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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Famous Frocks: A Sneak Peek

While I can't call this a review yet, because I haven't actually sewn up any of the patterns in my new sewing book, Famous Frocks, I just had to share some of the dresses in this book!

I went to downtown LA yesterday to poke around at the Textile Show there when I came across the most fabulous fashion book store I have EVER BEEN TO!
If you ever find yourself in the garment district of Los Angeles you must pop into the lobby of the California Mart on 9th Street. There you will find the aptly named,  Fashion Book Store.
There are books on fashion design, fashion history, pattern making, illustrating, clip art, dozens of international fashion magazines and books on almost every aspect of fashion. I would have taken a photo but the security guard asked me not to.

Anyway, there is a section there with some deeply discounted books, where I found the aforementioned book, Famous Frocks, on sale no less. Isabelle and I could have stayed there for hours browsing but Gigi was being a serious style cramper. Funny how some of those fashion types always look so surprised to see a child.

The book contains ten patterns inspired by photos of the original ten dresses worn by the movie stars who made them famous. These iconic dresses are considered timeless classics and the original designers are mentioned, although briefly. The adapted styles are a bit updated from the originals and simplified for the modern sewist, and because after all, this is a book, and it can't get that complicated. This pleased me because although I love vintage patterns, I'm not really a purist when it comes to vintage styles. I like to update them so I look current. I have made up some vintage patterns in the past that I just felt too costumish in and they languish in my closet.

So if you are a purist, you might not like the patterns in this book, as they are simplified and many of the patterns are designed for stretch knits which didn't exist when most of these styles originally came out. I however, love the ease of stretch knits and am really excited about trying some of these styles!

Read on to see some of the looks in the book that come with patterns.

One other thing I noticed about this book that might kill it for some of you: The largest size for the patterns in the book is a 37 bust, 30 1/2 inch waist, and 40 1/2 inch hip which is about a size 8 US or 40 European I think. Like many sewing project books, the patterns are all included in an attached envelope.

All ten styles come with variations. The first is similar to the original that inspired it, and the second is a little more modern.

The Audrey Hepburn

 The Betty Davis
 The Rita Hayworth, which is designed for stretch knit.
 A variation on The Rita Hayworth
 The Marilyn Monroe
 The Jackie O
 The variation for the Audrey Hepburn
 The Twiggy
 The Diana Ross
 The variation for the Farrah Fawcett
 The Stevie Nicks
 The Stevie Nicks variation
 The Madonna variation.
 And the more stereotypical Madonna.
Cute instruction pages!
So what do you think?
I think this book has some great styles!
Stay tuned for upcoming reviews on how the styles in this book will sew up!

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  1. booo for small sizes, but yay for great book. I'm sure some of the patterns could be sized up, but some of those vintage styles are hard. I can't wait to see what you make (and wear) out of it ;o)

  2. I have this book, which I ordered through Amazon when it first came out. I think everyone was excited about it until it actually came in the mail. For some reason, I was led to believe that the authors painstakingly worked to recreate the actual garments as pattern makers. Instead, the garments are loose interpretations of the iconic dresses. The Farah Fawcett, for example, bears no resemblance to the classic shirt dress in her photograph. The Bette Davis is the only dress that seemed to have interesting design lines; the rest don't appeal to me at all. Also, there are no photographs of the actual garments sewn up, so it's all a big gamble. Huge disappointment! I'm looking forward to what you sew up.

  3. I was fortunate enough to meet and talk to the author/patternmaker for this book. She actually is aware of all of the problems people have with the patterns, e.g. the sizing and the loose interpretation. Unfortunately, the publisher put a lot of constraints on her and her team that she wasn't happy about, but there was nothing she could do about it. The small sizes is because that's all that would fit on the size of pattern paper that the publisher was willing to pay for, and the lack of actual photos was the publisher's decision as well. The book was meant for more beginning sewers, so they had to be simple enough designs that could be explained and demonstrated easily. It's too bad that the publisher didn't seem to know what actual sewers wanted!

    If you want to see the actual garments, there are photos here:

    1. Thanks for the link Cindy. I checked out the photos of the sewn up
      Patterns and I was pretty impressed !

  4. This looks awesome! I am excited to see what you create. I am so for this book.

  5. I love your book recommendations! I always go immediately to our library site to put said book on hold. Thanks for posting this!

    1. Thanks jenny. I have so many sewing and design books and was thinking of doing more reviews.

  6. Wow... I have been to LA Fabric District so many times, but never stopped by there. I have to go there!

  7. First, I am thrilled that you reviewed this book. I've been looking at it on amazon for awhile and have read the reviews there. Many were not good which is why I haven't ordered it. I will now. I am not a vintage purist either so i am glad that the patterns are updated and the fabrics are more sensible....also, the Cal Patch is a two week delay on the Cdn amazon so I may end up being a bit behind on your design/sew-along...


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