Book Review: Fashion Sewing For Everyone

Fashion Sewing For Everyone
Adele P. Margolis
New York: Doubleday, 1974

When my local studio let me borrow this book, I was pretty excited. It had the hard cover, heft, and line drawings of my mom’s Joy of Cooking (1975). Maybe it would have the same usefulness and charm. Or of The Joy of Sex (1972). Well…sorta but not quite.

Practical usefulness:
Almost every sewing technique a home sewer might need is in here. How to stitch a corner, insert a zipper, restore the grain of a fabric, make a shoulder pad, manipulate darts, lay out a pattern, and much much more. A quarter of the book is devoted to fairly advanced tailoring techniques. That section is a great resource. And if this book doesn’t cover what you’re looking for, the author helpfully (shamelessly) directs you to her other books, “Design Your Own Dress Patterns” and “How to Make Clothes That Fit and Flatter”.

However. Even though the info you need is in here, you might not be able to find it. I could not figure out the organizational scheme of this book. It neither advances from basic to skilled, nor divides into logical reference categories. It jumps right into darts, zippers, facings, and ruffles (!) before talking about seams and hems. Seam finishes are explained in the chapter on hems but french seams are in the chapter on sheer fabrics and flat-fell seams in the chapter on lining tailored garments. Also, this book is awfully wordy and the illustrations aren’t that helpful. I doubt everyone can follow instructions like this.

Historical interest:
1974 is in that less interesting zone between the really vintage and the contemporary. I was two years old. Watergate happened. And ABBA. You could, apparently, find hair canvas at your local fabric store. Most home sewing machines could only do a straight stitch. No sergers in sight. But women can wear pants and “boys can borrow from us our fancy fabrics and our frills.” (p. 184) Fusible interfacings and synthetic fabrics are all the rage. If only the book included a pattern for an ABBA jumpsuit…

Conclusion:
The best parts of this book are Margolis’ encouraging attitude and disregard for hard and fast rules, even as she explains the traditional methods. “Anything goes—if it works!”

Margolis seems to have been a grand lady and Massachusetts local. For a charming obituary see http://jwa.org/weremember/margolis-adele

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One Response to “Book Review: Fashion Sewing For Everyone”

  1. Lakaribane Says:

    I bought a reissue of Make Your own Dress Patterns and, after reading your post, am tempted to hunt down the two other books, I love it that much! Thank you for the link to her profile, she must have been wonderful to know.

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