January 15, 2013

The Dressmaker's Guide 1840-1865: A Review

I have been meaning to review the Dressmaker's Guide 1840-1865 by Elizabeth Stewart Clark since I got it last year at the Cedar Creek reenactment. I had been meaning to buy it for ages, but with the little time I had for sewing and reading this past year, it had to be put off. I was really looking forward to getting a hold of a copy because the writings of Elizabeth Stewart Clark and the Sewing Academy are very helpful.

The biggest reason that I am reviewing this book is the price. Like with many books written for a niche, the price is a little steep and at $30 I was hesitant to buy a copy until I had one in my hands to look at. It only took a 30 second look over before I was checking out with it, purely for the patterns contained therein, if nothing else.

Patterns in the Book include:

-Basic Chemise
-Split Drawers
-Varying Petticoats
-Corded Petticoats
-Simple Cage
-Bodices and bodice variations
Pretty much a full wardrobe! 

Not only are there patterns but tips for fitting and measuring. I have never attempted to draft complicated patterns but this book gives you all the necessary information to do so. The patterns are tailored to your measurements and not the "small size pattern, enlarge it yourself" kind. This has actually become more important to me. When I started reenacting, I could make those small, teenage sized garments with few adjustments but as I got curvier, those patterns started needing more and more adjusting to the point that the patterns were virtually useless. Many women can attest to this same problem. If you've had some sewing experience, the patterns in this book are not out of your reach.

The Dressmaker's Guide is also full of textile and fashion knowledge. Clark breaks down different types of fabric and their appropriate uses as well as covers tools, techniques and clothing related aspects of 19th century living.  

 I had high expectations of this book, but the book surpassed even my highest expectations. Very rarely am I completely happy with an expensive book purchase because I am very frugal by nature, but this book is completely worth it. There's nothing worse than buying a book only to realize that it has nothing new to add that your current book collection doesn't already offer.

This book should be on bookshelf of every lady reenactor.    


  1. Thanks! I've been seriously considering buying this but it seemed too expensive and I never got to see a copy in person.

  2. Hmmm, I should check it out although I don't know how to sew. It might be worth it!


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  4. Is this geared towards approx. mid-19th century, as the articles I saw on her website are? Those were very helpful (even from the "just researching" point of view), but mid-19th century is an era I have no use for myself, right now, so I think it would be good if you specified that.

    I haven't commented here in ages... I don't know if you do this kind of thing, but I gave you a blog award:

    1. Oh dear, I'm half-blind and half-stupid on top of that - it states the era on the cover and I have all those plans for 1848! :D

  5. Thanks for the award! It's been good hearing from you. I haven't been blogging in a while but it's good to be back and hear how everyone is.

  6. I am just baffled! I cannot find this book on Amazon?? I didn't think there were books that Amazon didn't have. But, you should be pleased that your blog post came up on the first page when I searched for the title on Google :).

  7. By the way, thank you *so much* for letting me borrow it!! It has been an absolute godsend for getting this dress done!

  8. It's a great book. I'm glad you're finding it helpful!


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