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Tales of the Gypsy Dressmaker [Paperback]

Thelma Madine
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
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Book Description

19 July 2012

Tales of the Gypsy Dressmaker is the much-anticipated memoir from Thelma Madine, the dressmaker and breakaway star from Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, the hottest show on TV right now.

From 200 ft trains to 20 stone skirts, hundreds of LED lights to thousands of Swarovski crystals, gypsy girls spend their childhoods dreaming of fairytale dresses. Thelma is the woman who makes these dreams come true.

Left with nothing, after a messy divorce, Thelma has come a long way from her humble dressmaking beginnings, making and selling dresses on a market stall in Liverpool. Back then she knew nothing of gypsies. Until one day she was asked by a traveller to make some dresses like the ones in ‘Gone with the Wind’ and before she knew it had dozens of other traveller women gathering around asking for similar ones. A few years later she was asked to make a wedding dress for a young traveller… then she was hit with the request for a 107 ft train and 18 elaborate bridesmaid dresses. And she hasn’t looked back since.

It hasn’t been an easy journey though and behind her warmth, compassion and hardworking nature, Thelma is hiding a life of struggles and personal heartache: a journey that includes financial breakdown, a four-month stint in prison and a very unhappy relationship. But career-wise she has gone from strength to strength.

Now the dress designer favoured by gypsy brides all over the country, Thelma has become a much-loved and trusted figure for many within the often misunderstood traveller community. Here, for the first time, alongside the full truth about her own life, she will tell tales of her experiences of this extraordinary world and reveal the fascinating stories of some of the many travellers she has met. From strict childhoods to teenage pregnancies, extravagant weddings to secrets and lies, and the truth about money and men, Thelma – a natural storyteller – will reveal a culture full of drama and contrasts.

In a narrative packed full of highs and lows, setbacks and triumphs, crystals, mechanical butterflies and sparkling little lights, this book will shock, move and amaze and bring Thelma and the secretive world of travellers to life.

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Tales of the Gypsy Dressmaker + Gypsy Bride: One girl's true story of falling in love with a gypsy boy + Hard Knocks & Soft Spots
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (19 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007456964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007456963
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 209,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Thelma Madine is the star of Channel 4’s Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and Thelma’s Gypsy Girls. She has been working with travellers for over fifteen years.

After being left with nothing after a messy divorce she started making and selling dresses on a market stall in Liverpool. One day a traveller woman asked her to make some dresses and before she knew it she had dozens of traveller women asking for the same thing, and so began her dressmaking business.

Thelma now owns Nico’s Dressmakers in Liverpool and is the designer favoured by travellers around the country, many of whom travel hundreds of miles to have her make their wedding, christening and communion dresses.

Thelma lives in Liverpool and has four children (a son and three daughters), the youngest of which still lives at home with her and her partner Dave.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tales of the Gypsy Dressmaker - Magic Reading 27 May 2012
By Alessi Lover TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When you read this you feel almost like it is a someone whom you have met in person that is telling the tale.

Now I have seen a couple of the programmes about The Gypsy Weddings and was amazed at just how much a couple of the dresses were. But what amazed me the most was what Thelma went through to get to where she is now. Certainly not a tale of being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people. More of dealing with life in the tough lane but just getting on with it. How she explains what went on with her life and how much it has changed since doing those 'different dresses', well you can make a programme just on that. You can not blame her for doing the book, why not make money on something you are good at, she has found a niche and good for her.

Down to earth and that is probably why she is as good as she is at her profession. Thelma never appears to have heirs and graces and maybe that is why her clients chose her as they knew they would have an honest opinion and someone that said it as it is. Sometimes they may not like her opinions but in the long run her dresses speak for themselves, each creation different and so over the top.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, had been looking at it to order beforehand so to be offered it to review I jumped at the chance.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Her big fat gypsy book. 28 Jun 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Thelma Madine makes dresses that every gypsy girl wants to wear, the star of 'My big fat gypsy wedding'Big Fat Gypsy Weddings - Series 1 and 2 Box Set [DVD] Thelma gives us a frank look at her life, the highs and lows. The financial troubles, 107 foot trains, divorce, sequins and prison (yes she's been in prison).
See what it takes to have regular business dealings with the gypsy community and what it took to build that relationship. I loved this book, it shows one woman's struggle to make it in life and how hard work and determination can do it. An easy read and one that I finished in almost one sitting. I will watch MBFGW in the future with a new found respect for Thelma Madine.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've never watched the associated TV series, and the whole gypsy wedding dress thing is a mystery to me. (The tradition, and Thelma Madine's dedication to supplying its needs, made a bit more sense to me after reading her explanation "what they [i.e. people like me] don't get is that it's all about fantasy"; Madine explains how she grew up obsessed with costumes in films, watching Gone with the Wind over and over again just to study the dresses.) However, as my daughter watches the series, and has some knowledge from a former job in a related sector of the fashion industry, I thought both of us should give it a go.

