I got home from looooooong day in the office today to find a package waiting from my best friend and his wife. They sent me just the perfect birthday present - the newly re-issued classic "Couture Sewing Techniques"! It's now sitting on my sofa with 5 different post-it notes poking out from various pages on lace seams, zipper underlays, etc. I love the original and this new one seems to have way more gorgeous photos in it & lots of excellent couture content.
One of the interesting things in this book is a two page chart at the front of book on "couture" vs "high end ready to wear". Aka, clients can choose to customize fabrics, garments are made to fit the customer exactly, seam allowances are vary on different pieces, vs RTW's smaller, precision cut pattern pieces that are put together with edges matching.
I was thinking of the comparison as I flipped through the rest of the book, because it really does cover "couture" aka hand-sewing intensive techniques, garment underpinnings, things like that. I happen to also own two other recently published books that purport to be "couture techniques" but really seem more like "high end RTW techniques".
The Dressmaker's handbook is very beautiful to look through, and has some extensive coverage of how to bind necklines, nice photos of how various underlinings (flannel vs cotton voile for example) affect the drape of skirts, and some other really good information. It is largely oriented to machine sewing, though. I found the diagrams and instructions to be not as clear as your average sewing book, which frustrated me because some of them, especially the neckline bindings, looked interesting but were very unclear.
The Couture Techniques book is one of three garment sewing books recently released in the US by Peg Couch. I bought her Illustrated Guide to Sewing: Tailoringbook first, and its strength led me to purchase the other two. This one has wonderful directions on how to assemble dresses, make blouses, and so forth, but they are very high-end Ready to Wear oriented. I wouldn't call any of the sewing covered here "couture" - not to say it's not valuable information. Just that it's the type of information I'll use when sewing myself a new blouse for work, not sewing up a lace bodice for a wedding dress. ;)
There is a definite time & place for the garment sewing guides of the latter two books, and they have been nice additions to my sewing library. But there's nothing like feeling adrift with a pile of lace and silk organza in your hands, attempting to create something that looks like a lace bodice, to make you realize how valuable the Godmother of couture sewing books is. ;) The "Applying Couture Techniques" chapter of Claire Shaeffer's book is amazing, and I'll be referring back to it often.
So, I hope this helps folks looking to add to their sewing libraries. If I had to pick the most useful day-to-day reference book I might well go with Peg Couch's Couture Techniques,but if you plan to do any kind of evening or bridal sewing, or want to try taking your sewing to next skill level, I'd go with Claire Shaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques.