Friday, November 27, 2009

Bridal Couture by Susan Khalje

I used this book to guide me in the construction of my wedding gown. If I had strictly followed the Vogue instructions for pattern #2979, I would've ended up buying a gown in the store. My finished garment just wouldn't have the look I was wanting. I'm so glad I found this book and I highly recommend it for anyone, not just for bridal or formal wear but for learning couture sewing techniques.

Book Index/Chapter headings:
1. Inspiration
A portfolio of gowns by Susan Khalje
  • pictures of 16 gowns of varying styles. These are older styles not often worn today but you can appreciate the construction. I also found inspiration from these pictures. The detail on a hem or sleeve, the fullness of a skirt, etc.
2. Fabrication
  • Guidelines for choosing your fashion fabric and underlining (which fabric works best for what). My biggest complaint about sewing books are the generalities. Susan gives organza as an underlining will add crisp, lightweight support compared to a cotton batiste which will add soft support and poly-cotton batiste will be too thick and heavy for most get the idea.
  • Specific summaries of the most common fashion fabrics for bridal wear and what the pros/cons are for each: satin, shantung, duppioni, brocade & damask, crepe, organza, taffeta, moire, tulle, chiffon, linen, and embellished fabrics; with specific handling instructions (cutting, stitching, pressing & hemming) for satin, tulle, and embellished fabrics.
  • Overview of lace terminology
  • Descriptions & pictures of each type with pros/cons: Alencon, allover, Chantilly, Guipure, ribbon, Schiffli, Soutache, Valenciennes, and Venise.
  • Layout considerations: using lace motifs to enhance garment design, borders & hems
  • Working with lace: dyeing, pressing, cutting & trimming, stabilizing embellishments, marking, preparing underlying fabrics, machine & hand stitching, shaping lace borders around curves, making invisible darts or seams, finishing lace seam allowances, and applying closures to lace
  • Placing lace: on a sheer yoke, sleeves, borders on a bodice or hem, overhanging lace, and lace medallions
  • Lace treatments: shaping with a single piece of lace, covering a bodice with 3 pieces, and using lace appliques
3. Construction
The Muslin
  • Preparing the muslin fabric, marking, adding bones and waistline stay, different placements of boning support
  • Checklist for evaluating fit
  • Adjusting the muslin
The Bodice
  • Underlining: purpose and fabric selection
  • Applying the boning channels
  • Hand baste the underlining
  • Baste garment sections
  • Stitch garment sections
  • Finishing top edges
  • Attaching the waistline stay
  • Constructing & inserting the bodice lining
  • Common bodice styles and how to stabilize necklines
The Sleeves
  • Purpose and construction of sleeve heads
  • Types of Set-in sleeves: tulip, bell, trumpet, cap, leg of mutton, puff
  • Off shoulder sleeves descriptions & construction: elastic-based, fabric-based, band sleeves
  • Handling seams and seam allowances
  • Closures (& construction tips): zippers, buttons & loops
The Skirt
  • Layout and cutting the skirt, adding length
  • Attaching the underlining
  • Sewing and finishing skirt seams
  • Gathering
  • Stitching pleats
  • Hemming: straight & full skirts, stitching options
  • Attaching skirt lining: free-floating, French tacks, hemmed with outer skirt, lining overhanging skirt hem
  • Skirt styles: peplums & overlays, tiered, graduated hemlines, built-in bustles, circular ruffle, bias strips on the hem, tulle skirts, gathered-up overlay, and skirts with variable fullness
Joining the Gown's Components
  • Inserting elastic, adding gussets, hanging loops, bra carriers, and sleeve stays, adding zippers
  • Attaching a bodice with Basque waist to a skirt
Ornamentation and Bustling
  • Bustled trains: finding pickup points, attaching buttons/loops or ribbons
  • Detachable trains
4. Application
The Making of Four Gowns
  • 4 gowns from the first section are constructed step by step demonstrating many of the techniques above
5. Appendices
Equipment and Supplies
  • Description of all the supplies needed and how to select them
  • Detailed instructions for various hand stitches and techniques
A Guide to Pronunciation
  • How to pronounce the various lace and fabric names so you don't sound like an idiot
  • Fabric and ribbon resources, skimpy but a few viable options
Suggested Reading
  • For fashion inspiration and additional couture technical advice
6. Index

Paperback book--160 pages, published in 1997, ISBN--0801987571
Currently out of print. I ordered my copy on Amazon from a UK seller. Last time I checked however, the lowest price was $96.00 USD. I got mine for less than $30 USD.

Does this book have clear illustrations or photographs?
Absolutely! At least 1 picture on every page.

Would you recommend this book as a MUST HAVE?
A must have for bridal or formal wear, and learning couture construction techniques.


  1. Would you consider selling your copy to a desperate bride?

  2. Anna ... the book is supposed to be on print on CD soon if not now.

    PM me ... I might be able to pass something along.

  3. I was surfing the Internet for information and came across your blog. I am impressed by the information you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject. luxury bridal fabrics


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