Dress Making Designing Cutting & Fitting by Mme Jeanne Trois Fontaines

Apart from the great beauty of the illustrations, wonderfully evocative of early 1930s glamour this book has two main strengths which particularly recommend it.

First is its size. The paper is silky and thick and at a hefty 14″ by 11″ it is quite a beast but this works to its advantage as the greater size of the diagrams makes them much clearer to follow and the notes with which they are labelled much easier to read.

Written instructions are concise, the diagrams being sufficiently clear and well labelled to act as the main source of instruction in recreating them.

The second area in which this book particularly succeeds is that of subject matter. Fundamental preliminaries such as accurate measuring and the adjustments to be made for various figure shapes/deviations are covered fully but succinctly, a mark of the both the confidence and the competence of the author, leaving the rest of the book for the patterns themselves.

It is rare in my experience to find a book so fully dedicated to the actual creation of patterns. Plenty of books relating to dressmaking flit quickly over the subject of pattern drafting. They may instruct how to make a basic block, a foundation garment from which to work but the majority then assume that you have purchased a pattern and need only to be taught how to set in the collar, work the seams, hems and buttonholes.

This book is quite the opposite. You won’t find how to make a bound buttonhole here. What you will find though is instructions for the basic foundation blocks, all worked to your own measurements, and a very generous number of style variations based on them, together with full instructions on achieving the same.

As I previously mentioned, the diagrams are large, well-drawn and clear. Refreshingly free of clutter, they are easy to follow and understand and are liberally used. 

Anyone wishing to make up these styles exactly as they appear in the book would be advised to remember that the fashionable figure was long and slender, and the foundation bodice block uses a single long bust dart set into the shoulder seam – not at all appropriate for anyone with a full bust. However neither were the styles so if your figure is less than willowy you may have to forsake historical accuracy and draft a bodice better suited to your shape but the style ideas are here and may certainly be applied to a more modern foundation draft.

In conclusion this is a valuable resource for anybody interested in reproducing authentic 1930s clothing from equally authentic patterns. It would also make a wonderful addition to the coffee tables of anyone who loves beautiful books.

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