Note: The Edwardian Modiste has been recently reprinted in a small, limited edition.

Edwardian, Titanic, and Downton Abbey Sewing Patterns

The Edwardian Modiste.  Edwardian Sewing Patterns

85 Authentic Patterns
With Instructions, Fashion Plates, and Period Sewing Techniques


Edwardian Modiste--1905–1909 sewing patterns
The 85 patterns and 91 fashion plates in this book were reproduced from rare originals of the 1905 American Garment Cutter Instruction and Diagram Book and 1907–1909 issues of the quarterly American Modiste. These publications were used by both professional dressmakers and amateurs. They offered sophisticated fashions, artistic illustrations, fashion columns describing the latest styles, and pattern instructions. They also provided the ability to create patterns for the wearer’s individual measurements with the American System of Cutting. Using special rulers that eliminated arithmetic, even untrained designers could enlarge pattern diagrams to the correct size. The Edwardian Modiste provides a full set of rulers and detailed instructions for readers who wish to use the American System. It also explains how to enlarge the patterns by projection.
The years from 1905 to 1909 saw a transition from the turn-of-the-century S-curve figure to the straighter line of the 1910s. Throughout, women wore outfits appropriate to the season, occasion, and time of day. Formal dresses were made of luxurious fabric richly trimmed; street suits were elegantly styled and finely tailored; and lingerie was made of sheer fabric decorated with hand embroidery and lace. All the major styles and most garments are represented in this book. The patterns include lingerie, home robes, day dresses, street suits, blouses, afternoon and evening gowns, winter coats and jackets, sports outfits, and motor coats.
The Edwardian Modiste also includes carefully selected sections from a 1907 sewing manual, The Complete Dressmaker. These give fabric suggestions and sewing techniques for most garments, including wedding gowns, maternity wear, and mourning. Especially noteworthy are the hard-to-find instructions for ladies’ tailoring. A substantial glossary explains fabric names and dressmakers’ terms.
This book is a rich pattern source for readers who recreate period costumes for the theater, living history, heirloom sewing, or bridal wear. It’s a valuable identification and dating tool for vintage clothing collectors and dealers, costume historians, and fashion plate collectors. And it will spark ideas for fashion designers.


“This book [contains] women’s Edwardian patterns [plus] a wealth of information on period women’s sewing techniques, and an explanation of dressmakers’ terms.
I believe The Edwardian Modiste could be a valuable resource for both the patterning and construction of women’s period fashion, as well as a good tool for design research. It follows the evolution of women’s popular fashion from 1905 through October 1909. The information is broken up by seasonal style changes. Each new season is defined by a detailed explanation of changing trends. This information ranges from the changing cut of the garments to fit, fabrication, and trimming. . . . Each pattern is presented with detailed instructions for creating the pattern, garment fabrication, and achieving the proper period fit.”
—— Cutters’ Research Journal
“For those accustomed to the excellent diet of pattern books by Janet Arnold and Norah Waugh, this is a delightful feast of contemporary female Edwardian patterns. The book is based on originals from 1905 through 1909. The scaled-down patterns are singular in utilizing a sophisticated proportional system called the American System of Cutting patented by Jonathan Nelson in 1902. This enables the patterns to be scaled up to fit any size female provided that five relevant body measurements are taken. . . . Turn to the back of the book and photocopy and cut out the patent tape measures. . . . Imperial measurements are used throughout the text but the pattern configurations are independent of either imperial or metric measurements.
The styles in the book are superb and range from day wear (including golf and bathing) to evening clothes, and from underwear to coats. . . . The typical Edwardian fashion plate style [features] Barbie Doll size contours with a 38-inch (97 cm) bust ballooning out above an 18-inch (46 cm) waist. Fortunately, the proportions used for the patterns are more realistic and to confirm this a test drive of the 1905 Practice Waist (bodice) was inevitable. I based a toile on my own [measurements]. With minimal adjustments, the result was an excellent sculptured period fit. . . .
A helpful glossary and useful extracts from a contemporary dressmaking guide are included. . . . The book will be invaluable to costumiers, costume historians, and designers.”
—— Costume (Journal of the Costume Society, United Kingdom)
“I’m just writing to let you know what a pleasant surprise, and a real treat, I received when I ordered your book on Edwardian patterns. I was designing a rather new script of Dracula which the director and I felt needed to be set around 1907 when I ordered your book. . . . When the cutter and I were really looking at the patterns, it hit me. The system which these are based upon is one that I own the original measuring devices for. (I collect antique patterning systems—most of which I have tried out in production use to find out if they really work or not.) Using the original measuring devices, the garments for the production not only cut correctly, but looked absolutely marvelous after construction in silks and cotton lawns.
I just thought I’d let you know how wonderful the patterning system is. My cutter was like a child playing with it, and so was I.”
—— A theatrical costumer
“I’m frustrated that there aren’t enough authentic patterns, with the fine details that they had, being produced out there, except for the Halloween-type costumes. This is a great resource for patterns that have the look and period-correct construction techniques.” “This is a great introduction to drafting your own patterns from vintage sources. The drafting method is easy to figure out. The patterns are stylish and functional.” “I found the historical sewing instructions extremely insightful.” “I see several things I can incorporate into my everyday wardrobe that would be very striking.” “I was seriously surprised and delighted to find that everything I have made has fit on the first pass through.” “It was actually easy—far easier than using many of the commercially available patterns. Since the pattern was drafted for my particular body, using my measurements, it was almost fully custom as drafted.”
—— Reader comments

Table of Contents (readable with Adobe Acrobat)

Author Biography

Frances Grimble is the author of After a Fashion: How to Reproduce, Restore, and Wear Vintage Styles, The Lady’s Stratagem: A Repository of 1820s Directions for the Toilet, Mantua-Making, Stay-Making, Millinery & Etiquette, Reconstruction Era Fashions: 350 Sewing, Needlework, and Millinery Patterns 1867–1868, Fashions of the Gilded Age, Volume 1: Undergarments, Bodices, Skirts, Overskirts, Polonaises, and Day Dresses 1877–1882, Fashions of the Gilded Age, Volume 2: Evening, Bridal, Sports, Outerwear, Accessories, and Dressmaking 1877–1882, Bustle Fashions 1885–1887: 41 Patterns with Fashion Plates and Suggestions for Adaptation, Directoire Revival Fashions 1888–1889: 57 Patterns with Fashion Plates and Suggestions for Adaptation, and The Voice of Fashion: 79 Turn-of-the-Century Patterns with Instructions and Fashion Plates. Over 60 of her articles on sewing and vintage clothes have appeared in national magazines, such as Threads, Sew News, and Antique Trader Weekly. Frances Grimble has been a how-to writer and editor since 1983. She has worked for book publishers, magazine publishers, and software companies; she has written a number of user manuals and coauthored a computer book.
Frances Grimble has substantial formal education in researching social history and in clothing design. In 1974 she began making historical reproductions for periods from the Renaissance into the 1920s; she tries to schedule regular sewing time in addition to that required by her writing projects. Since 1972, she has collected vintage clothing and accessories from the late 18th century into the mid 20th.

Publication Data

8 1/2” x 11” quality paperback
430 pages
85 patterns, 91 fashion plates, 21 sewing illustrations
Drafting rulers, metric conversion table, glossary, bibliography, index
ISBN: 978-0-9636517-1-6
LCCN: 96-75989
Cover price: $49

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Web page text (except for reviews by other authors) and book cover copyright © 1997–2024 by Frances Grimble