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Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns

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Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns
A Complete Lady's Wardrobe. Edited by Kristina Harris. (Dover Publications, Mineola, New York: 1999. Pg. vi, 136.) ISBN: 0-486-40721-7.

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - June 6, 2005

For anyone with an interest in Victorian fashions or clothing history or Victoriana, the Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns - A Complete Lady's Wardrobe is an undeniable must have. Edited by Kristina Harris, this marvelous book contains patterns for fifty garments ranging from undergarments and sleep wear to ball gowns and riding habits. While ladies' street costumes predominate, you'll also find patters for ladies' drawers, tea gowns, wrappers, evening gowns, a nightdress, a tennis outfit, house dresses, an empire gown, and more. In all there are close to five hundred pattern pieces detailed in this book.

The patterns contained in this book were garnered from the pages of The Voice of Fashion, a popular fashion magazine in the 1890's and early 1900's. The patterns are all scaled dressmakers' patterns of the 1890's and you will need a modicum of dressmaking skill if you plan on reproducing any of these patterns. A brief set of instructions on how to use these patterns is included. In addition, the patterns for each garment are accompanied by an illustration of the garment, as well as specific details or instructions on how to construct the garment. Reproductionist and costume restorers will find this book invaluable as a source for new patterns, and also for the information the patterns offer on how Victorian Women's clothing was constructed.

For those not inclined to recreate any of these garments, the illustrations alone will fascinate anyone with interest in Victoriana or women's fashions. As well, Harris has included a brief introduction that provides an overview of the general cost of the clothing worn by women in the upper echelons of society in the 1890's - prices that put most of these garments out of the reach of most women. Yet many women still managed to 'wear the latest fashion, often by making copies of these expansive dresses themselves or by hiring a dressmaker to make a less costly version for them. To find patterns and ideas for their dresses, American women pursued a number of fashion and ladies' magazines then on the market. As such, the patterns in the collection not only serve as a superb resource for patterns for ladies' wear, but they also represent the types of images and patterns that American women in the 1890's would have been viewing, and copying, for themselves! It also provides an idea of what types of garments would have made up a ladies' complete wardrobe in the 1890's.

Related Reviews:

Victorian Fashions, Selected by Carol Belanger Grafton.
379 black and white images that illustrate the development of women's fashions from 1871-1903.

Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns and Tailoring Techniques, by S. S. Gordon.
A republication of the 1901 edition of The "Standard" Work on Cutting Ladies' Tailor-Made Garments.

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