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By the Book: Couture Sewing Books

Haute couture is a fascinating part of the fashion and sewing industries. With an emphasis on detail and hand sewing techniques, home sewists can learn a lot from the way things are done in famous couture houses.

Here are some couture sewing books to get you started:

Claire B. Schaeffer is a couture designer and an expert in fashion history. She’s written numerous books about sewing, so her titles are a good starting point if you’re looking to build your library of couture sewing books.

Her Couture Sewing Techniques (2011) is an overview of couture sewing techniques and how to apply them, accompanied by helpful photographs. Couture Sewing: The Couture Cardigan Jacket (2013) is the resource to turn to for help in constructing a Chanel-inspired jacket with couture sewing techniques. A DVD is included, and Schaeffer demonstrates techniques that save time without decreasing quality. Couture Sewing: Tailoring Techniques (2013), which also includes a DVD, covers tailoring techniques that will improve the quality and lifespan of your garments.

Bluprint instructor Lynda Maynard covers finishing techniques in her book, The Dressmaker’s Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques (2010). Maynard demonstrates how to achieve better shaping as well as how to finish a garment the professional way.

The Art of Couture Sewing (2009), by Zoya Nudelman, is a practical guide to couture construction techniques. The book guides the reader through the process of constructing a couture dress. It also includes a brief history of couture.

Although an older title, Bridal Couture: Fine Sewing Techniques for Wedding Gowns and Evening Wear (1997), by Bluprint instructor Susan Khalje, will be of interest to sewists wanting to design and construct a dress for a special occasion. The book includes examples of the different styles of sleeves, skirts and bodices that can be combined to create the ultimate fantasy gown, as well as direction in the choice of fabric and construction methods. Susan’s Bluprint class, The Couture Dress, will guide you in creating the dress of your dreams.

Thomas von Nordheim apprenticed at a German couture salon and went on to work at London couture house Lachasse. He reveals his insider knowledge in Vintage Couture Tailoring (2012), showing how a lady’s jacket is made in step-by-step photographs. The tailoring techniques he demonstrates can be applied to garment construction for either gender.

For a more modern (and less time-consuming) take on couture techniques, Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing: A Modern Guide to Couture-Style Sewing Using Basic Vintage Techniques (2012), by Gretchen Hirsch, instructs on couture techniques, with an emphasis on customization. The book includes 25 patterns, so it’s a good place to start if you’re looking to expand your wardrobe with handmade items. 

Do you have any favorite couture sewing books? Please share in the comments!


gillian Sutherland

I love the Linda Maynard book Dressmakers’ Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques, but before I bought it, my favourite was, and still is Ann Ladbury’s book – ‘The Sewing Book – A Complete Practical Guide’ ISBN 0-85533-573-4 published by Mitchell Beazley. It may be out of print – if so IT SHOULDN’T BE. A fantastic book, which I was fortunate enough to find in a thrift shop(why anyone would want to give it away I din’t know), and paid next to nothing for it. It’s a no-nonsense book giving fabulous line drawings of instruction backed up by clear text, and covers all topics from hand sewing to machine sewing, and also gives home sewing techniques and embellishment choices.

Pat Leonardi

I will buy any book by Claire Schaeffer. She is a real pro. Also Susan Kalje and, of course Kenneth King. All pros that have much to teach me. I appreciate and thank them for their generosity.


Couture Sewing Techniques, Revised and Updated by Claire B. Shaeffer Is also very practical. The book has all the possible information needed for couture stitching along with coloured pictures of famous designers.


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