Book Reviews Japanese Sewing Books in English Ladies Sewing Patterns

Book Review – Feminine Wardrobe – Now in English

June 3, 2013

I recently discovered the Japanese version of this book through one of my readers, who sent me a request for translation. I don’t have this Japanese sewing book in my collection (I don’t know why!) but I heard so many raves about it online. I searched for it and found out that an English version was due for release in late May.

And then guess what? The very awesome folks at Laurence King (publishers of this book and many more translated pattern books coming your way) sent me a review copy of the Feminine Wardrobe (plus the Stylish Dress Book in English that I will review next week)! The minute I opened it I was hooked. I got to sewing immediately and I finished one top over the weekend.

The book is gorgeous. Not just the fact that there are patterns for 21 beautiful skirts, dresses and tops, but the photos are stunning and it makes me want to make everything. If only I had the time!

The projects in the book are divided into three different themes. Town, Party and Resort.

The book starts with “Town” projects – I imagine these refer to easy to wear pieces for a day out in town?  This is a really cute peasant blouse. Definitely making this one to wear on a daily basis with my shorts/jeans. I just need to find the right fabric.

 A really cute dress that you can wear to work too!

 I love tunics, perfectly comfortable for dress down days.

This is a variation of the bow tie shift dress but with a capelet attached. This dress uses a double-faced double gauze which has small checks on one side and large checks on the other. It makes sense since you can get to see quite a bit of the reverse side of the capelet hanging out. But it’s not easy to find double-face double gauze fabric. Maybe sewing two pieces of co-ordinating single layer gauze fabrics together will work?

 I really love this dress. I love the ruffles, the shape and even the choice of fabric, which is in my favourite color! But the model looks like she has a really small shoulder frame, and I’m wondering if the cutting is small or is it due to the angle the picture is taken. This dress is so simple and looks easy to wear but if I am making this I would make a muslin first just in case it does not look good on my broad shoulders.

This looks a little maternity like, and it could probably be useful for mums-to-be looking for a stylish dress pattern. I do like the draped collar and the puffy sleeves but will probably wear this with a belt.

Moving along to party pieces, where the style is slightly dressier but still casual enough for everyday wear. This has got to be my favourite piece in the book! It’s so pretty and sweet. The sleeves are made with two layers of fabric that extend out from the main bodice like petals. The fabric used in the picture is actually a silk shantung, which has a bit of body and helps to hold up the sleeves.

I didn’t have any silk shantung, so I made mine in a Japanese lawn which has a bit of a seersucker feel. It was hard to get sleeve edges finished right as the fabric was a little bit too thin to do a threefold hem nicely (that explains the lack of close up shots ;P) There are tucks in both the front and back as well as pleats on the sleeves near the shoulders. It was pretty easy to sew too since there were no zips or buttons involved.

Another one for the to-do list if only i can find more time to sew for myself. This top requires alot of lace though.

This looks like a simple skirt right?

 It’s actually a convertible sashed skirt/dress. Wear it anyway you want!

Another interesting take on a simple tunic. It’s not really noticeable from the picture, but the fabric is a double-sided fabric that has polka dots on one side, and stripes on the other. The ruffles around the bust is using the reverse stripey side. And I love the ribbon tie detail on her left shoulder. I also wish there was a pattern for the gorgeous skirt that she is wearing.

The picture above shows the model wearing the scalloped hem dress with a layered stole. The layered stole is beautiful but unfortunately is not included in the book. The dress is actually a variation of the petal sleeve blouse with tucks in the front and back, but with puff sleeves that end with a grosgrain ribbon tie at the cuffs.

 At this point I’m convinced that it’s either the styling, or the photography or the model that makes everything look so good that I want to make everything in this book. But I think I will look rather ridiculous wearing a big bow tie. How does she make it look so natural and not too over-the-top?

Of course, you can choose to wear the bow at the back, or even leave the bow out completely since it is made separately from the tunic. But I guess the tunic alone will look too plain and simple without it.

Now for some Resort style clothes. This is a bra-top sundress. A very versatile pattern that can be adjusted for fit using the ribbon from each side of the bra-top. You can also extend the hemline to make a maxi dress using this pattern.

So cute and summer-y. Feel like going for a summer holiday yet?

Another variation of the petal sleeve dress as well as the scalloped hem dress. This is also the dress featured on the cover of the book.

