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Actually, it’s top nine, readers! The first one doesn’t count – it is, in fact, a 1959 Soviet book with a title “Conversations About Housekeeping”. Forgive me, as it was my first and most precious sewing reference, inherited from my Siberian grandmother!

Photos: Chance or coincidence? My first sewing reference was printed in 1959, when USSR sanctioned the first ever couture show in the country’s capital Moscow. Yes, it’s Dior!

Later, the 1986 Russian translation of Line Jaque’s La Technique de la Coupe, which is an excellent book on patternmaking for both ready-to-wear and Haute Couture, was a real treat not only for Soviets.

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The out-of-print French original can still be found on eBay or Amazon. I don’t think there is an English translation.

However, I was not ready for this book at that time, readers. Besides, the appearance of Burda on Russian magazine market in 1987 was too big for me. Photography, styling, garment styles – everything was different from the often severe design of Soviet fashion sewing magazines or books.

Fast forward to 2011, I now possess almost every book on Couture Sewing I could find on Amazon, eBay, and from thrift stores. So, today, I list these books here in no particular order – they are all unique in my opinion.

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Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer was my second book on the subject. I never regretted buying it because it is, in my opinion, the most comprehensive document of couture construction. The author scrutinized piles of couture clothes from her own collection, museum archives and couture workrooms and revealed these secrets in the book.

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Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture is more specific as it is a book on couture bridal wear construction. Never mind if you are happily married, this book is just perfect for anyone who is interested in sewing evening or cocktail attire. Exhaustive instructions will guide you through construction of garments in, mostly, silk and lace. My advice, if you see this out-of-print book for sale, get hold of it, or purchase a PDF version on Susan’s website.

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Another out-of-print book by Susan Khalje (and slightly more affordable) is her Linen and Cotton. Not readily discernible as a couture book, it contains plenty of great techniques, such as making a contoured or boned waistband, underlining, lining a garment to the edge and many more.

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Visual learners will love A Dressmaker’s Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques by Lynda Maynard. Great step-by-step illustrations for almost forty techniques compensate for the fact that most of these techniques can be found in other couture or tailoring books.

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For great tips on graining, pressing, darts, and bias cut, among others, consult Couture: the Art of Fine Sewing by Roberta Carr, also out-of-print. A word of warning: to enjoy this book ignore some of the garment images. Silk bomber jackets, silk crepe de chine T-shirt combined with silk sweat pants – just to name a few – you probably know what I mean.

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A Collection of Sewing Tips by World Famous Designers is a set of five booklets published by Spadea – a sewing pattern company which printed some of the best designer patterns, especially in 50s and 60s. I found a lot of couture tips in these booklets: sewing single-thread dart, adding chain to jacket hems, underlining, using boning to stabilize square necklines – you name it. This collection is also available as a book, which occasionally resurfaces on eBay.

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Draping: Art and Craftsmanship in Fashion Design by Annete Duburg and Rixt van der Toll is not only a great handbook on this garment construction method, but it is also a great resource for anyone who wants to recreate some of the most famous garments by Charles Frederick Worth, Madeleine Vionnet, Madame Gres, Christian Dior, André Courréges, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin and Yohji Yamamoto.

And if you are interested in Pattern Magic of the early 20th century, and an amazing book on bias construction, get Madeleine Vionnet by Betty Kirke. Inside, 38 patterns of Vionnet’s creations produced between 1917 and 1938.

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Can you believe, this is just a few of books on couture sewing and construction? I have a few more, but what about you? Do you have books on couture construction techniques? Have you been able to use them?

~Marina

Marina von Koenig is a couture enthusiast blogging at Frabjous Couture.

22 Comments

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    Jun 11, 2014, 06.29 PMby SewNotWork

    I think the Susan Khalje book is great. It is out of print and seemed hard to come by, but recently it has been available on amazon.com and eBay for around $60. What a steal!!

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    May 28, 2012, 08.27 AMby Milena Bella

    I agree with all, including #1 (I am lucky to have Russian as my mother tongue, so many great books..) I would add the – Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers by Julie Christine Cole & Sharon Czachor. Simply the best sewing book out there.

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    Jul 29, 2011, 05.03 PMby gedwoods

    Thanks for this great list! I have several of these, especially the Couture books, but the Linen and Cotton one looks really useful as those are fabrics I’m constantly working with – I’ve already ordered it in!

