Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Stylish Dress Book Review

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After the fiasco that was my Drape Drape experience, I'm honestly kind of surprised that Laurence King Publishing actually wanted to send me more Japanese sewing pattern books to review. They did promise, though, that this next book contained more practical patterns, even if it didn't have a fun name (my favorite suggestion from the giveaway post: a book of HP fashion called Snape Snape). Yoshiko Tsukiori's Stylish Dress Book: Simple Smocks, Dresses, and Tops promised to be a "fabulous homemade alternative to racks of identikit [sic] clothes in cheap fabrics." Flipping through the book, it's true that these clothes are more practical (read: you can actually wear them outside!), and they're certainly different from the cheap clothes you see mass produced at Forever 21 or H&M. On the other hand, they're not exactly what I think of when I think of stylish clothing. To me, these relatively shapeless smocks and boxy tops look more like maternity clothes, which is just perfect because...







...I'm totally not pregnant. Which meant that even though yes, these clothes are more wearable than the ones in Drape Drape, they still wouldn't be my first pick when it comes to trying new patterns. Still, in the interest of doing a fair review (i.e. one where I actually try out at least one pattern), I picked one of the two dresses in the book that actually looks like it has some waist definition going on: Dress R, which features several rows of elastic shirring at the waist.

Unfortunately, white on white doesn't photograph so well. 

I decided I wanted to make this dress without the sleeves, and use different fabric for the yoke for some visual interest (and also because sheer yokes are totally in right now). Tracing the pattern was pretty easy, and since the dress is actually pretty basic, I didn't really bother much with the instructions. In case you were wondering, though, the instructions are very similar to Drape Drape: concise and clearly illustrated with well-done line drawings.

It's a cute peasant-ish look, especially with the decorative blanket stitching at the neckline. 

How did it turn out? Judge for yourself.

Oh hey, that doesn't look anything like the dress in the book. 
Yeah, sorry about that, but I made lots of modifications. 
I love the white embroidered flowers on this fabric!

Maybe it was the embroidered cotton voile I was using, but the dress ended up looking very puffy around the shoulders, so I added several more rows of shirring at the shoulders in an attempt to tame some of the extra fabric. I also widened the neckline, took in the bodice side seams by about 1.5" at the underarm (tapering to nothing at the waist), recut the armholes to accommodate the new width, and shortened the hem by about five inches. I also ended up having to do huge seam allowances at the edges of the yoke in the back. For some reason, I didn't bother trimming and re-binding them, so they show through the back a little bit since the voile is so thin. Ah well, I don't have to see my own back, so I'm just going to pretend it didn't happen. And obviously I didn't do the decorative stitching at the neckline, opting instead to just bind everything with white bias tape. All in all, it was rather more fussing (and trying on and making adjustments and retrying) than I expected for a dress with such simple shapes. I wouldn't be scared off, though, as long as you like the style of dress in this book -- the pattern pieces are really very simple and the sizing is extremely generous. I cut the XS for this dress (despite the book recommending a M for my measurements) and I still had to take things in quite a bit. So if you think you can't make clothes from a Japanese sewing book because you're not standard-Japanese-person-sized (I always feel like a freakishly tall giant when I'm in Asia, and I'm not even that tall), don't be afraid!

Even though the shirring helps with the waist definition, I still like dresses best with a belt or sash, so I tried the super trendy turquoise + red combo. I quite like it! 
How's that for vibrant color, eh?
Summary:
Fabric: a little over 1.5 yards of 100% cotton embroidered cotton voile. Even though it isn't part of my official stashbusting pledge pile, it's been in the stash for a couple years and it definitely fits the April theme of vibrant color. My only gripe with it is that the embroidered sections are quite puckery and won't flatten out even with ironing. I also used a minimal amount of this dotted white net that's also been in the stash for a while.
Notions: bias tape, elastic thread
Techniques used: Shirring! I haven't shirred since this dress (where I actually had to do a similar thing to tame shoulder puffiness), and this time I shirred the front and back pieces before I sewed them together, and let me tell you, it was much easier dealing with flat pieces! Also, sometimes when I haven't used a new technique for a while, I forget that it isn't that difficult, so I avoid it because I've built it up in my head as some big task involving lots of preparation. I was actually pleasantly surprised (again) by how easy and fast shirring was; even winding the bobbins by hand didn't take much time. Incidentally, this dress only required two bobbins' worth of elastic thread.

