An in-depth investigation of a nineteenth-century garment revealed a much altered eighteenth-century English court mantua and petticoat. This extensively and exquisitely hand-embroidered garment is thought to be the oldest of its type in existence, and is of exceptional quality. The study progressed from exploring the eighteenth-century world in which a diverse group of tradespeople contributed to the production of the finished garment, to genealogical enquiries, eventually leading to the identity of the wearer, Anne Fieldhouse.
This paper outlines the remarkable life journey of Anne Fieldhouse, from that of the daughter of a country cheesemonger in Rugeley, Staffordshire, to being presented at Court on the arm of the 5th Baronet William Wolseley wearing this extraordinary mantua and petticoat. At that time many believed marriage had become debased, was merely a business contract, but this one is unusual. What can we discover about it, and what does this singular garment tell us about Anne’s subsequent presentation at Court?
First delivered in July 2014
at Exeter, UK at the symposium of the Costume Society [30 minutes]