Specifically, this is a review of Patterns of Fashion 5: The Content, Cut, Construction, and Context of Bodies, Stays, Hoops, and Rumps c. 1595-1795 by Janet Arnold, Jenny Tiramani, & Luca Costigliolo with Sebastien Passot, Armelle Lucas & Johannes Pietsch, to give the full title and credit to all involved.
It’s on sale exclusively from the publisher, the School of Historical Dress, in the U.K., and as of this writing in early November 2018, they are currently sending out all the pre-ordered books. They’ll begin selling once again after these orders are processed, so do check back. The book is NOT available through Amazon or other book-sellers for a variety of reasons (such as, this is a tiny research organization that sells books to fund its teaching and research efforts), and I think the list price of £35 with a mere £5 per book for postage from the U.K. to U.S. is incredibly reasonable. Sorry if you missed the pre-sale, but it’s worth the wait!
I have a Pavlovian response when I hear there’s a new Janet Arnold book out. I just have to I order it. The credit card is out before I know anything about the book. There’s something magical about that wide-format JA book hanging out of the bookcase — they never fit, so you just know they’re chock full of delicious knowledge, amirite?!? I haven’t kept all of my Patterns of Fashion (buh-bye, Victorian, I hardly knew ye), but others, like Vol. 3, are completely dog-earred and jammed full of sticky notes. I suspect this new one won’t get used too heavily because my distaste for corset-making is strong, but then, the new research is so delightfully displayed that I’m sorely tempted…
Friends, Patterns of Fashion 5 is a real upgrade from the past volumes, and that’s no dig at the others, just praise for how much work clearly went into this new book! Most every page is full of glossy imagery and often historical images I had not seen before (which for the 16th-century section, is impressive since that’s my specialty and there isn’t a wealth of stays and farthingale images to choose from).
Sure, you usually go to PoF for patterns, hence the name, and there are the requisite scaled patterns of stays and hoops. But the selection of period references is quite impressive, pulling from private archives to show details of undergarments that are, well, revealing.
Combined with this are many clear and detailed color photos of extant garments, which is very impressive (note: I don’t recall color photos in the other volumes, but my books are currently in storage; even if there were color pix, there weren’t this many).
The garments include corsetry, of course, but also full gowns that have boned bodices, such as a tons of photos of the 1660-70 silver dress at the Bath Fashion Museum, including X-rays of the pleated sleeve head. You don’t have to be a corset geek to love that kind of detail (I’m a sleeve geek, I was happy!). There are things like drawings of embroidery trim and fabric patterns from stomachers and stays, plus patterns of couching and backstitching laid out.
The section on hoops is fascinating from a construction aspect as the sizes go up to a truly grand court hoop petticoat c. 1750-70. Analyses of the materials used in the period, from baleen to canes, is included (German plastic ‘whalebone’ is a recommended substitute for baleen). I appreciate seeing the pleating diagrams at the top edge of the 18th-c. hoops because that helps explain how the un-hooped petticoat itself would go over the hoop too. I may never make anything from this book, but I can still pick up tips!
If you want to make structural undergarments from these historical eras, you must absolutely get Patterns of Fashion 5. But the book stands alone as an excellent resource about what women wore and the materials used to make garments of these periods. Jenny Tiramani and her team has done Janet Arnold’s memory proud with another excellent reference for our historical costume libraries.