Monday, October 11, 2010

The Party Dress Book

A new addition to my bookshelf is The Party Dress Book: How to Sew the Best Dress in the Room, by Mary Adams.

The Party Dress Book wasn't quite what I had in mind. I expected a book on party dresses as formal wear, with lots of couture details and technique, but what Adams has produced is that and more and, by the way, a hell of a lot more fun than the book I expected to receive.

Adams' dresses are fun, flirty, and definitely non-traditional, as is her attitude. This, from the preface, made me warm right up to her:

"When I'm creating a dress, I like to work spontaneously, picking and choosing color, fabric and style without much planning. There are no rules, and if there are, they're mine: I can change my mind throughout the process. It's important to remember that imagining something is a whole different matter than seeing the actual elements together. . . . I have a 'no-throwaway' policy, and never give up on a project or its parts but merely set them aside until they can be reinvented at another time (and remain available to pick through with each project)."

I don't know about you, but, "There are no rules, and if there are, they're mine," is going to get a lot of use in my life, both in and out of the sewing room.

Adams' background, which she covers in Part 1, is in art, not sewing, though she learned to sew at age 12. She talks about her inspirations: hippie patchwork, fifties glamour, color, and starting out in the fashion business.

Party Colors, the next section, is pure candy store. Nothing is off limits. Adams works with a lot of transparent fabrics - organdy, organza - layering colors and fabrics and turning out fanciful, candy-colored dresses that make you smile.

In Part 3, Party Tricks, the author goes through techniques essential to executing her dresses. Some, such as french seams and pintucks, maybe beyond the skills of the novice, but Adams' tone is both patient and friendly, and the techniques are well illustrated with both drawings and examples of her work.

There's a full-size pattern in the back of the book, sized 4-14, and the last section, It's Your Party, provides 3 distinct options for making the dress. Each fabrication (silk taffeta, cotton, layered organza) can be constructed with a variety of necklines, skirt lengths and trims, allowing the you to completely customize your dress. There are tips on meauring, though only the "big 3" measurements are required for the dresses. Also noted are yardage requirements for each dress, and a list of notions and supplies.

The illustrations for constructing the dresses are very thorough, and again Adams emphasizes that it's never too late to change a design, to be patient while waiting while your ideas come together, and to enjoy the process.

The Party Dress is a fun book with luscious photography which I think will really strike a chord with younger sewists who are ready to venture beyond "safe" projects into something really special. The projects in this book give a lot of bang for your buck: with patience, even a sewist with less experience can turn out a party dress to be proud of. I'm glad to see a book that doesn't talk up or down; if you're not up to a technique yet, try another one, but try something, make a dress!

As someone who's sewn for more years than I care to admit, Adams' attitude is a breath of fresh air and the dresses shown in the book were an inspiration - while a lot of them aren't my style, that didn't matter at all. Her techniques (piecing, pintucks, the completely insane bias strip method) will definitely be seen in my sewing room in the near future, and her attitude toward creativity will stay with me for even longer.


Irene said...

Hmmmm. Looks like a book that would definitely be worth investing in, even if it's only for looking at. I love pretty pictures!

Vicki said...

Sounds like a really interesting book!

Connie said...

Add me to the list of people who think that book looks interesting! Thanks for the heads up Karen!

Nancy K said...

This would never be a book I'd think of buying, but you may have talked me into it.

lsaspacey said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I love Mary Adams ever since I saw some of the creations she's made for Amy Sedaris (she's worn them on David Letterman, tulle petticoats and all) I wouldn't have heard about this book for months. Thanks for such a great peek!

Rose said...

Thanks for the review. It sounds like a fun book

Little Hunting Creek said...

This looks like just my cup of tea. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Oh heck, I couldn't resist. I've just ordered it from Amazon - plus one or five others!!!
Looking forward to seeing you next week.
Sheila in Brussels

Helaine said...

Great review! I got a copy and LOVED IT! I especially appreciated how Mary Adams tied fashion and social history to design. Her dresses are gorgeous- feminine and fun. This book is a perfect gift for anyone interested in design/sewing/art.