Friends, it has been a long time since I wrote about a sewing book (seven months) but don't think I haven't been accumulating sewing books -- I have; I just haven't gotten around to writing about them. But I recently acquired a book, "Decorative Dressmaking" by Sue Thompson (Rodale Press, 1985), that I had to tell you about.
I first heard about this book on Carolyn's blog and I was immediately intrigued by her description of it (and the photos).
First things first: this is NOT one of those Eighties sewing books brimming with photos of women in oversized jewel-tone blazers and tunics, with shimmery eye shadow and moussed hair straight out of Dynasty. There are some shots of Eighties fashion, but it's the best of the Eighties, much of it off the runway, like this gorgeous ruched Ungaro gown. (Sorry, it's a jewel tone.)
"Decorative Dressmaking" focuses on ten specific sewing techniques: flounces, stripes, piping, topstitching, pintucks, applique, bands and binding, pleats and tucks, ruching, and faggoting -- how to master them and how to apply them, creatively, to your projects.
Here's the table of contents.
It is the depth with which each technique is explored, and the many illustrations drawn from fashions old and new, that inspire you to imagine possibilities for using these techniques in your projects. If you only sew straight from your pattern instructions, this book may be overkill.
I love the somewhat busy layout. A child of the Seventies, I have a soft spot for handwriting (as opposed to typeface), which reminds me of all those "granola" cookbooks, crunchy couples massage guides, and craft books of the period. ("Moosewood Cookbook" anybody?)
"Decorative Dressmaking" also boasts tons of vintage photos from the 20's, 30's, 40's, and beyond -- something rare for an Eighties-era sewing techniques book. Feast your eyes:
As if this book didn't offer enough, in the back are scaled pattern diagrams, one project for every chapter (i.e., a flounced dress, a striped dress, a piped trouser suit, etc.).
"Decorative Dressmaking" is a book to get lost in, full of fascinating information, vintage inspiration, the works. Best of all, used copies can be found on Amazon for just a few dollars (some for even less), and there's both a hardcover and paperback edition available.
Obviously this book is focused on women's clothes, but techniques like topstitching, sewing with stripes, piping, and bindings can be applied to menswear too.
You can view a whole lot more photos from "Decorative Dressmaking" here.
PS -- Needless to say, I have no financial stake in any sales of this nearly 30-year-old book. I just think it's worth rediscovering.
Have a great day, everybody! Anybody own this book already?
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns, in addition to sewing for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!