BOOK REVIEW: Gertie’s Ultimate Dress book

RELEASED today, we know this is a dressmaking book a lot of you have been waiting for! Unlike sewing patterns, where you can usually find reviews for projects, knowing what projects are like in a sewing book and finding reviews of makes can be a bit more tricky. So today we are reviewing, hot off the press, Gertie’s Ultimate Dress bookby Gretchen Hirsch.

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Gertie’s Ultimate Dress book is Gretchen Hirsch’s third book and this one focuses on dresses plus all the techniques and skills needed for dressmaking. There are 23 vintage-inspired dresses for daywear and parties and an introduction with tutorials on how to sew and choose fabrics. The book has been designed so that you can mix and match different designs to customise the details of each dress to your own style.

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For the vintage-lover, A wardrobe of dresses, 1950s rockabilly

what projects are included

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There are 23 dress projects in total and the book also includes paper patterns tucked into an envelope at the back. The dresses can be made in sizes 2 – 16 (American sizing) with Bust 32″ – 46″, Waist 24″ – 38″ and Hips 36″ – 50″.

Day/work dresses: Blue wool work dress, Floral Chiffon dress, Peplum Wiggle dress, Plaid Secretary dress, Floral Day dress, Cherry Corduroy dress, Cranberry Wool dress, Cashmere Peplum dress, Hot pink crepe dress,

Party dresses: Emerald Faille party dress, Flocked Tulle party dress, Pink Lace party dress, Polka Dot day dress, Shantung dress with roses, Wedding dress, Fringed cocktail dress,

Holiday dresses: Faux Sarong dress, Plaid Rockabilly dress, Blue Floral ‘Sailor’ dress, Red eyelet halter sundress,

Out and about dresses: Floral Surplice dress, Lace-up Gingham dress, Beaded Collar wool dress,

who is the book suitable for

There are definitely some dressmaking projects advanced beginners could make from this book, such as Floral day dress, Cherry Corduroy dress, Cranberry wool dress, Beaded collar wool dress or Polka dot day dress. I would say though that the book is aimed more at the dressmaker with some experience who has made a few outfits already. You would then be comfortable making most of the designs in the book but there are still some techniques to challenge you, such as the lace-up gingham dress, Fringed cocktail dress (which required boning) or the Pink Lace party dress. The book has a mix of casual day wear and party dresses so you really could fill your wardrobe for all occasions, there is even a wedding dress! The book has a strong 1950s vintage style throughout, so it’s perfect for fan’s of Gertie’s blog and vintage-lovers. If you aren’t a fan of 1950s style full skirts and nipped in waists then this probably isn’t one for you!

let's have a browse inside

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The book is divided into nine main sections: Getting ready to sew, Basic dress construction, Finishing details, Giving the dress structure, Techniques for special fabrics, Fitting, Patterns, Pattern maps, Resources.

The book starts off with an introduction to selecting fabrics, a list of supplies, laying out your pattern pieces and seam finishes.

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The book then covers basic dress constructions techniques and some stages are accompanied by photos of the methods. Topics include setting a sleeve, inserting a zip and linings/facings.

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The next chapter covers finishing details from hand sewing stitches to hemming, tacks and decorative customising tips such as trims, buttons and bows.

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There is also a section on giving your dress structure, which is really useful as many vintage styles require the addition of boning, ruffles and stays or supports to give the outfit an authentic look.

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There is also help for dealing with specialist or difficult fabrics such as lace or matching plaids. The final instruction chapter covers fitting, finding your size, making a muslin and fitting this to your body shape.

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The lay plans for each pattern are listed at the back of the book and by grouping them together it makes it easier to work out your lay plans if you are mixing and matching the styles.

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The book then follows on with all the dressmaking patterns. Below is the first project in the book, the Blue Wool work dress. The instructions are listed and some of the more complicated stages are illustrated. The turquoise box accompanying each pattern list the key skills needed to make the pattern, supplies and pattern pieces.

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The dressmaking patterns aren’t group in any particular way so we’ve included a sample selection below to give you a feel for the styles included.

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Final thoughts: If you are new to dressmaking you can learn a lot from this book and the dress styles allow you to put all these skills into practice, helpfully listing the skills required and referencing to where the tutorials can be found in the book. It’s always a bonus when paper patterns are included with the book but you will need to trace these. The mix and match nature of the book design is really useful so you can customise you garments easily. If I could change anything it would probably be the book binding, i’m a traditional gal and ring binding is not my thing, but that’s personal preference.


Gertie’s Ultimate Dress book by Gretchen Hirsch, published by STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book (£21.99).

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