More or less even rows of shirring. Also, seam binding on all the insides. 

Hours: Seven. What looked like a relatively simple project ended up taking a lot of time because of fussing with the fit at the top so that it didn't look so huge. Also, planning the cutting layout took not an insignificant amount of time because my yardage was so limited.
Will you make it again? No. And there's maybe only one other project in the book that I might actually make one day, but honestly, these patterns would probably be simpler for me to just improvise on my own, rather than modifying these patterns to get the look I want. I actually made a similar sheer-yoked dress last year that turned out to be much easier.
Total cost: I don't remember where I got this fabric, nor how much it was, but knowing my fabric shopping habits, it can't have been more than $5 total. [side note: The problem with fabric shopping in LA is that you start thinking that any more than $3/yd for fabric is exorbitant. I know, I know, some of you are probably all pshh, #LAsewistproblems...$10/yd for embroidered cotton voile is considered to be a good price. Don't hate, I'll be moving in a few months and then my idea of a good price for fabric will recalibrate.]
Final thoughts: I like that this is a fun summer dress that's easy to wear, and I especially love the bright colors. With the sash, it's actually fairly close to my wedding colors. All around, it's a good solid wardrobe piece, not especially groundbreaking, but nothing wrong with it either.

So, my conclusion? If you're pregnant, these are simple, relatively fast projects that would make for good belly coverage. Alternately, if you like the loose smock look, if you like uncomplicated pattern pieces with some cute details and embellishments thrown in, this is the book for you! According to the LK Publishing website, the book will be available in May. Oh, and in case you couldn't tell, this was a free copy provided to me for review purposes, although I'm not financially compensated in any way.

Last order of business: I wouldn't be me if I didn't at least try to mimic the models' poses. Whether it's holding a plate of flour while standing under a random sprig of flowers tacked to the wall, drinking from a ladle, or showing off freshly baked bread, well, let's just say that these Japanese sewing books provide me with no end of amusement.

I didn't have a sprig of flowers to tack to the wall, so I settled for Walnut's catnip mouse. 
Yes, this soup tastes about right. 
I didn't have real bread to pose with. At least my coordinating oven mitts are from a Japanese store? 

Of course, IMHO, the best photo prop (even if it totally obscures the actual dress being modeled) is a cat.

Could there ever be any doubt? 

70 comments:

  1. I really like how the dress turned out. I was a little skeptical looking at the original pattern, but your modifications (and color choice!) made it very flattering. (Walnut being glamorous makes everything that much better.)

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    1. I was pretty skeptical too, but I figured as long as it had waist definition it would be okay. I'm glad it turned out okay in the end, and that I'm not the only one who thinks so!

      Walnut instantly brings everything up to white tie level of glamor.

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  2. I like your dress more the the dress in the book. And your poses are better too!

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  3. LOL, your parody photos made my day! I really don't understand the Japanese fashion of shapeless sacks in neutral colors photographed in front of white walls. Maybe Amish chic is a backlash against the over the top street fashions? I have no idea.

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    1. I'm glad they could make you laugh! I actually don't understand the photography of these books in general, as you could probably tell, but that theory sounds as good as any!

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  4. I love your version of the dress. It looks so cute. I don't really get the huge pretty bags as clothes either, but I see potential in some of the dresses. M & H could be very cute.

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    1. I think some of them definitely have potential, but if I had time to try a new pattern, I just don't know if I would reach for one of them, you know? At least they're very pretty bags?

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  5. Love the colors you used and how much more interesting it makes your version! Your dress turned out nicely but sounds like a pain for something so simple.

