PhD Opportunity

Applications Invited for AHRC Doctoral Studentship with the V&A:

The mantua- maker in England during the long eighteenth century


Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London invite applications for one fully funded PhD studentship, starting in autumn 2016. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), this three-year PhD research programme will be supervised jointly by QMUL and the V&A.

The deadline for applications is Monday 25th April 2016


The Research

The selected student will investigate the variety of garments made by mantua-makers in eighteenth-century England, as well as their sewing skills, business practices and commercial networks.In the 1660s, a new style of gown— the mantua—became fashionable in England and France. Because its construction did not require traditional tailoring skills, seamstresses began to make the new mantua. In doing so, they entered the industries of fashion previously dominated by male tailors and transformed the making of the most stylish-and therefore the most important-clothes in a woman’s wardrobe, into a female-led craft and business. The mantua-maker became a major force in the creation and dissemination of women’s fashionable dress in the long  eighteenth century. This PhD will make a significant contribution to the history of fashion, as well as to other disciplines such as art, design and textile history, social and economic history, urban and gender history. It underlies dominant themes in current intellectual research, in particular the material culture of empirical knowledge, craft and making

The project will compare metropolitan and provincial mantua-makers and, where sources allow, will consider a fashionable resort, an industrial centre and a port (for example: London, Bath, Leeds or Liverpool), as well as a predominantly rural area. Research questions to be explored include (but are not limited to):


  • · What was the financial foundation of the mantua-maker’s business –how much credit did she require, how was she paid, how did she manage her money?
  • · What garments did she make and what tools and techniques did she employ?
  • ·What was her working environment? Did she work from home, own or rent a workshop, and what were its physical characteristics?
  • ·What were her business networks? How many apprentices did she employ and with what other craftspeople did she work?
  • ·How did mantua-makers learn their skills; what was the nature of their apprenticeship and ‘careers’?
  • ·What was the nature of the mantua-maker’s client base and what commercial methods did she use to expand it?
  • ·How did the mantua-maker disseminate the latest women’s fashions? What was the nature of the ‘stylistic negotiation’ between maker and client?


The student will explore these questions involving incorporating evidence from the garments the mantua-maker made–styles, types and amounts of materials used, complexity of construction and decoration, etc. This will be combined with evidence from a wide variety of written documentation from disparate sources in record offices of the selected locales, including account books of their clients, newspaper advertisements, insurance records, legal documents and trade cards.



The student will be registered as a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at QMUL. The doctorate is co-supervised between the V&A and Queen Mary and therefore offers, as well as the normal academic doctoral training and supervision, extensive experience working with the V&A’s outstanding fashion and textiles collection. The PhD will be jointly supervised by Professor Amanda Vickery (Early Modern History at QMUL) and Dr Susan North (Curator of Fashion1550-1800at the V&A).



Applicants must:

• Have obtained at least a 2:1 undergraduate degree and a Master’s (preferably with Distinction) degree in a related area of history;

• Have some hand-sewing skills and the willingness to reach the

standard necessary for the reconstruction of historical dress;

• Be able to meet the AHRC eligibility criteria regarding residency status. Students from EU countries other than the UK are generally eligible for a tuition fees-only award



Studentships are awarded for 3 years initially. Additional Student Development Funding (equivalent to an additional 6 months of funding) will be available to allow time for the student to undertake further training and skills development opportunities that are agreed as part of the PhD programme. The studentship will cover tuition fees as well as a stipend towards living expenses for three years. The value of the stipend for 2016/17 is expected to be £14,296, plus an extra £550 per year CDP allowance.

Applications are welcome from students from the UK and the EU. The studentship will cover tuition fees and a stipend for UK students or EU students who have lived in the UK for three years prior to

the award. Overseas non-EU students may also be eligible if they fulfil a range of residency requirements stipulated in the AHRC guidelines.

EU students who have not lived in the UK for three years prior to the award are currently only eligible to have their tuition fees paid at RCUK rates, and are not eligible to receive the student stipend


The V&A will cover further research-related expenses of up to £1,000 which will support student activities including, but not limited to, visits to other relevant museums or to project-related conferences. The student will also be eligible to claim up to £2,000 from QMUL to cover research and travel costs.


How to apply

Informal inquiries should be made to Amanda Vickery ( or Susan North (


In order to apply, candidates must complete a QMUL online postgraduate research application form including a CV, two references, academic transcript(s) and a 1,000-word statement of purpose

outlining their suitability for the project and detailing the ways in which they plan to address the themes above


To make an application, please visit the following webpage:

The deadline for applications is Monday 25th April 2016

PhD Opportunity – AHRC Doctoral Studentship with the V&A: The mantua- maker in England during the long eighteenth century

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