The how-to-make section starts off with a size chart. I thought this should be pretty useful if you are considering buying this book.  Japanese sewing pattern books usually come in cm but this book comes with both inches and cm as well. Not just in the size charts, but on all the measurements in the pattern how-to-make.

*Edited to add : The original Japanese version of this book provided S,M,L and LL Japanese sizes which are roughly equivalent to XS-L in the same chart above. The following table shows the dimensions for Japanese sizes S,M,L and LL.

Size Bust Waist Hip
S 72~80 58~64 82~90
M 79~87 64~70 87~95
L 86~94 69~77 92~100
LL 93~101 77~85 97~105

The brilliant thing about this book is that all 21 garments are derived from variations of 7 main patterns. It helps to minimize the number of pieces you need to trace. But not all the patterns can be shared as some of the variations have their own set of patterns. So do check the instructions and cutting layout for each garment carefully.

The format of the project how-to-make is pretty similar to the standard Japanese sewing book format. The only difference is that you get two sets of measurements – in inches and cm. Very useful for those of you used to sewing in inches. The sewing sequence is shown on a main diagram as well as in step by step point form.

The details of each step are illustrated with clear diagrams and for each diagram ,wherever necessary, the steps are further broken down into more detailed steps.

I don’t have this book in Japanese so I can’t compare page for page, but in some Japanese books, when referring to procedures that have been covered in previous projects, it will be indicated right next to the step. For example, step 1 may look like this
1   Sew the tucks in the bodice (refer to page 53 step 2) 

However, in this book the direct reference to the specific step was left out. I was a little confused while sewing this petal sleeve blouse, as the instructions seem pretty brief and not that self-explanatory…. Then I notice the words in bold right on top.
For more detailed sewing instructions, see pg. 49 and 50 

Yes, the text was in bold for a reason. I just didn’t see it the first few times. I kept thinking that the upside down triangles were arrows pointing at the diagram below. It was also at this point when I realized how this pattern (called C2) is actually a variation of the other pattern (C1). I’m must have been asleep when I first read it. Or just too eager to get started on sewing.

The actual size patterns are included in a little plastic pocket on the back page. No need to tear it out . Yay! Notice how the diagrams of the garments are included on the cover of the pattern sheet to help you identify and locate the patterns easily.

So what do I love about this book? The fact that there are so many pieces that are not just wearable, but easy to make as well. There are a couple of pieces that require more work, such as ruffles or tucks. But the results are so pretty I think it’s worth it!

Title : Feminine Wardrobe
Author : Jinko Matsumoto
ISBN No : 978-1780671246
Publisher : Laurence King Publishers

You can buy the book Feminine Wardrobe from Laurence King which offers free UK delivery (and also international shipping. Check the website for shipping fees), unfortunately this book seems to be out of stock on their website at the moment.

Alternatively, the book is available on (link below)

* is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Next week I shall be reviewing another translated Japanese Sewing Book – Stylish Dress Book – Simple Smocks, Dresses and Tops by Yoshiko Tsukiori. Look out for it!

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  • Reply Elviana Noerdianningsih June 4, 2013 at 12:20 am

    Wow! Thanks for the review, actually I’m so confused which book that I should buy first, Feminine wardrobe or stylish dress book. So I’ll wait your review next week. Thank you so much! It helped me a lot.

  • Reply Reader June 4, 2013 at 12:46 am

    Thank you for the review.

    How thick is the paper used for the patterns? Can they be folded back up and put back in the pocket after use?

    When you compare the second book to the Japanese version I hope you will discuss any changes in the sizes.

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books June 4, 2013 at 7:52 am

      Hi! The paper is like regular paper you use in your printer, not super thick but they are hardy to be folded and refolded many times. Not like the tissue thin type you get with packet patterns. Thanks for the tip about the size changes. I will update the post with that info in a while.

  • Reply Alice Heil June 4, 2013 at 2:08 am

    Great review 🙂 I just got this book myself, and I have to say I was disappointed with the printing quality on the photos, they have poor detail and contrast and muddy color, compared to my japanese copy of “dress made of my favourite cloth” for example.. I could tell immediately that this book was too cheaply produced. I would rather have paid double for high quality printing. However it’s still very useable of course, the diagrams and patterns are all there and very clear. The sizes do not go up to large enough for most people I think but the loose fit of the garments should take care of some of that problem. I have always wanted to make that bow-dress from the cover, I have only once ever seen it look good on the european figure though, I will definitely make a muslin! I think it requires a re-draft of the bow-piece to make it bigger, since the usual problem seems to be the bow ends up above the bust.
    Anyway…I’m looking forward to seeing more of your finished garments! That top is lovely 🙂 I like how you included that in your review, great work!