    Your "pregnant" pause was hilarious! And your imitations of the book photos are always the best! Thanks for the laugh! =)

    ~ Brooke

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    1. Bright colors and silly poses make everything better! And yes, it felt a bit silly to be spending so much time modifying such a simple pattern.

      Thanks for getting the "pregnant pause" thing ;)

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  6. How did you know!! I've been Googling, pinning, and racking my brain doodling dresses and obi-style sashes almost identical to the one you posted today!

    I'll gladly take this as a sign, and finally cut into my first vintage sheet (yay!) to make a similar dress. :)

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  7. the catnip mouse on the wall is my favorite

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    1. When I was tacking it up on the wall, my husband was very, very confused.

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  8. Oooh I like the color combo. With the sash the dress really makes a statement! Your parody photos are the best!

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    1. The best thing is, if it weren't for the Vibrant Color Challenge, I wouldn't have thought to do this combination!

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  9. I love your dress. I don't like the book. I won it in a giveaway and am completely uninspired. It's sat on my bookshelf for five months gathering dust. I agree with everything you said...Think I'll be giving it away!

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    1. Yeah, the styles definitely aren't for everybody, but some of them would be cute with the right styling and fabric choice. At any rate, I hope your copy can go to someone who will love it!

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  10. you had me going there for a minute! your dress is much nicer than the one in the book. theirs are not really my style.

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    1. Hehehe, I couldn't help it! It was too good of a chance not to take, although it might've been better on April 1st.

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  11. I love your version of the dress, but unlike you I really like the styles you've shown in your sample pictures. I have the first version of the book and I'm planning to make a garment from it next month. I am not pregnant, but I do have big hips that I like to hide under dresses! Although, I think it's a good suggestion to make some of the dresses for maternity wear. I usually think of stretch fabric and maternity wear as being symbiotic.
    You have definitely inspired me to look at the patterns in a new way, though. It's great to have basic patterns that you can easily play with to suit your style.

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    1. Oh, I am so glad that someone loves these styles! I felt bad that I didn't like them that much. I agree that having fuller skirts helps with the hip-hiding, but I personally like defined waists with my full skirts. I hope your stylish dress turns out well next month!

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  12. i love how your dress came out. genius move with the shirring at the shoulders! love the poses. :)

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    1. Thanks! It's a good thing I already pulled that move before, or else this dress might have ended up in the UFO pile!

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  13. Your dress turned out cute. I'm the exception...I do like the patterns in the book. :) You had me scrolling fast...I thought you had exciting news...LOL! When you do, those dresses might be cute maternity clothes. Cutest of all is Walnut!!!

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    1. Haha no news, but the imp in me couldn't resist the chance to toy with people a bit ;) And yes, I'm definitely planning on saving this book for if I do become pregnant!

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  14. Yeah, your version is so much better! And the colors are great. Honestly, even when I was pregnant I didn't like wearing those waist-less styles... I still preferred the belted look!

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    1. Oooh, good to know! It seems like most of what I see in the maternity wear sections of stores are giant tent-like things, so it didn't even occur to me that belting was a possibility. Good thing, as I have way too many belts I like!

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  15. I couldn't agree with your review more, I've only ever used two Japanese books but I think the designs are very boxy. I bought a copy of "Stylish Dress Book: Wear with Freedom" by Yoshiko Tsukiori because I liked one or two patterns, in hindsight, though I'll have to modify most of the styles. I will say that my favorite handbag making book is "Carry Me", a Japanese book because the designs are contemporary (no gaudy quiltish looking bags - I like quilts, as home decor, not handbags) and the construction is solid.

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    1. I don't ever see myself making handbags, but it's good to know where to turn if I start! Thanks for the rec!

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  16. Lovely the dress has turned out to be :)

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  17. LOL... I started feverishly scrolling down, thinking, "WHAT? Is Cindy joining the baby club?!?!" I was starting to feel like I was the lone holdout during the baby boom! ;)

    OK, back to the dress. I LOVE this-- your modifications are really cool, and the color is gorgeous. It's so summery and nice!

