Review: Sew Iconic by Liz Gregory

Sew Iconic
Sew Iconic by Liz Gregory
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Publisher: Thunder Bay Press
Page Count: 146
Source: eBook from NetGalley

For anyone in need of a little more glamour, here is the answer to achieving your Hollywood dreams. Whether you’re seeking an A-list evening gown, a showstopping party frock, or a day dress to turn heads, Sew Iconic is the ultimate guide to re-creating the most stylish outfits ever to grace the silver screen.

Inside you’ll find:

Easy-to-follow steps and clear instructions to help demystify dressmaking for even the novice seamstress

Ten full-size dress patterns ready to trace

Full techniques section and glossary for easy reference

Review:  This book immediately caught my attention with the iconic picture of Marilyn Monroe (you know the one – where she’s attempting to hold down the white dress while the subway blows the wind up her skirt) on the front of a bright red background. More intriguing was Audrey Hepburn’s LBD (Little Black Dress) from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Now what woman doesn’t love that dress just for its elegant simplicity?

I am a moderate seamstress at best. In fact, I don’t consider myself a seamstress at all but rather a simple sewer. While I love every dress in the book, I had to decide what would be practical for me – and look good. While Grace Kelly’s chiffon gown would be a dream to wear, I’m afraid the last time I visited Monaco was, well, never. So I quickly narrowed down my choices to the LBD, Jennifer Gray’s pink swirl dress from Dirty Dancing, and Julia Roberts’ polka dots from Pretty Woman. I would save Catherine Zeta-Jones’ Chicago flapper-fringe for Halloween.

I then chose for ease of sewing. A handy chart tells you what is involved with each dress, for instance gathering stitches is required in only one dress (the Marilyn) while inserting a zipper is required in seven. Serging is required on the Julia dress and since I don’t own a serger, that one’s out of the running. I’m not quite sure what a Hong Kong seam is but the technique is explained in one of the Key Technique boxes that are scattered throughout the book to give you instructions on certain sewing procedures that are more detailed. There are also videos on tumblr to view everything from laying out the pattern pieces and resizing them to your own measurements to finishing seams.

After skimming through the details and instructions for the three dresses, I have opted for Baby’s pink mamba dress. After creating the pattern on paper, I take my body measurements *shivers* so I know how much larger to make the pattern. Yes, larger. I am no Baby and Patrick Swayze would never have been able to lift me. I soon decide that this is the hardest part of the whole project just because who really wants to see what their actual measurements are?

The best feature of this book (aside from making and wearing Rita Hayworth’s black sheath gown from Gilda) is the history Gregory imparts, from the actress to the film to the dress designer to the dress itself. Did you know Audrey Hepburn’s dress was created by famed-designer Givenchy? Or that Marilyn Monroe’s white dress sold at auction for $4.6 million? And that the emerald green of Keira Knightley’s gown in Atonement was created and dyed just for that gown? However, one of the most interesting facts is that the Gilda strapless gown contained a harness to hold it up. “Plastic was molded around the top of the dress and three stays were used under the bust…while a cross-body plastic stay sat just above the hip, to support the whole construction.”

The film history contained in the book is reason enough to put Sew Iconic in a place of honor on the coffee table but for seamstresses, dress designers, and even vintage dress-shops, it is the patterns and the easy instructions that make the book truly valuable.

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