Book Reviews Japanese Sewing Books Ladies Sewing Patterns

Book Review – Dress Style Book

December 2, 2013

Today’s book review is not a newly published book but something that I’ve had for a while. The book is called Dress Style Book and it’s a great source for all the dress patterns you can possibly think of. I have seen this book many times but was never really inspired to check it out. I think it was because of the prints used on the dresses, and the fact that they used illustrations instead of photographs. But as they say, never judge a book by its cover 😛

You know how many of the Japanese sewing books for women tend to gravitate towards floaty, dreamy, comfortable, and some say shapeless styles. I was looking in particular, for a book that will be able to provide me with a fitted dress pattern. I had some luck with the Female magazine a few issues back, where one of the dress patterns became a staple in my wardrobe. But after a while I got tired of making the same dress over and over again (I think I made 5?) and I wanted to find another versatile pattern that can be used in more than one way. So I decided to check this book out and I was not disappointed.

The book was first published in  2009 but it has since been republished 5 times, the latest was just published in May this year. I guess this was also a clue to how useful or popular this book must have been. The book includes 8 basic dress styles :

  1. Basic
  2. High-waisted
  3. Low-waisted
  4. A-line 1
  5. A-line 2
  6. Shirt
  7. Smock
  8. Peasant Look

For each style there are 3 variations which are shown together with the basic style. We’ll take a look at an example of Style 1.

Style 1 is called a Basic dress style which is a sleeveless, bodice+skirt with darts pattern.  Variation 1 is similar to the original style but with a segmented bodice and layered skirt.
The dresses are drawn in neutral colors, but suggested prints or fabrics are shown in square blocks below.

On the next page you can see two other variations. Variation 2 looks like a dress with boat neck collar, and Variation 3 looks quite different with the gathered shoulder straps.

After the overview of Style 1 and its variations, the book then focuses on each variation and shows you how to modify the original basic pattern to create this look.

In the diagram above you can see that there is a new line on the pattern pieces, that indicates the positioning of the lace overlay.

Style 2 is a High-waisted pattern

Variations 2 and 3 of the high-waisted dress pattern.

Style 3 is a Low-waisted dress.

Style 4 is a A-Line sleeveless dress, but these 2 variations (1a and 1b) comes with cap sleeves.

A very versatile Shirt dress pattern, you can vary the sleeve length or even make a sleeveless shirt dress.

The peasant look dress. I am not a fan of the usual peasant smock look but I quite like it in the tiered skirt style as well as the V-neck gathered variations. I could hardly tell the V-neck dress came from a peasant dress pattern!

The How-to-make section begins with two text heavy pages on how to use the basic pattern + variations. Unfortunately there are no step by step photos in this book at all.

Each of the dress pattern variation has it’s own how-to-make page like this one below.

The instructions for each garment is in the standard format with the cutting layout diagrams, materials, order of make indicated in diagrams as well as text.

Detailed diagrams are available for steps that are slightly more complicated. Also, expect lots of cross referencing diagrams between different variations and  different dress patterns.

There is one actual size pattern sheet attached to the book, and this pattern sheet includes the basic style patterns, as well additional pattern pieces used by the variations that cannot be constructed or modified from other existing pattern blocks. For example, Style 4 is a sleeveless dress pattern which can be modified to a dress with cap (Variation 1) or triangular sleeves (Variation 3). The cap sleeves for variation 1 are included, since it would be difficult to construct one of your own, but as the triangular sleeves can be constructed with a simple triangle, the pattern is not included but the dimensions for the triangle are provided.

Here are the sizes included in this book. The measurements above are for actual body measurements.
The 4 values on the column on the left are Height / Bust / Waist / Hip.

This book is not really ideal for beginners because you do need to know how to make modifications to your patterns. Changing a pattern from sleeved to sleeveless does not mean simply removing the sleeves because the curvature of the armhole has to change as well. The book does show you how by providing the measurements and dimensions needed for altering the basic pattern but if you have not constructed a pattern before, you might be confused. However, if you are quite advanced in sewing, you might enjoy this book as it really is a treasure trove of dress patterns. After applying the variations suggested by the book, you may be inspired to design and modify your own clothes.

Dress Style Book Pattern-no Variation-wo Tanoshimu / Nonaka Keiko Sugiyama Youko (Book)
Available on

Title : Dress Style Book
Author : Keiko Nonaka (Dress design) and Yoko Sugiyama (Illustration)
ISBN : 978-4-579-11267-8
Publisher : Bunka Publishing Bureau


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  • Reply Diya December 2, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Oh !! How I wish I had this one. Is it available in english ?? please say a yes 🙂

  • Reply Lauren January 21, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    I really loved the pants, skirt and blouse book in this series! It’s a really nice way to ease into the idea of modifying patterns if you have a good grasp of how patterns work!

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