Sunday 22 January 2012

The Pattern Book To End All Pattern Books

This was another Christmas pressie from my Mum (I know. She's amazing!) Believe it or not she discovered this gem in Urban Outfitters. 'Famous Frocks' by Sara Alm and Hannah McDevitt contains full size patterns of 10 iconic dresses of the 20th century and gives instructions on how to make them and fabric choice advice. Those included are:

Bette Davis - A gorgeous 1940s short gown with flounce
Rita Hayworth - A slinky gathered 1940s dress
Marilyn Monroe - Obviously the 'The Seven Year Itch' white halterneck
Jackie O - A classic minimalist fitted a-line number
Audrey Hepburn - The little black 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' dress of course
Twiggy - A fun 1960s mini
Diana Ross - A very funky disco dress with HUGE sleeves
Farrah Fawcett - The must have wrap dress of the 1970s
Stevie Nicks - A loose fringed number with a handkerchief hemline
Madonna - One of her earlier 1980s looks, corset top with puff skirt

Each dress has it's own section including a vintage photo of the icon in the dress in question along with description of what makes it so iconic, contemporary illustrations of each variation of the dress (more on that in a moment), suggested fabrics and yardage, a diagram of the layout of pattern pieces and finally detailed instructions on how to construct the garment including illustrations. The illustrations (by Kerrie Hess) are exactly what I like to see in a sewing book, black and white and linear with only the required information included and shading to show the right and wrong sides of the fabric at each point.

Clear patterns in the front compartment of the book

Now you may be thinking most of these dresses may be iconic but aren't very me or I might make them but would only have use for them at a special occasion but each dress has the original pattern and a pattern for a more contemporary variation included. Nearly every one of these variations I have looked at and thought ooo I'd love to wear/make that and when thinking about fabric choices and looking at the recommendations in the book I have found them to be very versatile, I think two different fabrics could make something completely different out of each pattern.

The 'Rita Hayworth' may well be my favourite

The book guides you through the construction process for each design in a way very similar to Colette Patterns which from what I've seen on other blogs everyone LOVES. The steps are very easy to follow, broken down into simple bite sized chunks, looking through it makes me feel like i could whip up any of them in no time! (Which I'm sure is not the case!) Each dress gives an indication of the sewing level needed for that particular project along with suggestions of combinations of sleeve, length, fit and detail to make even more variations and simplify or even perhaps take the construction one step further.

Although 'Jackie O' may be a close contender. I can see a lot of these in my w future wardrobe.

There's an excellent General Instructions section at the front of the book including things like determining your size, tracing your pattern and preparing your fabric which is brilliant for a novice sewer. There are also some great resources at the end of the book advising on tools and guiding you through techniques. 'Famous Frocks' could definitely be used as a fun way to learn to sew all on it's own.

I was also very excited to find, along with lists of suggested fabric shops and reference books which you may expect to find, a list of suggested blogs! I hope this is a sign of things to come with all books! I was even more excited to find a few I already follow including Gertie, Sew Mama Sew, Colette Patterns and Burda Style.

I've already had a think about what fabrics, colours and prints I'd like to make them all up in, now I just need to get fabric shopping and decide which one to get started on first! Eeek! Sara and Hannah - Thank you for putting together the book of my dreams!

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