In my review of Patterns of Fashion 2, I mentioned that there are alternatives to that work. This is one of them. Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns (1999) has all the garments a lady living in Victorian-era America was supposed to own. Plenty are geared toward the upper-class woman, but the books contains patterns for a variety of outfits.
All the patterns are reproductions from a dressmaker’s journal called The Voice of Fashion. (Of which this is not the only reproduction, but I digress.)
Personally, I find these patterns much easier to work with than those in Patterns of Fashion 2. Not only are we provided with a short introduction shedding light onto the cost of an American lady’s wardrobe, and what should be in it according to polite society at the time; the methods needed to turn these patterns into a garment that fits your body are pretty well explained.
I still believe that making a mock-up is essential. Unless you are very experienced and feel confident enough to skip that step.
I also like that they included some easy-to-understand general directions for measurement as it was done at the time, as well as directions for basting. Of course, should you feel confused by this, there is undoubtedly a handy YouTube tutorial out there that will explain everything in more detail.
If, like me, you are used to the metric system rather than working with inches, the Internet will come very handy for conversions, but otherwise the patterns are pretty clear. You do need some experience with patterns and historical garments, but I feel that even as a beginner you could dip your toe in this with one of the simpler patterns. If you’re not experienced, you should absolutely make a mock-up or your risk ending up with an ill-fitting piece and a lot of disappointment.
As this book only contains illustrations, I would recommend looking up photographs of the garment you wish to recreate to give you a better idea of how it looked on a person.
I find this work very valuable because of the amount of different takes on ladies’ garments from the era. It covers everything from house wear to evening wear to a tennis costume, making it pretty good value. Even if you don’t intend to sew, but are interested in fashion history, this book has merit in your collection, as they are all reproduction images.
It also helps that this tome is still widely available (via Dover Publications), and generally under €20.