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Save your money and borrow it from the library
on 18 October 2008
Corsets: Historic Patterns and Techniques
I'd heard some good things about it and managed to get a copy several months in advance of its release date.
Alas, for me it turned out to be a big disappointment!
For someone claiming to be a lecturer in historical clothing, Ms Salen appears to be lacking in both knowledge and the ability to reasonably hypothesise. What she does seem to be good at is hyperbole regarding her own talents. I'm actually wondering whether this was self-published because given that there are several excellent books on the subject, I can see no reason for a publisher to take this one on.
I'm not sure what this book actually has to offer beyond a handful of nice photographs (which can be found online or purchased from various museums). For the beginner the information is far too basic, and for the experienced it offers nothing new. In addition, certain information is missing from the 'patterns', e.g. grainlines on some pieces, tabs or straps on others. For the experienced sempstress or corsetiere this isn't a problem but a person with limited or no experience could well be left scratching their head.
The photographs, whilst clear and generally well presented, are selective at best. Some of the corsets aren't shown on mannequins, and almost all of them show only one view. Given that the accompanying copy in some cases describes certain design elements (one being that the left and right busts are different on a particular corset), one would expect the imagery to reflect and compliment the text. Certainly there ought to be close-up photographs of details. As for the cover image, one can only wonder why such a dreadful example of the corsetiere's art was used.
For a book that claims to inform and educate the reader about historical techniques, this book just isn't up to scratch. Granted there are a few sections relating to cording, gussets etc. but again, the information given is sketchy at best. My advice would be to spend your money on Norah Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines, and borrow this one from your library.