Justine’s Sewing Bookshelf: Dressmaking For Real Women

I have an EXTENSIVE collection of sewing books. Most I have bought for my own sewing needs, some have been sent to me from publishers, and some I’ve had since design school back in the 90’s, and then there are the  vintage sewing books going back to the twenties, and pattern catalogs I’ve found at estate sales. I thought it would be helpful to review one of my books every week.realwomen1

Today I’m going to share a book with you that I think is fabulous whether you are experienced in making yourself clothing or even if you are just getting into making your own clothes. Maybe you only sew for your kids and haven’t sewn much for yourself. Or maybe you don’t that often because you don’t have a perfect figure and are afraid the pattern won’t flatter you. Or maybe you sew for yourself all the time and need to fine tune fitting issues. Dressmaking For Real Women (affiliate link) is a good addition to your own bookshelf then. The majority of the book has to do with fitting problems and how to fix them . But there is a lot of other valuable information for seamstresses as well.Justine's Book Shelf

The book is laid out in a few different sections.

First it covers how to figure out what your shape is and then how to choose the right patterns . Hourglass, Bottom Heavy, Top Heavy,  Triangle, Round, or Oval body shapes are identified and the author discusses the fitting issues with each body type and even what types of style and patterns will flatter each body part most. I thought that was really cool. I would say I’m an oval because I gain weight in my tummy and am narrower in the hips and have narrower shoulders. But I’m also semi hourglass. Actually, I have no idea.realwomen2 realwomen3Following is a dissection of sewing patterns; how to read them, understanding markings and laying out fabric, size charts, etc. I’ll admit I just glossed over this part of the book. It does discuss PDF patterns and how to use them, a subject not covered by many other books, being a new player in the sewing scene. There is an interesting explanation of ease and how it relates to pattern designs. I tend to be an overfitter myself, so I could do well to read this part.realwomen6

After this section we get to the meat of the book. PATTERN ALTERATIONS!realwomen7

Face it. Most of us need some sort of alteration to make a pattern fit perfectly. But many seamstresses don’t know how to identify fitting issues or how to fix fitting problems. This is where this book’s strength lies and why I consider it  a must have sewing book.realwomen8realwomen9

Her are some of the fitting issues addressed in the next 80 pages with tutorial photos to go with them:

Fit issues to look out for

Altering patterns DOS and DONT’S

Shoulder Alterations

Bust alterations for large and small busts



Hips alterations

Back alterations

Altering dress styles


Next is a  section on making a toile or muslin. I am a recent convert to making muslins for all my projects, and once you get used to it, you will never go back. Dressmaking For Real Women shows how to properly make and fit your toile and then make adjustments to your pattern from it.

Last but not least, there is a section on Core Sewing Techniques.

This book is really helpful to me when I’m sewing for the theater and dealing with body shapes I’m not used to sewing for.

The only drawback is maybe it’s trying to be too many things to too many people. It’s essentially a fitting book and most people should have a good solid sewing technique book to use along with it, so maybe the sewing technique section is a bit unnecessary. But at the same time it makes it a sort of go to book for all things having to do with sewing patterns.


Share Button


  1. says

    I LOVE that they use the term “protruding bottom.” I think that is the best description of my butt I’ve ever heard.

  2. says

    From the look I thought it was a vintage sewing book. Love the curvy woman on the cover. But when you mentioned PDF info inside I knew it had to be new. Sounds like a keeper. Thanks for the review.

  3. says

    This is a great series! There are so many sewing books that I hate to waste money on ones that aren’t great. My sewing library needs beefing up 🙂

  4. Justine says

    This book looks so interesting!! 🙂 I would love to look through it, and try out some of its suggestions!

  5. Pam (seams2be) says

    Thank you for reviewing this book. Looks like it is very helpful. Will keep a lookout for it. Love your website. It’s always very inspiring.

  6. Brenda Kimberlin says

    Thanks for recommending, it looks very straightforward – I just ordered it!

  7. says

    Hi Justine, this book is perfect for me since you have inspired me to sew for myself. I am dying to make a dress for myself. The affiliate link to the book took me to another post and not where to get the book. Do you have a source to get the book?