Buy it, then go sew, December 27, 2007
I had made the Laughing Moon Dore corset by the time I bought this book, and I also own the How to Build and Fit a Victorian Corset DVD, by JoAnn Peterson. Bonnie Holt Ambrose isn’t telling me much I haven’t already seen, but she does have enlargeable patterns for three corsets, and she’s basically reinforcing what I know: corsets are tricky and the best way to learn how to make them is to make them. Let your first one be an experiment, and in the worst case, you can cut it up and re-use the steel.
Reviews of some patterns suggest that Laughing Moon has perhaps the best instructions, and between that and the DVD I had about as much information about MAKING a corset as it was possible to get. If you’re using a different company’s pattern, or coming to this cold, or with a very limited budget, then BHA’s book will probably help you out. If you’re inclined to make your own patterns, the book will be useful. If you will have to make lots of different-styled corsets for theatrical events and need a starter pattern, this book will be useful. If you want historical exactitude, keep looking. In terms of data-for-the-dollar, this little book is worth everything I paid for it.
I certainly don’t think the book is “rubbish” in any way. Corsets are probably the trickiest garment I’ve ever made. There is, IMO, no way to “get it exact” on the first pass, because even making TWO muslins, the garment acted VERY differently once the steel was in place. It’s not about the pattern, exactly. It’s about the pattern plus the steel plus the lacing plus the individual’s body. Some of us squish more than others.
For the record, the book also contains instructions for a chemise and drawers.
You might also want to google the author and visit her website to see the kind of costume work she does. If her work parallels yours to any extent, the book is likely to be all the more useful to you.
Three stars because: It’s not a great book. I save five stars for books that change my life, and this one won’t. It’s tiny (4″ x 6″). It’s good value for the money.