Review: “Creating Historical Clothes: Pattern Cutting From Tudor to Victorian Times”

Title: Creating Historical Clothes: Pattern cutting from Tudor to Victorian times
by Elizabeth Friendship
(c) Batsford 2013
ISBN: 0896762858

$21.00 – $26.00

Every once in awhile there comes a book that changes the shape of historical costuming ever after. One find one’s self referring back to a book like this hundreds of times, before, during, and even after a project is completed. So vast is the information contained within a book such as this, that it becomes a go-to source for the myriad questions that arise when working through the construction of a historical costume. Creating Historical Clothes: Pattern cutting from Tudor to Victorian times is one such book.

The Pros:

Creating Historical Clothes: Pattern cutting from Tudor to Victorian times covers just about everything you could ever want to learn about drafting patterns for each of these periods. It’s hard core.

The book starts with some serious lessons in basic pattern manipulation, detailing with description and diagram how to moved darts, flare skirts, adjust necklines, alter sleeves, and draft pants (to name just a few of the lessons).  Then it moves on to period-specific patterning, building on the lessons learned earlier in the book.

Each chapter covers period-specific patterning. Here on the left is a shaped sleeve with mariner cuffs, from the 18th c. – I wish I’d had this when I was doing the sleeves for my wedding gown.

Each chapter is quite in depth, covering not just the basic bodice and skirt silhouettes, but a brief history, and how to make the underpinnings as well. The chapters offer several different types of garments per period too.  For example, in addition to the basic 16th c. “Holbein” bodice, you get a mid-16th century bodice, a bodice with a stomacher, a doublet bodice, and a loose gown, for this century, to go with the many sleeve variations.

One of the major strengths of this book is that you use your own measurements to draft these patterns. These are not gridded patterns made from original garments, or to a single size, so the resulting clothing you make should fit you precisely. It does involve math, measuring, and the ever-dreaded mock-up(s), but the idea is to draft a specific pattern from the get-go, instead of correcting an ill-fitting one.

The Cons:

The book is intense. It is very much for costumers who are ready to draft their own patterns, and can make sense of the information. To beginners, the book will be overwhelming, though I do think it is helpful in advising how to alter existing patterns – for instance, enlarging a sleeve, or removing darts from a pattern.

Detailed diagrams and instructions outline how to draft this Elizabethan bodice. I particularly like that attention is paid to the necklines and should strap areas, and getting these correct and trued.

Despite the many diagrams, there are few pictures to show a finished garment made from any of the pattern diagrams, so it can be difficult to visualize what will result, especially for the 19th century variations. In this way I think the book is intended to be a jumping-off point for working out a muslin, and then tweaking your design from there.  I would recommend using the book in combination with your other research, and other books on historical costuming.


Creating Historical Clothes: Pattern cutting from Tudor to Victorian times is definitely one to add to your bookshelf, even if you aren’t quite ready for it yet.  I wish I’d had this book when I was making my grand pannier, or trying to sort out the construction for the LACMA Sacque-ma, or working out the kinks on last year’s Elizabethan doublet. It’s a fantastic reference and guide to working on patterns for a huge span of time.

Sleeves are often the trickiest part for costumers (I know they are for me). Here you can see clear diagrams on how to create shaped sleeves for the 18th c.


  • Trystan L. Bass

    January 19, 2014 at 6:59 AM

    Thanks for the review! I've been curious about this book – I've been making muslins & my own patterns for a few years now, but I actually find it easier to draft patterns than drape. I just don't have a good system for doing it yet. This might help fill that gap in my understanding 🙂

  • Kleidung um 1800

    January 19, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    Thank you for the detailed review. Sounds like a great source and helpful book.
    I have already worked with E.Friendship's book on men's garments and it was of such avail. It was crucial to read the whole book, because a lot of steps needed preparations, which were described in a prior chapter, but it was totally worth the effort. I've sucessfully assembled a lovely frock that fits like a glove!


  • Richard

    January 21, 2014 at 2:50 AM

    This look fascinating; I have used the men's book which is brilliant. I don't build that much women's clothing, but I'll bet this would really be wonderful when I would need it.

  • Cathy Raymond

    January 21, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    I would be curious to know how the 16th century clothing drafted and made using Ms. Friendship's book compare with the garments drafted using "The Tudor Tailor". That being said, if I had a large costume book budget, I'd put this one on my list even though my interests center on earlier time periods, because it sounds like a good book for learning to draft historical clothing patterns in general.

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