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Couture Sewing Techniquesby Claire Shaeffer
After the original Couture Sewing Techniques was published, I visited the workrooms of James Galanos shortly before he retired. He insisted initially that he was not a couturier since most of designs were sold in stores. I disagree; the standards which he set were of the highest quality so I have included him in this edition. More recently, I visited the workrooms of Chado Ralph Rucci—the only American invited to show his designs with the couture collections in Paris. He is a master of the art and the craft of haute couture.
Shortly before I began the revision, I had the opportunity to work with Phyllis Magidson, the curator at the Museum of the City of New York, on a project that focused on Mainbocher and Charles Frederick Worth. This research expanded my knowledge of techniques used in the first hundred years of haute couture while reminding me that many techniques which I had written about earlier had changed little, if at all. This edition includes several photographs from that project.
Many of the photographs in the first edition were no longer available so I’ve selected many new ones from the Chicago History Museum, The Ohio State University, Phoenix Art Museum, and Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising as well as from the Fashion Institute of Technology and Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’ve also included photographs of many garments in my personal collection.
No matter what your sewing expertise, this book will expand your horizons. Most importantly, it is a practical guide for learning the craft of haute couture, but it will also provide new ideas for applying the techniques which you already know. Some techniques are less suitable for beginners and some are impractical for everyday sewing; but most will be of value to the average home-sewer and can be used on a wide range of garments and fabrics. I hope you’ll experiment with the techniques and look for new ways to apply them when you sew.
Like most of you, I have a limited amount of time to sew and cannot make all garments a la couture. For some garments, I mix couture methods with ready-to-wear and traditional home-sewing techniques to achieve the results I want. I encourage you to do the same. Use this book as a resource, whether you limit your couture sewing to a detail here and there or decide to make an entire garment from beginning to end with couture techniques.
I find sewing by hand and with couture techniques extremely rewarding. The pleasure of both making and wearing beautifully constructed garments far exceeds the time and effort required to complete them. I hope this book will help you develop the same skills and perfect old ones, and in turn, reward you with years of pleasure—and a closet full of beautifully made garments. –Claire Sheaffer
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