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Late Victorian Women's Tailoring: The Direct System of Ladies' Cutting (1897 3rd Edition

1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0914046233
ISBN-10: 0914046233
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Editorial Reviews


"...a must-have for anyone interested in reproducing women's clothing with historical accuracy." --Recreating History Magazine

This is a reprint of the third edition which has been enlarged and
embellished with notes and additional illustrations. Mr. Holding was
one of the most renowned tailors of his day in addition to being a
talented, if not amusing author. This primary source material will
allow people to create exact garments of the period including jackets,
skirts, coats, capes, riding clothes, and in addition, cycling and
golfing apparel which had not been previously offered in other tailoring
manuals. He gives patterns, drafting methods, constructions methods,
and even fitting techniques and his systems are comprehensive and easy
to follow for someone with at least average sewing skills. Even though
styles have changed, his system of drafting is still useable as is his
advice on the most common alterations needed for jackets. Braiding on
garments was popular and there are excellent braiding diagrams as well
as additional illustrations of non-tailored items such as corsets,
gloves, shoes, hats, and underwear. I have an extensive background in
tailoring and I can recommend this book highly on a technical level, but
it would also most definitely appeal to costumers, re enactors,
designers, historians, museum curators, and people engaged in women s
studies. I enjoyed this immensely and it is a book I will treasure. --Mary Roehr, custom tailor/educator/author

In recreating historic fashions, I rely on four types of books: contemporary books about historic construction (Hunisett, Arnold, Waugh, Bradfield: books with photos of historic garments; fashion plates, portraits and photographs from the era; and actual instruction books from the period, such as those published by R.L.Shep. Mr Shep performs a great service for costumers and students of history, for it would cost much more in time, effort and money to obtain a fragile old book, than it does to purchase this sturdy reprint. He has added a number of complimentary illustrations from other period sources.

Mr Holding wrote the third edition (reprinted here) while looking back on a 35 year career of tailoring in London. His attitudes toward women are the peculiar mixture of gallantry and sexism of 100 years ago -- rabid feminists should get their shots before opening this volume! His advice on clothing construction is conservative and would apply many years before and after 1897. He in fact makes observations about changes in fashion for sleeves and skirts over the years.

As a BBW I was delighted by his attention to the needs of the stout woman, whom he declares to be an amiable customer and no trouble in fitting, unlike those skinny little things who are never satisfied with an outfit. Several patterns are specifically included for larger women.

I have seen other volumes of late Victorian and Edwardian patterns but none with so many different styles for sports. There are habits and capes for horseback riding, shooting, walking, cycling and golf, all testifying to women's increased physical activity. Patterns are included for the bloomers and pants to wear beneath the skirts of riding habits and cycling skirts, and instructions for taking these measurements without embarrassment to the customer. The riding habits are those strange Issy Miyake-like constructions that fit oddly on a standing woman, but arrange themselves perfectly when she is seated on a horse.

In my mind's eye, I could see the Guild whipping up cycling outfits and pedaling through Golden Gate Park. In reality I know that theses ensembles are best done in wool, using traditional tailoring techniques, and are not a quickie project, nor one that should be put to its intended use in this climate between April and October. But what a delightful read this book has been! --The Scribe, Greater Bay Area Costumer's Guild 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 187 pages
  • Publisher: R. L. Shep Publications; 3rd edition (June 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0914046233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0914046233
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 8.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,660,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. Filson on September 23, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'd been coveting this book forever and.. it's good. I just wish there was more variety. Seems like all it covered was a few riding habits, bicycling costumes, capes, coats and several jackets. I suppose I could modify some of the jacket options into bodices but.. there are SO many crazy, assymetrical fun bodices in the era of the late 1890s with yokes, hidden closures, fancy cuffs and all sorts of frippery but this book doesn't really cover any of them. A couple of sleeve styles are given, but they are plain-- no puffs or inserts to be seen. I guess I expected more of a dressmaker's guide- this appears to be purely "tailoring", as in suits /outerwear/sportswear.

What it does cover, it does well. Lots of little tailoring hints on fit and such.. although the period language can be tricky. Still trying to figure out if "inlays" refers to seam allowances. Very good black and white illustrations that are large and clear. There is a great section at the back with several pages of braiding/soutache designs, and the "Average Time Log" which breaks down exactly how many hours are involved in each step of each garment. Not sure how it would translate to a modern tailor, but nice to see, nonetheless.

This is not a book for beginners-- it is pattern drafting and the language requires some patience to decipher. But as a true period resource it might be a good go-to book for someone looking to replicate an outfit from this era or just to read up on technique. It's kind of a fun read, the text is full of nutty little descriptions about the clothing. If you are advanced to the point of tailoring and aces with wool and quilted padding, then you'd probably love this book.
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