Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Review: Couture Sewing Techniques

Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire B. Shaeffer

How to sew with couture techniques is a hot topic right now, as is just about anything with a "Couture" label. But true couture, that specialized apparel design system that is the property of the French is a unique breed of fashion. Similar construction can be found in fashions from other locations, of course. But all must attain a level of excellence that is rarely found in apparel construction.

Claire B. Shaeffer is an historian of couture who lives and breathes this medium. She is a prime expert in the field, especially in the area of construction technologies. Her book in the subject "Couture Sewing Techniques" originally published in 1993, has been one of the top references for sewing couture fashions. This spring her edited version has become available.

This edition seems flawless in scope and detail so it's difficult to imagine what might have been 'left out' in content. Techniques are shown both in detailed lined drawings and with colored photos. The historical couture fashions are great to see, and bring a high level of authenticity to this work. The topic of couture sewing is covered so completely that the book should become a 'must have' reference for any fashion sewist.

Couture Sewing Techniques
by Claire B. Shaeffer

Pub. Date: May 2011
Publisher: Taunton Press, Incorporated
Format: Paperback , 240pp
List price: $24.95

ISBN-13: 9781600853357
ISBN: 1600853358

The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques by Lynda Maynard

A second book with essentially the same title: "The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques" falls short when compared with the Schaeffer edition. Perhaps the editor felt that putting "couture" in the title was necessary to sell books? Whatever the reason, the title is misleading.

The techniques in this book are shown in step-by-step format with full color photos, and there are runway photo accents. This is a very visual book that captures the excitement of couture fashion.

What this book contains is a variety of fashion sewing techniques. The flow and content order in this book seem out of alignment. It begins with methods for bindings and finishes (that include techniques for knits), it ends with "Essential couture techniques". "Making a muslin" is in the final two pages before the glossary begins.

How can we end a book on couture sewing with the most important part of any fashion sewing experience: the pattern and fit? And why are "essential couture techniques" the last chapter? I would also ask why a couture book includes knits. While knits are part of the current couture line-up, the techniques we are shown belong in a sportswear text, not this one.

Overall, this would be better if it had been marketed as a fashion sewing handbook, although even then it would need more instruction into the art of fitting and pattern selection. The author is known for her fitting techniques, so perhaps that is another book.

The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques
by Lynda Maynard

Pub. Date: December 2010
Publisher: Interweave Press, LLC
Format: Paperback , 144pp
List price: $26.95

ISBN-13: 9781596682474
ISBN: 1596682477


Sandra at Debutante Clothing said...

Claire Schaeffer is a wealth of knowledge. I have learned so much from her insightful posts on the Vintage Fashion Guild forums. Truly a leader in the world of couture techniques.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the truth is, it is just hard to match Claire's knowledge and experience. I'd hate to have written a book with a similar title to hers.