished.

  13. Natalie Ferguson says

    Oh my, the Zeitgeist of this gown is so different from the last one. From girlish to grand; yet both are fresh in their own ways.

    10 out of 10 for an icon of a period

  14. Hayley Wilson says

    Oh my!!!! What a stunner! Those pleats…..
    The only disappointment is the pattern on the stomacher. Three boring circular motifs. What a wasted opportunity for something sensational, maybe flowers to match the cloth design?

  15. Julia says

    What a beautiful dress! I love the fabric (green), the yellow petticoat, the precise pleating on the sleeves and especially that I can see all that and many more details on the museum website.
    My only dislike is the very square train. But that might be my 21st century taste coming through.

  16. Stephanie says

    Lush! I love how well the rich fabric matches the exuberance of the style.

    Someone felt very pretty in this, I’m sure. I always wonder about the original owners and why the dress survived so well. Was the owner particularly fastidious, and maintained it perfectly though she wore it often? Did she hardly wear it, and why? Did she love it and keep it for best? Did she hate it – maybe it didn’t suit her or brought up an unhappy memory? Did it predate the first of many pregnancies, and she never regained the figure to wear it? If only dresses could talk!



  17. India says

    I absolutely love this dress. It is quite, quite beautiful …… except, except for the stomacher which I find more than a wee bit icky. All that dull brown fluff looks much too like dead mouse. I know. Sorry.

    Anyway, I’ll assume that it didn’t actually look like that when the dress was made or, at least, not quite as much. So 9/10

  18. Severine says

    Stunning! I love the beautiful green, the intricate folds/tucks and the secret yellow inside.


  19. Jennifer Spencer says

    I love this dress: 10/10. It looks so wearable and actually comfortable, except possibly for the metal lace piece. The precise pleats in the sleeves look wonderful but make it so the wearer can move about. It can be worn with the back tucked up for a less formal occasion. And I think I even see access to a petticoat pocket in the slits in the underskirt. The pattern and color are lovely, really one of my favorite color combinations in green with gold. I bet that would make the most gorgeous interior design fabric or wallpaper, too. I loved seeing the museum’s 360 photos – thank you for such a nice post and beautiful dress.

  20. Anonymous says

    Thank you so much for bringing back Rate the Dress! I love this dress. This era isn’t one you see a lot. The fabric is gorgeous, and I actually don’t mind the stomacher–it’s a nice contrast, but actually not too noticeable since the green fabric draws the eye. Those pleats in the sleeve are fantastic, and I especially love the way the back drapes: the pouf, so reminiscent of a future Italian gown or Robe a la Polonaise, and most of all that perfectly square train. I love that part!

    Overall, I’ve got to give it a 9.5 out of 10.

  21. B.A. says

    This is an absolutely amazing garment. The precise pleating on the sleeves is fascinating, as is the fall of the fabric when pulled up and the unusual square train. I wish I could have a pattern for this; oh, Janet Arnold, where are you… I love this mantua and it has served to motivate me to continue working on my own 1740’s outfit. An undeniable, hands-down 10/10.

  22. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    9/10 just because the more I look at it the less convinced I am by the gold lace but otherwise I’m loving it.

  23. Lisa says

    What a dress! I wonder what it weighs? Everything about the dress is so meticulous from the lace in the front to the pleating in the back. It looks like a wealthy woman wore this back in times. How wonderful.

  24. Orysia Duda says

    The dress is nothing but stunning. It’s a 10!

  25. Tsu Dho Nimh says


    I’m not impressed by the stomacher and trim, although it must have been dazzling when new – the rest of the dress is astounding.

    Add gold lace sleeve ruffles and I’m sold.

  26. JessieRoo says

    That’s a lot of dress, and yet it looks so light and fresh in those colors and with the pleating and edges still so crisp. The only thing amiss with this dress, in my not at all humble opinion, is the stomacher. It’s pretty enough in itself, but the color just doesn’t do anything for the fabric of the gown, which makes it look like it was just slapped on there for the sake of using it, rather than a conscious design choice.

  27. Biz Davis says

    This dress has managed to survive 200 years and for good reason! It’s more than a beautiful dress, it’s a masterpiece and for more reasons than this platform has the proper space to honor it. I don’t even feel right referring to “it”, she is so much more worthy! 10/10 for a books worth of reasons!!

  28. Hello, I am truly honored to be part of your judging team as to serve a better purpose for creating and promoting our critical opinions. As we can all see this dress is a gown that reflects much color in the feild of green and peach pinks here and there. It could very well of been a garden walking dress or Sunday best. I do think the metal burnished lace is a bit missed placed. I could see ivory with some delicate embroidery in the color field of fabric. 8 out of 10 body of dress is beautiful

  29. Dana Phelps says

    Oh, my, how many yards of fabric must this be?! I love the pleats and wonder if the golden trim has dulled or faded over the years. Maybe it’s just that we aren’t used to the use of such a thing? I LOVE the green fabric with all of its detail and busy pattern. As far as I’m concerned it is absolutely queenly, and would serve as a great wedding dress. I am particular to 3/4 sleeves, so this would work great for me. I’m sure that golden liner would feel great against the legs. Do you think it’s linen? I’m all in on this one!!

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