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    Jul 27, 2011, 05.06 AMby emperorny67

    Well Actually I was looking for them today I just saw some of the one you showing here, but they don’t show many draping techniques. I’m looking for embellishments and embroderies

    1 Reply
    • Missing

      Jul 27, 2011, 12.27 PMby vlsews

      The Art Of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff. So many techines it will be hard to choose.

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    Jul 26, 2011, 09.14 PMby Richard Harper

    I have most of these books and consult them regularly; the Khalje and Carr books especially have been well-thumbed through. They’ve significantly changed the way that I sew.

    I have a Line Jaque book entitled (in English) “Sewing the French Way” which is all about couture technique but not patternmaking (IIRC). Certainly this isn’t the one you mean? I do not remember the original French title; I can certainly look it up…

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    Jul 25, 2011, 06.43 PMby tonierenee

    I have been lucky enough to find a couple of these books at my local library. (I had to check them out twice in a row and still didn’t get everything I wanted out of them, but I’m on the waiting list.) Now I will check for some of the other books from this list!)

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    Jul 24, 2011, 09.27 PMby teamydear

    Marina, As a former student of Russian you made me so happy with the scans of your grandma’s book! So cute!

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    Jul 24, 2011, 02.26 AMby marloncosta

    I only have one of the books mentioned “Draping: Art and Craftsmanship in Fashion Design by Annete Duburg and Rixt van der Toll” which is indeed a excelent book.

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    Jul 23, 2011, 09.21 PMby katexxxxxx

    Excellent! I have a couple of those, and shall be looking to add a few more to my whish list in time for Christmas. :)

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    Jul 22, 2011, 09.05 AMby urbandon

    Excellent article. Funny, only thinking the other day about couture technique books. Thanks!

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    Jul 21, 2011, 03.01 PMby aleah

    As I’m a poor poor student I can’t use my money for books – but this inspired me, nevertheless. The internet is pretty much a huge pile of usually free info, but some books would be nice.

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    Jul 21, 2011, 02.26 PMby jecouds

    Some people have said that the Maynard book describes more high end RTW methods rather than real couture. I agree. It’s still a decent book.

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    Jul 21, 2011, 02.24 PMby jecouds

    Keren: The new edition of the Shaeffer book is worth buying. I own both. There’s a great review on Amazon that compares the editions and explains why the second isn’t a mere update.

    I own two of those books and have borrowed two from the library and looked at one in the bookstore. It’s a good list.

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      Jul 21, 2011, 02.31 PMby keren

      Thanks! Grr! Why wasn’t the 2nd edition out when I bought the 1st..? I’ve been splurging on so much sewing shopping lately that I’ll add it to my wish list and get it later on. Thanks for the tip! :-)

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    Jul 21, 2011, 08.18 AMby keren

    Thanks for the tips! I just ordered a used copy of the Linen and Cotton book as well as the Spadea book. I have the Claire Shaeffer book – the 1st edition though! I hope I’m not missing out on anything for not having the 2nd edition. The Bridal Couture book sounds great but it’s expensive ($40 for the CD, $65 for a used book), so I might get it later on.

    1 Reply
    • Missing

      Jul 21, 2011, 02.27 PMby jecouds

      Didn’t notice the “Reply” button. See my response to you above.

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    Jul 20, 2011, 10.02 PMby jmkump

    I’ve read Claire Shaeffers, the pictures of couture garments alone are inspiring.

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    Jul 20, 2011, 09.31 PMby freakusbzzz

    I have about 5 now, most listed above.

    I bought: A Dressmaker’s Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques by Lynda Maynard last week and I have to say I’m a little disapointed wth sme of the instructons, they aren’t overly clear and appear to miss steps making it confusing. I am very happy with the others though, I must actually read the bridal couture one!

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    Jul 20, 2011, 09.28 PMby mariso

    I own the first five books on your list (after the Siberian one!! :-) – and love them all. I would also include the David Page Coffin books on shirts and pants. I make all my husband’s dress shirts and fond his books invaluable. I am enchanted with Lynda Maynard’s book and plan to work my woay thru many of her techniques. Cool list – thanks!!

    Maris Olsen http://sewmaris.com

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    Jul 20, 2011, 07.29 PMby Anita Merrill

    I’ve got two out of the nine Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer and A Dressmaker’s Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques by Lynda Maynard. Love them both.

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    Jul 20, 2011, 07.08 PMby sunnilj9

    These are excellent recommendations Marina! Thank you for such a great list! I had no idea about the Spadea Sewing Book – just bought it too! Thanks a bunch!

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