All-Time Best Book on Draping & Flat Pattern: Hillhouse & Mansfield’s Dress Design, 1948

I have a favorite professor at Lipscomb University who has indirectly (and sometimes directly) caused me to accumulate too many sewing and fashion books.  During my freshman year of college, she let me borrow this book.  Three years and about thirty failed eBay auctions later, I finally obtained my own copy.  I even used it as my textbook for an independent study, and thereby conned my parents into buying it for me.  It’s the very coolest book I’ve seen on draping and flat pattern design.  Ladies (and gentlemen?), may I present Dress Design: Draping and Flat Pattern Making, by Marion Hillhouse and Evelyn Mansfield, 1948.

Dress Design: Draping & Flat Pattern Making by Hillhouse & Mansfield

This charming 1940’s textbook book retails anywhere from $60 to $200, depending on where you find it, how many other people find it (on eBay), and the alignment of the stars (just kidding).  Outrageous? Maybe. Until you go and check the price of the 8th edition of Pattern Making by the Flat Pattern Method, paperback, $139 at Amazon.  (That was the textbook we used in my first pattern design class.)  On the inside of my $65-ish copy is penciled “$6.” I think I hate whoever found it for that price.

But, without further ado, we’ll hop into some cool pictures here.

We find this in the “Basic Skirts” chapter.  Not so basic-looking!  But it shows you step by step how to do them, so they’re not really so bad.

How cool is that?? I want one.

I draped Fig. 11 (far right) for my independent study, senior year.  (Here are some photos, if you’re curious. It was just to learn the technique, not a finished garment.)

I just thought the neckline treatment here was very interesting.

The shapes to the right of the sketch are the pattern pieces.  You cut and add pieces to your basic pattern as shown in the first drawing, and then spread them as shown in the second. That’s how flat pattern design works.

Not what I would decide to wear to church, but a really unique design nonetheless. We can appreciate it.

We want to know why today’s suits aren’t this interesting.

In this picture, the darts from the basic pattern are very craftily changed into design lines.

How’s THAT for a radical design!

And this one is just wild, too.

I actually have the second jacket in this picture almost complete. I had totally forgotten about it until I opened the book tonight to copy some collar instructions for my Moomer.

I need to hunt that thing up and finish it. It was quite flattering. And I think I only lack the sleeves and the lining.

But oh my word, it was a weird pattern! The waist-fitting dart is concealed in that scallop near the bottom.  It took both my professor and me quite a little while to figure out how to do this one, as there were no instructions (she actually called me from her vacation, where she had been puzzling over it, to tell me how it was supposed to be done!).

So, if you ever want to learn to make your own patterns, hunt down a copy of this book.  It will tell you almost everything you need to know, from padding your dressform to changing darts into wacky design lines. And, if you find it for $6, tell me. I’ll be impressed.

About Charity

I have an inexcusable number of cookbooks (and like to experiment with them), have worked in architectural antiques, and have been sewing most of my life. I recently graduated with a Ph.D. in Apparel, Merchandising, & Design from Iowa State University. Doing household things (except for cleaning!) and hunting for antiques are my favorite pastimes.
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19 Responses to All-Time Best Book on Draping & Flat Pattern: Hillhouse & Mansfield’s Dress Design, 1948

  1. Amazing book. Draping – patterns manipulation – is so excited! They were real magitians then… I would not hesitate to buy this book!

  2. Anne W says:

    Actually, you can download it free – apparently the copyright was not renewed… anyway, The Perfect nose has it here:

  3. Anita McAdam says:

    My favourite pattern book of all time. I bought a second hand copy on Amazon about 6-8 years ago, so it may still be available. Definitely out of print. When I first encountered this book 20 years ago, my teaching colleague and I took turns and made two hardcopy photocopies for our teaching work. I recently passed this hardcopy onto to another pattern maker when I bought myself a copy from amazon. So inspirational and sure-worthy.

  4. Luke says:

    actually you can find it online in full, as it is part of public domain now! 🙂

  5. hannia says:

    I’ve been searching for the perfect pattern making book – thank you for this information!
    this is exactly what I need for self study guide. 🙂

  6. Linda Edwards says:

    Holy cow this book is AWESOME! I was at a yard sale today and picked up this one along with The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearance by Grace Morton. Spent $10 for a bunch of stuff so really I got both books for free because the other things I bought were worth more than what I spent. :-))

  7. Zainab Ghani says:

    It is indeed a fabulous book. I saw this at my local library in the $1.00 section, naturally I bought it, this was back in 2001 and have over the years read and admire the construction of many of the pattern pieces but could not figure out the construction. The one in particular, which you mention, is the blouse with the waist-fitting dart with the hidden scallop near the bottom. I feel brave enough to try it. Can you share how it is done?

  8. Emmy says:

    I inherited this book from my grandmother after she passed in 2011. Nobody else in my family sews, so I was able to keep it for myself. I have looked through it over the years but never made anything from it. She had some bookmarks with handwritten notes (she did not write in the book itself) about drafting particular patterns. I feel very lucky to have this copy since it is in excellent condition, and I have seen a few copies for over $200!

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