One could spend days at the Victoria and Albert Museum. On a recent visit there, I went upstairs to see the British Collection and was astonished that there is a treasure trove of costumes included amongst the exhibits of furniture and artifacts.
This dress, called a mantua, was in fashion around 1740-45 and was the grandest style of court fashion. It was so wide that a woman would have to turn sideways to go through a door. The huge skirt permits a lavish display of exquisitely embroidered flowers.
In this hands-on exhibit, I tried on a hoop petticoat. As you can see from the messy arrangement of the skirt, a dresser or lady in waiting was a necessity. I had a good chuckle but found it bulky and cumbersome and can hardly imagine having to walk around or sit in such an awkward garment.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road, South Knightsbridge
London, SW7 2RL
+44 0 20 7942 2000