Sunday, October 18, 2020

Weekend Review: The Party Dress

The Party Dress / Simon Henry
Lewes, East Sussex: Guild of Master Craftsmen, c2009.
175 p.

 This is an odd little book. It's full of bright, colourful, fancy dresses, and written by a tailor, maker of event gowns and teacher in the UK. And yet in the introductory pages it says that this book is accessible to beginners -- he says "This book is intended for those with little to no sewing experience..." Yikes! If I didn't already know how to sew this book would completely intimidate me. 

The first 30 or so pages are an introduction to sewing -- the equipment you'll need (which includes the basics but also things like rouleau hooks, all sorts of drafting rulers, and other specialized items). I can't imagine someone who wasn't already sewing having these things on hand. Also, while he says that only a sewing machine is needed, an overlocker and a dress form are 'nice to have'! 

The chapter also goes over some basic sewing techniques, and hems, and boned seams. Then comes Chapter Two. Ah, Chapter Two. Twenty pages of instruction on how to make your own body blocks -- full body and boned bodice blocks. That is what you will use to then draft all your own patterns for the dresses found in the rest of the book. 

Chapter Three has twenty pages of images and sewing instructions for all the dresses, plus a short bit on choosing fabrics and embellishments. The dresses are ball gowns, with boning and satins and beading and... well, I just can't see a beginner tackling any of these and ending up with a wearable result, unless it is for a Halloween costume. But maybe there are beginners who are braver and more experimental than I am (or was) and don't know that they should be scared of this process! If you know a beginner like that, by all means let them take a look at this book. Otherwise, I don't recommend this for beginners at all. 

If you're someone with some experience and you're itching to draft your own party dress, even if we aren't really wearing them much this year, take a look and maybe you'll find some inspiration. The book is photo heavy, with sewing steps and examples clearly illustrated, so it might work for you. Even if only for a chance to look at these dresses, which are quite lovely, if for a young crowd. But like I said, the approach here was a bit of a confusing combination for me, and ultimately not a book I'll use myself. 


  1. There must be a series--I borrowed a book from the library called "The Wedding Dress" by Becky Drinan, and it had the same note on the cover, saying "How to make the perfect one for you". It definitely left the reader with the impression that making a wedding dress was not a substantial undertaking! I was quite amused by the way drafting the skirt was suggested as simple since it is just a variation on a basic shape. Things get very complicated when the pattern pieces are so large and unwieldy...

    1. Sounds like the same style, indeed! It's so easy to make grand gowns...I guess it is, if you don't care how it looks in the end...

  2. And this explains why people who don't sew think that such grand projects are easy to whip up in an afternoon.

    1. Right? Just a bit of cutting and stitching and voila! A Grinchy Claus suit ;)


Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!