12 November 2008

Book Review: Patterns of Fashion 4 by Janet Arnold

Patterns of Fashion 4: The cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories for men and women c. 1540 - 1660 by Janet Arnold is the much antipated release from this author which deals with linen garments of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The release of this work was delayed by the death of the author and it has taken her literary heirs several years to get the work published. It continues the style and format of previous works in the series, the first half is a combination of colour and black and white photographs and text dealing with the context of the items. The second half of the books are detailed line drawings and examples of various details of the items under discussion.

The opening pages of the book contain a handy reference list of the items in the book, divided by type of item (ie shirt, neckwear, headwear) and then a list of images, drawings and patterns associated with that item and it's location in the book by page number.

The next sections deals with background information on the various trades whose work is displayed in the book, ie semstresses, cutwork makers, lace makers, and embroiderers. Also included is information, with illustrations, of stitches used in both construction and decoration of the items in the book.

The book then looks at the various types of items to be discussed in the book. This discussion includes defining what each name means and some background to it's development. Each of these sections are illustrated with a large number of images, both photographic and drawings. Basically, the bottom half of the pages are text and the top half images. Images include those of items and examples of period patterns and illustrations related to various aspects of sewing and garment construction.

The remainder of the book, from page 19, is the very nice section of colour photographs. These pages are just images, with captions outlining details about the image. These pages are layed out in following manner: a period image used to demonstrate how the item on the page was used. Then a full picture of the item ie a shirt, then several close up, detail shots of specific areas of the item. The captions contain much useful information, including the current location of the item. There are 47 pages of colour images that follow this format. They cover the following items:

  • 11 individual shirts
  • 12 pages of ruffs
  • 7 pages of collars/bands
  • 3 pages of embroidered coifs
  • 2 pages of "plain" headwear
  • 3 examples of "draws" (underwear) / breeches
  • 3 individual / 2 pages of hose
  • 13 individual smocks
The pattern section of the book goes from page 65 to page 123. Some of the full page free drawings of the items are only rough sketches and don't have the detail that items in previous books have (presumably because they were not complete at the time of Ms Arnolds death). Each pattern page contains information on the dimensions of the items, including those of individual pieces that make up the whole. Detailed drawings of construction techniques and decorative elements are depicted. All these are pulled together with short text captions to explain what is happening. The items covered are:
  • 6 boys shirts (2 plain, 4 embroidered)
  • Sture Shirt
  • Warwickshire Shirt
  • 4 embroidered shirts (Bath (drawing), Prato, MOL and Met, NY)
  • 2 "plain" shirts from Stockholm (drawing)
  • 2 ruffs from Munich (drawing)
  • 3 ruffs with lace (Manchester and Nurnberg)
  • 3 ruffs from Amsterdam (drawing)
  • 1 supporter and 2 pickadils from the V&A (drawings)
  • 2 pages of drawings from tombs
  • 1 doublet and pickadil (Met)
  • 7 rebato (frame with decoration incorporated)
  • 2 bands (plain collar with lace on top and sides)
  • 2 bands
  • 1 partlet
  • 1 neckerchief and cuffs
  • 1 tucker and cuffs
  • 9 coifs
  • 2 hoods
  • 3 caps
  • 2 pairs of drawers
  • 1 breeches
  • 1 glove
  • 2 footless hose
  • 2 hose (drawing)
  • 15 smocks with multiple drawings
The final pages of the book discuss information of use when actually making the patterns up, these include the types of thread to use, other tools such as bone awls, types of fabrics and two pages on starching and setting linens including ruffs.

There is only a short biblography and no full index.

My Thoughts: Buy the book!! Of course we always want more information but this book really is very good. There are certain items that will be instantly recognisable, but the additional information and photos of these items makes them like new. Then there are the many items that have not been previously published, again, the book is worth it for these alone. There are way more colour images that in any (if not all) the previous titles in this series. Again, worth the cost just for those. While there is not as many depictions of the embroidery motifs on the shirts, smocks and coifs as I would've liked, there is still enough there to keep me busy for along time. It really is everything we expected and were hoping for.
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan (7 Nov 2008)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0333570820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333570821
  • Product Dimensions: 36.4 x 26.6 x 0.8 cm


I bought mine from Amazon UK who had it on sale for 15 pounds last weekend.