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    1. Hahaha nope, no SHBs just yet! And yeah, I think the color is what really makes this dress for me!

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  18. I love this fabric. The embroidery is so pretty, and the color is great on you. The red belt looks awesome with it too! I agree that these aren't the most "fashionable" makes, but yours came out really cute!

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    1. Thanks for all your kind words about my dress!

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  19. Walnut is a great accessory to your adorable dress! Looks like a great book!

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    1. Thanks, and I'll pass on the compliment!

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  20. Hhahahahahaaha, girl I don't think I've scrolled so quick in my life... Pregnant? You tease.

    I have another of Tsukiori's Stylish Dress Books and while the smocky look doesn't suit me that much (I'm tall and slim, it takes away those curves!) it totally suits my "I don't want to wear pants" days. It becomes a choice between a cute smock dress or track pants or a muu-muu. The smock usually wins ;)

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    1. Yes, that was my goal all along, to get you all to work on your scrolling speeds :)

      I feel the same way about the smock look -- it hides my shape and just looks like a muumuu. But still better than sweats, definitely!

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  21. LOL! I love the review. Thank you for sharing.

    Rose in SV

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  22. You had me for a second there, I thought you were joining our pregnant sewing blogger club! I LOVE your dress. Especially the shoulder detail. So pretty and summery. Hope to see you soon for another sewathon!

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    1. Haha not yet, Jill! Although the next time there's another meetup, I should bring along this book for you to look through just in case!

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  23. Ah, give me a heart attack will you! I must admit I'm selfishly relieved that you'll be continuing to inspire me with dresses with waist definition for a while yet ;)

    I feel exactly the same way as you about shirring. I did it a long time ago as part of maybe my second garment ever and I've been casually avoiding it ever since. Thanks for reassuring me that it's not as annoying as I decided it was, because I love how you've used it here. The wide waistband is great, and the shoulder detail is perfect!

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    1. You know, one of my reasons for not wanting to get pregnant is that I'm too attached to waist definition? But yes, shirring is definitely not that big of a deal, so give it another go if it comes up!

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  24. Haha I love the bread's dubious expression, it kinda mirrors your feelings about the unflattering waist-less patterns!

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  25. Hah, this post made me smile!

    I have a couple of these books, in French, oddly enough - there are a couple of French publishers who have been buying them up and translating them. I've spent some quality time browsing through them, and most of the garments are loose-fitting. I think it might be a general Japanese thing? I know that with modern kimono ladies often wear padding to get that straight up-and-down cylindrical look, so it might not be particularly important to have no-waist definition.

    Anyway, I do like some of the garments - they're more interesting than the general weird frump-fest that the Big Four pattern books seem to greet me with (interesting sleeves and necklines). But the patterns sometimes have enormous amounts of ease, so I think careful project choice and muslin-ing are crucial.

    FWIW, the two books I have are 'Tuniques, Robes, etc' and 'Elegance et sobriete' (the translations of the Japanese title for this that I;ve seen are 'Adult Couture Dress and Smock Blouse' and 'Otona no couture one piece smoke blouse'!). Both are by Yoshiko Tsukiori.

    And I do like some of the styling too, although it does make me smile sometimes! My life is a long way from dressing in Liberty lawn and inhabiting a Scandinavian whitewashed cabin while wearing a permanently solemn face...

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    1. I don't know enough about Japanese fashion to be able to say whether it's a thing there, but that's fascinating to hear about the kimono padding. Looking cylindrical is generally not a priority of mine! And yes, the Big 4 has its own share of shapeless garments.

      Thanks for catching the solemn faces! I couldn't keep a straight face myself, so I had to settle for smiling.

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  26. I actually like quite a few of the dresses pictured from the bbook, if only they had a little more shape (which basically means I like the details and styling). I think your dress is lovely, even though it looks much different than the original.

    As always, I love your poses!

