Review and Giveaway: Creating Historical Clothes, by Elizabeth Friendship

Posted by muhammad nasrudin

(Anova Books Group, 2013; 242 pages)

To win a copy of Creating Historical Clothes: Pattern Cutting from Tudor to Victorian times, just comment below! For a more chances, post about this giveaway on your blog, Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook, and share the link in a new comment! You can enter to win through Friday, December 20th; winner will be drawn on Saturday.

I was pleasantly surprised to be sent and asked to review this book. (That's by way of being my disclaimer.) Giving my opinion is one of my favorite pastimes, so I was happy to oblige.

Elizabeth Friendship is a serious professional costume designer, and developed her methods of pattern drafting on the job. She imparts these methods to the reader with painstakingly detailed diagrams and instructions. The basic idea is to create a bodice block that fits you, which she then describes how to alter for period-correct seam placement, shaping, etc.

The whole book is divided into five chapters - one for the basic blocks, and four for the 16th through 19th centuries. Chapter one consists of patterns for the bodice, a straight sleeve, a fitted sleeve, a two-piece sleeve, basic skirt, and basic trousers, all of which could be used to create modern clothing. The historical chapters are replete with full-color reproductions of fashion plates and portraits, as well as accurate information about the changes in fashion during that century and numerous patterns with instructions. For example, to pull from everyone's favorite era, the 18th century chapter contains:

  • Corset 1730-1740
  • Basic 18th-century [fitted] bodice pattern
  • Basic pattern for sack-back gowns and jackets
  • Robings
  • Stomachers
  • Sleeves c.1700-1755
  • Bodices c.1770-1785
  • Sleeve with elbow dart
  • Cuffs
  • Two-piece sleeve and cuffs
  • Mid-century hoop petticoats
  • Panniers c.1770
  • 18th-century skirts
The one caveat I have as to accuracy is that the 18th century armscyes are placed a little far out on the shoulder. But 18th century sleeves are difficult to relate to modern blank patterns, I think, so it's very understandable.

Overall, my feeling is that this book would best benefit a costumer who is very familiar and comfortable with modern sewing techniques. If you frequently use commercial patterns and alter them for more accuracy and a better fit, then you might get a lot of use out of (and save money with) the basic block patterns and instructions for alteration in Creating Historical Clothes.