I’ve had the first three of Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion books since the late 80s / early 90s and have looked through them frequently, although I’ve never actually used the patterns. I bought the fourth volume (completed by Tiramani and Levey) about ten years ago and greatly appreciated the addition of colour photographs.
Now the School of Historical Dress has taken them over, and as well as issuing Vol 5 (underpinnings) it has re-issued volume 1 with numerous colour photographs of the gowns and additional information. If you’re wondering whether or not to buy it the following may help.
The introductory text on pattern cutting and dressmaking has been expanded a little and has many new illustrations. Several new gowns from the early 18th century have been added, including two mantuas, and two items have been removed — one (the 1660 bodice) has been included in Vol 5 and the other (the mantua appended at the back of the book) will be in Vol 6, so they aren’t eliminated entirely. The seven chemisettes from the original edition are now indexed separately. The section on metric conversion and the scale (ruler) that were printed at the back of the book have been moved to the end of the initial information section, and there is an additional cardboard insert containing a ruler on one side and two direct conversion scales in both Imperial and metric on the other (one for 1:8 and one for 1:4).
Besides the 40 pages of colour photographs, the other main change is that all diagrams, patterns and information about the gowns are on the same page opening — no more turning pages back and forth to see the detail illustration or the pattern. The gown drawings are the same size or slightly larger than in the original, but a couple of the detail drawings are slightly smaller. All the pattern pieces are the same scale but have been redrawn and coloured (to match the colour of the garment) and the information on the pattern sheets is now typed rather than hand-written. In almost every case there is more information on the date, style and fabric than in the original.
Here are pictures concerning the same gown in both the old and new editions (apologies for the flash reflection — the new edition has shiny art paper).
There are some changes in nomenclature. For example, the “caraco jacket” on page 24 of the original is now described as a “short sacque” on page 80 of the new edition. The “polonaise in ivory silk” on page 37 of the original (which wasn’t actually a polonaise, it was an English gown en retroussée) is now a “fitted gown in silk brocade” on page 94.
I also note that the location of many garments has changed. All the gowns from Snowshill Manor in the original are now listed as belonging to the Wade Collection of the National Trust, while the Gallery of English Costume is now part of the Manchester Art Gallery. Obviously some changes were to be expected over 50 years and it’s good to know where these garments are now.
The books are not exactly cheap — £35 each, plus another £35 for overseas shipping — but the format is large (36.5 cm x 26.5 cm) with 130 pages in full colour so it’s a reasonable price for what you’re getting. I waited to get Vol 5 so that I could ship it with Vol 1, and I’ll get Vols 6 and 2 in tandem next year. Shipping was pretty fast — I ordered on 24 September, they were despatched on 01 October and I received them today, 15 October (they may have arrived up to four days ago but I only check the post box once a week as we’ve been in lockdown for two months).
All in all, I believe that the new edition is well worth it if you are interested in historical costume, even if you have the first edition already.