Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dress Cutting by the Block Pattern System by Margaret C. Ralston (1932): Review, part 1

First published in 1932, original editions of Dress Cutting are very rare. Fortunately it has since been edited and republished by Lacis Publications with the new title: Fashion Outlines. Dress Cutting has also been republished by Bramcost. This review is based on the Lacis edition.


If you buy the Lacis edition online, don’t be fooled by the cover which shows the relatively shapeless drop-waisted knee-length dresses associated with the flapper era. Ralston’s designs are generally shown belted at the waist and reaching at least to mid-calf. The bodices, however, are loose fitting, pouching over the belt and generally snug around the hip. Some shaping to accommodate the bust is provided by a dart or pleats at the shoulder. No instructions are given for underarm bust darts or vertical darts. This left me wondering about Ralston’s instructions for drafting an evening gown. This gown appears to have a very close-fitting bodice with no darts at all.

The book contains instructions to create seven dress patterns, two blouses and six skirts, several collars and two fitted sleeves. This book is dedicated solely to pattern drafting. No sewing instructions are given and if you wish to draft pockets or  a cowl neck you are on your own.

The book contains some lovely designs such as:

Ralston Skirt 5Ralston Dress 3

I, however, decided to draft the pattern for Dress 2, a dress with the skirt flared from the waist. Here’s Ralston’s sketch:


Imagine playing tennis with shoes like that! I intended my version to be suitable for everyday wear in a sweltering Queensland summer. Tomorrow I’ll post about the projects that I made based on this design.

1 comment:

  1. I have a hard back copy, printed by the Isaac Newton press