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    1. The book is actually very good in terms of ideas for cool design details to be adding to clothing -- their use of tucks and fabric is inspiring, even if I wouldn't do it for the actual garment it's displayed on.

      I'm glad that people continue to humor me with my poses :)

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  27. Your dress is lovely, I really like the fabric and the shirring at the shoulders. And your poses are so funny!

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    1. Thanks! I had fun posing like that, although my husband was definitely confused when he saw me pouring out flour onto a saucer!

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  28. I really like your sense of humor :) Catnip mouse on the wall :D
    Dress turned out pretty cool, far from the original (luckily)
    This oversized style reminds of me the so hated 80's - everything seemed to be so big back then (ok, I was a kid and as such all seems to be bigger but still)

    Btw, anyone has a good description of how to make shirring? If possible with pictures please (besides my 3D incapabilities I'm not very good in following pure descriptions either).

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    1. Yes, I can definitely see the 80s in these patterns...

      I used this tutorial when I first learned to shir: http://www.makeit-loveit.com/2011/11/sewing-tip-shirringsmocking-with-elastic-thread.html

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  29. Great dress and awesome colour!

    Another style that is a trend in Japan: Cat Fashion

    http://web-japan.org/trends/11_fashion/fas130225.html

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    1. I love that cat skirt! I will totally make it...one day.

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  30. A cat is the best accessory/photo prop, yes. But those other photos are lots of fun.

    It turned out fine for all the trouble, but you're right; the patterns are generic enough that you'd probably come up with something similar yourself, with less trouble... Vibrant colour for the win, here.

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  31. I wouldn't have thought twice about that pattern but, with your modifications and perfect fabric choice, it really turned out quite cute! Love the photos too :)

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  32. This is a lovely dress! The color is really pretty, and I love the yoke in the back. Nice photo shoot, too.

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  33. You did a wonderful job modifying what is basically a paper bag with some shirring in the middle. It's funny because in the kids sewing world Japanese Sewing patterns are discussed in almost hushed terms of reverence . But their adult patterns are just the same as the kids patterns. Shapeless and huge, even on the stick figures in the book! While these styles are cute on kids, they are almost odd on adults. Scenes of Whatever Happened To Mary Jane flash through my mind.... I bought the stylish dress book too, and the dress I made was so heavily modified it looked nothing like the original pattern. hats off for making a fabulous dress , no thanks to Stylish Dress Book!

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  34. I was thinking to buy this book but the patterns seem too big which create shapeless dresses as result.
    Your dress is better than the original in the book. I like your version :)

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  35. You posted this on APRIL 16TH and I'm just now seeing it? Damn, I'm behind on blog reading... and I still don't quite understand how Feedly is organized. Anyway, you fooled me -- I totally thought we'd had a Small Human Cation Being to look forward to meeting.

    Cute dress! They sent me this book too and I have no idea what to make from it, though I need to step my game up and do it already before they start shooting me hate mail for being a terrible blog promoter. Eek.

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  36. Beautiful dress! And I'm amazed you did something so darling with this book, like you I'm a fan of waists and these books seem to lack them. I love the turquoise, one of my favourite colours, and it looks fanatic with the red. Also, excellently executed prank!

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  37. I understand your feelings about the patterns in this book as you obviously have a slim figure and a waist. I, on the other hand, have neither as I am busty, plus I also tend towards the (unhealthy, I'm told) "apple" shape. When I buy American patterns it is always the Lrg-Xlg-Xxl sizing. So my question is this: what is the largest size of the patterns included with the book? I'd really appreciate it if you have the time to tell me as I'm aware this is an old thread. I'm thinking of buying the book, you see, but if the patterns are too small it would be a waste. :-)

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    1. The patterns in this book go up to L, but this is to be taken with a grain of salt. I normally wear a size S in American clothes but the sizing chart for this book recommended that I sew a size M. However, based on my experience with Japanese sewing books, I sewed a size XS and that worked out about right. I'm not sure where that would leave you, but maybe you can glean something from my experience.

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