Friday, October 12, 2012

Sewing Book Review - The Party Dress, by Mary Adams

After my last post, I started thinking that for someone who adores books and libraries as much as I do, I don't talk about them very much. I'm going to write a little bit about some of the books I borrow from the library, and if it goes well, I might make it a regular feature on the blog. Let me know what you think!

Since I talked about The Party Dress Book on Wednesday, I figured I might as well write my first review about that book.

I first found The Party Dress Book on a shelf at Borders (a mental toast to a dearly departed bookstore...I feel so much sadness for the slow demise of so many brick-and-mortar bookstores) and found myself unwilling to put it down and unable to fork over the cash for it. When I found it at the library, I had to take it home and pore over every page.

The full title of this book is The Party Dress Book: How to Sew the Best Dress in the Room. Some people might criticize the book for containing too much fluff and not following through with enough how-to information, but I would have to completely and utterly disagree with them. I adore this book unabashedly. So much so that I might actually reach into my tiny pockets and hand over the change so I can own my own copy.

As you can see from the Contents, Mary spends a lot of time discussing her own career, where she got her ideas, and what events/things were instrumental in the development of her unique and beautiful style.

The book begins with a forward by Amy Sedaris, and it's the perfect introduction. She describes her first view of Mary's shop as "a pastry shop full of cakes dripping in colorfully dyed buttercream icings. It was a deaf person's dream."  Just look at the photo of the shop and try to disagree:

Mary spends the next 30 pages or so talking about color, which is clearly very instrumental in her own sewing. If you want the best dress in the room and you want people to notice it, the color has to be perfect. Interspersed with the text are tons of gorgeous, colorful, inspiring photos.

Remember how I said the most amazing, stunning, gorgeous dress I've ever seen in my life is on pages 58 and 66? Here's page 58. To see the details of the dress, you'll have to check out the book yourself and flip to page 66.

The next three dozen pages are all about the techniques that Mary uses to create what I would call amazing works of wearable art. She discusses French seams, piecing, quilting, applique, pintucks, ruffles, and bias strips. The woman can work magic with bias strips, I'm telling you. She teaches the technique with clear photos and instructions, then gives examples of some of the amazingly creative things you can do with them (French seams are not just for hiding inside a garment!)

The majority of the book - almost 50 pages - discusses sewing your own version of the dress. Did I mention there's a pattern in the back of this book? There is. Actually, there are two, and they're awesome, and I really, really, really want to sew one up. I've only been able to find one blogger who's made this dress up (check out The Little Red Squirrel), but her dress is stunning, and her posts about the pattern make it seem like the pattern is pretty well-drafted and easy to put together. My one criticism of this book is that the range of sizes of the patterns provided is not very great, since it only covers size 4 (33" bust) to size 14 (40" bust). However, I think that this book is worth the money I'll spend on it even considering the fact that I'll have to grade the pattern down slightly, and if you have to grade it up or down more significantly than I will or don't even end up using the pattern at all, I would still say it's worth it for the inspiration, information, and sheer volume of gorgeousness.

Anyway, moving on from the pattern, Mary covers the planning phase, focusing especially on fabric, and then goes on to discuss measurements, yardage requirements for different fabrics and versions of the dress, and fabric prep. Then she gets into the pattern itself, showing how to make up the dresses in three different ways. She provides thorough instructions for sewing the dress, and there are tons of photos to show as well as tell.

So. I don't know about you, but I'm definitely buying this book. Or asking for it for Christmas. I'm planning on sewing lots of cake this year, but after reading this book, all I really want is frosting. And I'm going to have some. Maybe for New Year's Eve? I think that means I should buy the book myself, since I can't start a New Year's Eve dress after Christmas. :)

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