We’ve had Simon Henry’s The Little Black Dress: How to make the perfect one for you in the workroom library since it came out in 2009 and have always found it a GREAT introduction to basic pattern making from a block or sloper.
Amazon says of it:
Every woman needs it! The Little Black Dress is the ultimate timeless, failsafe garment. But where is a girl to find an LBD that’s tailor-made, fits perfectly, and compliments her body? The answer: make one! Expert dressmaker Simon Henry guides even the sewing-impaired through the entire process. He explains all the materials and the techniques, and shows how to construct and fit a personalized body block that forms the basis for every pattern in the book. Choose from three classic styles: a chic shift, a fashionable wraparound, and an elegant strapless cocktail dress with a jacket and hat to match!
And this is, of course, true. We want to get into the meat of why we find this particular book about the 20th century’s most talked about garment so useful up here.
In a lot of ways, Henry has created a book that is very similar in spirit to our mid-century draping and drafting manual Dress Design: Draping and Flat Pattern Making that we reviewed not long ago. But Henry has managed to pare down the work to make it much more approachable than older textbooks and manuals on pattern making and block shaping. He strips away all of the detail to leave you with the clean shapes and lines of the block while walking you through the drafting and construction sequence.
You have three basic garments to choose from:
The Audrey, a basic sleeveless shift.
The Greta, a surplice front wrap with sleeves.
The Marilyn, a fitted strapless with waist detail.
There are also some bonuses at the end – he gives you a jacket and basic hat patterns with techniques to play around with. We were already sold when we saw the simplicity of the book and how well it was written, but you give us a hat thrown in and we are throwing our dollars at you.
He walks you through some basic sewing tools and vocabulary before introducing the various sewing techniques you will need for the garments.
He then introduces the concept of pattern blocks and shows you how those basic blocks relate to the 3 shapes.
Once he has walked you through the concepts in a very straightforward way, he shows you how to adapt them for each of the three dresses.
We’d add here that, if you have ever been intimidated by drafting a sleeve, his instructions are probably the most approachable and most useful we have seen in a book on block and sloper drafting for the home sewer or beginning designer.
So run, do not walk, to buy this book. The language and instructions are approachable and the skills you will learn and put to use will definitely be worth it.
This is just such a great little manual: approachable, clean, and entirely worth your hard-earned sewing dollars.
Incidentally, We were recently writing about Simon when we wrote about Verena’s beadwork for her wedding dress. We never put together that this Simon and that Simon were the same person until we checked out his Instagram account.