I always love the Book Pairings prompt for Nonfiction November, which in years past has involved pairing a novel (or several novels) with nonfiction that is in some way thematically similar. Last year I took a bit of a steer away from picking a novel by choosing a period drama, and this year I was planning to cheat again, but happily I don’t have to. Rennie at What’s Nonfiction is the host for this prompt this year, and she has made some tweaks to the prompt that make it easier to pair books with whatever strikes our fancy. Instead of a novel, a TV show, or anything fictional at all, I am going to be pairing my books with a Youtube channel I’ve recently been watching a lot – Bernadette Banner, who is a fashion historian and seamstress. I have never really been interested in fashion at all, but I fell down the rabbit hole while I was trying to work out realistic clothing for characters in a project I’ve been working on, and then became so absorbed in the subject matter that I have (of course) been watching Youtube instead of writing…

For a fun place to start with Bernadette’s channel, some of my favourites are: Redesigning Historical Romance Novel Covers to be Actually Historical, Ok but how did the Edwardians WASH these dresses?, and A Victorian Lady’s Pinstripe Waistcoat. (Or, if you have about ninety minutes spare and really want to dive right in, you can watch her two-part analysis of costume historicity in all pre-WWI period dramas released in 2021 – Part 1 and Part 2).

Anyway, in the spirit of book pairings, here are two books on fashion history that have caught my eye since I fell down this rabbit hole:

How To Read a Dress and How To Read a Suit, both by Lydia Edwards. These look like useful reference guides for anyone trying to write, but reviews suggest they are also enjoyable guides to various societal changes over the centuries included.

That’s the historical dress part of the channel – what about the general sewing skills part?

Well, here’s both a machine-sewing and a hand-sewing book: The Sewing Book by Alison Smith, and Make Sew and Mend, Banner’s own recent publication. (I am cynical of Youtuber Books in general, but I’ve found her tutorial videos very helpful, so hopefully it translates into written form!)

I haven’t actually acquired any of these books yet – though I have just bought a (second-hand) sewing machine. My initial aim is just curtains and cushions as I slowly do up my flat, but who knows? Maybe I’ll get inspired to be more ambitious, and The Sewing Book is available through my library, so perhaps I’ll be making my own Victorian Pinstripe Waistcoat in no time…