Book Review: Masterpieces of Women’s Costume of the 18th and 19th Centuries

It has been a while since I did a book review, so I thought I would pick another favorite from my library. This was a book that always intrigued me, especially when I was sewing for Felicity and Addy much of the time. The front cover featured these three gorgeous, full skirted dresses and it just captured my imagination. For the life of me, I searched and searched for someone who was selling the book on Ebay, hoping that they might have pictures of the inside of the book so I could see if it was something I would like to invest in. I never could find out what the inside looked like so I ordered it and took a chance.
Anyway, let me tell you about the book:

It is a large softbound (paperback) book that has a glossy front cover and is quite large…9 1/4″ x 12 1/4″. There are 84 pages in this book but a lot of information is given on those pages!



It is written and beautifully illustrated by Aline Bernstein. The book is published by Dover Publications and has a copyright date of 2001.

The book covers the years from 1700 or 1710 to the 1880’s. It has 32 beautiful sketches and illustrations of costumes and the front part of the book has descriptions of the fashion plates. Each one goes into details about what is being shown.




Here is a dress I made for Elizabeth using the picture above as my inspiration…





In the middle of the book there are color illustrations that make your creative juices really go wild. I don’t know about you, but I love looking at color plates of women’s fashions in bygone days.





It has the best illustrations on how the dress pieces were cut out to make the dress the way it was. As a seamstress, this was my favorite thing to study…


I used this book and copied many of the dresses I made for Felicity, but those pictures seem to have been deleted. Sorry, I can’t find them anywhere.

Many line drawings are of the undergarments worn for each particular dress, as well as shoes, hats, and even hair styles for those years.



I think it is a great book to have in your collection…if only for the drawings…they are exquisite in my opinion. Maybe it’s one you should add to your library.

See you tomorrow,
Blessings, Jeanne


  1. Thank you Jeanne. I love book reviews!

    • Jeanne W says:

      HI Marsha,
      I’m glad you enjoyed the book review. I have plenty still left to share… do you have lots of books that you get ideas from or are you a “natural born designer?”
      Thanks Marsha,
      Blessings, Jeanne

  2. Jeannie B. in TX says:

    Jeanne, I found your book review very interesting indeed ! The illustrations are outstanding in both the finished garments as well as garment construction. In particular, the plate that showed the light brown tone dress with the drawing to the left hand side. I would never have thought to draft a pattern with the skirt in such a way. The bodice seems to be one piece with the skirt and the fullness of the skirt is added at the side seam. How very interesting! I just might have to find this book and add it to my small but growing collection. Thank you !

    • Jeanne W says:

      HI Jeannie,
      I know what you mean about the pattern pieces… they are almost like puzzle pieces…very intricate! I can’t imagine sewing them all by hand…what patience the seamstresses must have had.
      You for one, will certainly enjoy this book if you get it.
      Thanks too, for your kind email… I’ll answer it later…
      blessings, Jeanne

  3. Good morning Jeanne, What a wonderful book. I can’t imagine someone making those dresses back in the day when they had no sewing machines. The amount of sewing must have been a huge job for anyone! Especially the grand gowns.
    It’s interesting to view old dresses from earlier days when they are on display at museums. To imagine someone making one of those dresses and how fragile it is, is amazing.
    I love the girl’s gowns you showed today. They are just beautiful.
    Have a great Monday.

    • Jeanne W says:

      HI Paula,
      That’s just what I was telling Jeannie…sewing these fancy dresses by hand must have taken forever! I can’t imagine doing it.
      I wish that I had paid more attention to the details of some of the dresses when I visited my sister in Gettysburg, PA. I looked at them, but didn’t pay close enough attention to them.
      I think I’d be lost if I ever went to a fancy museum where hundreds of dresses were on display. They might as well drop me off and pick me up at dinner!
      Thanks Paula,
      Blessings, Jeanne

  4. So interesting! Aren’t you glad we are not squeezed into all the undergarments that went along with those designs? Makes me think that in the days of no deodorant and no air conditioning that the laundry lady would be kept very busy!
    We are so lucky…and so spoiled! 🙂

    • Jeanne W says:

      HI Kathie,
      I am very hot natured, so I think I’d be one of those ladies who was “swooning” all the time. Me and hot weather, especially humidity, don’t mix. As I looked at all the pieces worn under the dresses, I can’t imagine how the ladies did it. It seems like they would be a miserable lot of women!
      Yes, we are very blessed to have AC and ice!
      Blessings, Jeanne

  5. Carolyn says:

    I love the book reviews! I actually have that particular book in my collection. I bought it (from Amazon, I think) several years ago when I was doing some historical costuming. Even if you know the style of the era, it really helps to have pictures showing how much or how little trim to use. The construction photos are helpful also. Of course, I love the historical outfits on the dolls!

    • Jeanne W says:

      Hi Carolyn,
      Thanks for your comments. What I like about the book and the pattern pieces, is that sometimes when you see a dress with a print on it, it’s hard to tell where the seams are showing off the details of the dress. When you see the pattern pieces, it really helps to visualize the dress.
      Thanks so much, Carolyn,
      Blessings, Jeanne

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