Madine chronicles her progression from making children's dresses for Catholic Communions in Liverpool to designing and making the much more elaborate creations required for traveller weddings. She gives an entertaining account of her ups and downs catering to her very demanding customers. She comes over as a determined, feisty individual. These are evidently useful qualities when negotiating with travellers; as she wryly comments, "sometimes I feel I'm becoming more experienced at haggling than I am at making dresses!" This applies to two linked issues: the haggling process itself, which is second nature to travellers, and the expectations of the customers about the product; as she says, to them "a dress is a dress, no matter how opulent, carefully made or intricate it is, and no matter how long it takes to make."

The book told me quite a bit about the traveller community, e.g. culture and morality, the significance of their weddings and the courtship ritual called "grabbing". There was less new stuff in it for my daughter; as she pointed out, much of it has already been covered by the TV series, though she feels that the book adds more detail to some topics.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By Nicola F (Nic) TOP 500 REVIEWER
Anyone familiar with Channel 4's `Big Fat Gypsy Weddings' will be familiar with Thelma Madine: dressmaker of choice to the gypsy community, some of whom travel hundreds of miles to have bespoke dresses handmade, each one more and more outrageous than its predecessor and with prices that just cannot be discussed on television. Thelma has the ear of the travelling community and in turn is trusted to keep their secrets, but this book alludes in a little bit of detail some of the more special wedding dresses that she has designed, as well as trials and tribulations of her own life.

I am a big fan of the programme and fascinated by the lifestyle portrayed of the Irish travellers depicted, as well as some of the controversy regularly stirred up regarding the representations of gypsy life, so this book was a must read for me. It pulled me in straight away. Thelma writes almost as if she is sitting down and having a chat with you over a cup of tea, so her affable, likeable manner comes through vividly. It is clear from the start that given events in her own life that she feels some sort of empathy for the way travellers are treated and as a consequence is never judgemental- neither mocking them or even the most outlandish requests for dresses.

The book details how Thelma got into dressmaking and the highs and lows of being a dressmaker for the traveller community- it is full of entertaining little anecdotes as well as recapping points when she genuinely did hit rock bottom, before picking herself up and becoming the businesswoman she is today. I'd liked her a lot on the programme, but after reading this I genuinely have a great deal of respect for her.

My opinion after reading this book is that it is a true riches to rags then back to riches story.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read
An insight into an honest and brilliant businesswoman. Thelma Madine gives a wonderful insight into gypsy culture but more interesting is her Own business success.
Published 1 month ago by Libby
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
I've watched Big Fat Gypsy Weddings (& love it!) & really wanted to read this book when I saw it on Amazon. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Millasaurus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad
This book was ok but all the items I had already watched on the T V program, there were no new surprises.
Published 2 months ago by ju
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it from start to finish!
With being such a big fan of the tv show I knew this was going to be the perfect book for me, and I was right! An easy read and very insightful.
Published 3 months ago by Sharon Hutchinson
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant read
this book is very hard to put down, myself and my wife love it, one of the better purchases i have purchased
Published 5 months ago by Nick Hinks
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it
A very good read and teaches a lot about the way others live. Found it interesting and couldn't put it down at some bits.
Published 6 months ago by carley aldworth
5.0 out of 5 stars Gypsytastic!
I'm a big fan of the Big Fat Gypsy Wedding series so reading this was a must. I really enjoyed learning more about Thelma Madine's background and how she came to be the larger than... Read more
Published 6 months ago by WindsorMummy
5.0 out of 5 stars good book.
After watching Thelma on Big fat Gyspy weddings an television, was intrigued to buy the book, was not disappointed, excellent book and a excellent dressmaker.
Published 7 months ago by Joy Clixby
5.0 out of 5 stars Thelma as is!
Great book. If you have enjoyed Thelmas TV shows, you can hear her speak in the book. I knew her life was hard, but I respect her even more after reading the detail. Read more
Published 7 months ago by miriam
4.0 out of 5 stars easy read
Its good overall read. Gives you an insigth into Thelma life how it all began etc. If you are a fan of big gat gyspy wedding then you will enjoy this book.
Published 7 months ago by louise gregory
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