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books June 4, 2013 at 7:30 am

      Hi Alice, I didn’t have the original book so I’m not sure if the printing quality was due to the different printing source. I did notice that these were printed in China though. But the prices of the English translated versions (Drape drape for example) was much cheaper than the original Japanese ones so I guess the price savings had to come from cheaper printing. And the fact that everything is in English is a big plus! 🙂

    • Reply Reader June 5, 2013 at 3:48 am

      Your comments on interesting. An Amazon reviewer made a similar comment about the print quality of the English version (may not have been this book, but I’m pretty sure it was the same publisher). That’s disappointing, but these books are inexpensive and I think I’d still rather deal with an English-language version, even though there are guides with glossaries for Japanese pattern books.

      • Reply Alice Heil June 5, 2013 at 9:49 am

        I think you are right… I am an image geek so it sort of annoyed me at first, but it’s the ease of use and patterns that count 🙂

  • Reply Mie @ sewing like mad June 4, 2013 at 4:41 am

    I have recently bought this book and got so positively surprised. There is not a lot of photos on Amazon so this review is great! When I sew my first thing (and blog about it) I will link to this post – I hope you don’t mind? 🙂

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books June 4, 2013 at 7:25 am

      Hi Mie, Nope I don’t mind at all. Link away! 🙂 Then I can see what you’ve made too!

    • Reply Reader June 5, 2013 at 3:55 am

      I’d like to see it too. I love these classic clothes. Yifarn’s blog is the only one I know in English that covers Japanese sewing books.

  • Reply Mary June 6, 2013 at 10:45 am

    I’m glad you show the size charts. I am a (curvy) US size 14, and I don’t know if I will ever be a “large” according to this book. Oh well. I have a few Japanese sewing books, but they are all for kids so sizing is easier.
    Thanks for your post!

  • Reply Jessica :) August 28, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks so much for your fantastic reviews! I love making clothes and I have just discovered Japanese sewing! I was a little nervous about buying a pattern i couldnt read, but im going to start with this book, just till I get the feel for them!! thanks again! Your sewing is so inspiring!!

  • Reply Anne November 24, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Hi there, where can I buy these books,do you sell them?

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  • Reply Lynn Holder July 30, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    Hi I am a UK shop size 16 ie. 38″bust 33″waist and 43″hip so I am guessing none of these patterns are not going to fit me. :o( could you please tell me the largest size they go upto? Maybe I can alter them??? Many thanks,

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books August 7, 2014 at 10:53 am

      Hi Lynn,
      If you refer to the size chart (near the bottom of the review), you can see the dimensions for the largest size included. I think some of the A-line, not so fitted styles should be easier to alter, if you have know how to grade patterns as well, it looks like just one or two sizes up from the largest size.

  • Reply Carolyn B January 16, 2015 at 12:02 am

    I just love your site. Found it after stumbling upon a copy of The Feminine Wardrobe (in JoAnn fabrics!). Did you feel the sizing of the petal sleeve blouse was pretty accurate? Just about to start that one… I made the dress with sash in LARGE — came out great, but pretty big on my 5″ 10″ curvy size 8 frame. wondering if I should size down for my next project… Thanks for all of your insights!

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books January 16, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      Not sure what you mean by accurate sizing, but the problem I had with the petal sleeve blouse was that the armhole cuts in quite deep. Not that it was uncomfortable to wear, but it didn’t look that flattering (on me :P) I made the dress with sash in S or M (I can’t remember!) and I’m usually a size 4/6.

  • Reply Dagmara August 24, 2015 at 2:32 am

    I love that book! Pieces are easy to make, I can put new elements in them or just make them as they are in book.
    I had a little problem with sizing but it’s not a problem.

    Recently I made my bow tie shift without the bow 🙂

  • Reply Chloe August 14, 2016 at 1:02 am

    I love this book. I bought it a while ago but haven’t made anything yet. Can’t wait to start!

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