In late summer 2016 Lauren Stowell, creator of American Duchess, announced that plans were in the works for her and her new assistant, Abby Cox, to publish a book on sewing 18th century garments.
Whoo-hoo!! The shouts were audible from her friends and followers.
Since I focus primarily on 19th century sewing but have wanted to do more in this earlier time frame I was excited like everyone else. After they started working on the projects for the book and showing snippets on Instagram I placed the pre-order for my own copy. (Get yours here.)
In August 2017 Abby and I began chatting about the new book and how we could collaborate using their new publication with what I do teaching actual sewing steps through online workshops (what I call classes).
I am super excited about this which you can read more about and watch their video on in this post. Because of this communication they added me to the small list of those who received an advanced copy of the book – THANK YOU!
I waited in anticipation, watching my post mail every day until it appeared…
I’ve had the book just about 10 days now and have read every page. It’s delightful. It’s instructive. It’s inspiring me to sew.
And it’s simply beautiful and delicious!!
I mean, I’ve enjoyed skirting (ha!) around 18th century costuming and research for many years, but this book has made me want to make Every.Project! Yes!
The book is written in fun, modern language that makes it easy to read – almost like a blog post. But not only that, the layout, the photos, the goodie text of fabric selections, and detailed sewing instructions is inspirational.
I would finish reading a section on a gown or one of *many* accessory items – millinery items – given and got excited at the prospect of making my own before too long.
Truly, who doesn’t want to parade around in floating flounces or wispy aprons or fluffy caps or custom-fit dresses??
The book has five main chapters – a section on hand stitches used (invaluable!!), then four ensembles complete with undergarments and accessories.
- The English Gown, 1740s
- The Sacque Gown, 1760s-1770s
- The Italian Gown, 1770s-1790s
- The Round Gown, 1790s
The listing of citations, reference books and original garments used for inspiration adds depth to the publication.
Readers will find excellent notes on the four natural fiber fabrics and how they’re used. And I’m delighted to see Lauren and Abby use them all separately as the main fabric in each of the four gown projects.
The sections on getting dressed in each ensemble is super appreciated and handy for those of us getting deeper into this century of costuming.
It’s inspiring that throughout the book they mention that certain stitches or areas don’t have to be perfect when making up and that ours, the reader and dressmaker, don’t have to be perfect either. Fabulous! I love how this makes it seem we are creating clothing and not simply a generic costume.
What surprised me at first about the book, in general, is that it’s much shorter than I would have expected. The height that’s there in other technical sewing books is gone. Not that it makes too much of a difference. Just saying it’s a more compact size and square shaped.
The book is quite heavy with 240 pages. What I love most about the publication is the nice spine that stays open when laid out. Brilliant for when you need both hands to sew but also need to refer to the photos. 😉
Speaking of photos – beautiful! Nice and clear production.
However, I have to knock the editors a bit as some of the photo selections printed show up-close details, yet they are hard to understand what’s going on at the moment in the construction. More clarification on a few sewing steps would have been helpful with additional photos or even different ones chosen. It seems the layouts were not done by someone with intimate sewing knowledge which could throw off some newbies to this time period.
No worries though. As a technical sewing writer myself, I believe that when someone will be following the instructions as they sew and come to parts with (possibly) confusing photos they will make sense at that time. Reading the text without a project in front of you could be a little unclear.
Also, a bit more rub on the photo layouts – many times there are “1A” and “1B” labeled photos in one photo “box.” I wish the editors would have put a tiny bit of spacing between the two connected photos for clarity to the reader. Oh well.
Overall, the book is very well done with the photos and sewing directions. At other times it seems overwhelming and muddled. I understand there are limits to photos and flat text in a book, and I’m more than confident that Lauren and Abby worked to publish a well-presented set of dressmaking instructions.
If only the text wasn’t so tiny…..
If you’re wanting to use the gridded patterns included in the book – a great addition to use as a guide – I recommend you pay close attention to the grainlines given on the templates as it’s not always described in the sewing instructions.
I found a few places here and there that could use some clarification, and the grainlines not being discussed were one such area. As for others, be sure to join my online classes when they open for enrollment for greater in-depth help at putting these garments and accessories together. Lauren and Abby will be popping into the classes for additional dressmaking info as we sew.
Lastly, I have to say congratulations and well done to Lauren and Abby!
Thank you for making our bookcases brighter and our dreams of lovely gowns within reach!!
You’ll now find me busy making lots of lovely pinked and gathered and hand-sewn things. 🙂
The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking will be published on November 21, 2017 and is sold on Amazon and other major booksellers around the world. Worth.Every.Penny! Most of us who know the depth of this research and instruction would happily pay more than the listed retail price. Go get your copy!