It’s been a while since the last time I presented books to you. This time I have something more advanced; Haute Couture patternmaking! You can find the past articles under the Books category.

I was thrilled when the publishing house Hoaki Books contacted me to offer a few patternmaking books to review. There was no request from their part for me to write a blog post, but I felt like they made a perfect addition to my list of books here and that you’d appreciate learning about them. Even better, the authors are Italian, and I didn’t have any representation for Italian patternmaking books, yet.

This is the first article, and there will be another one later on.

Let’s get to the book, then. But first, something about the author.

The Author

Antonio Donnanno has been teaching costume history and patternmaking techniques since 1960’s. In 1982, he founded a fashion school of his own, called Euromode School Italia in Bergamo. He is still director of the school and continues to teach there.

Antonio Donnanno has written several books about fashion, ranging from patternmaking and illustration to history of fashion, and his method is used in fashion schools outside of Italy, too. The books have been translated from Italian to English, Spanish, French, and Chinese.

The Patternmaking Books

Donnanno has published various books on patternmaking.

Look for Fashion Patternmaking Techniques vol. 1-3 if you’re new to patterns. These three books contain instructions for drafting both women’s and men’s patterns. They are divided by themes and the level of difficulty increases as you go. Meaning, the first volume has skirts and pants, and the third one is about jackets and coats. The measurements are in centimeters.

You can also find separate books dedicated to childrenswear and accessories.

Then there are two books on Haute Couture patterns. The first volume was published in 2017 (Italian version in 2015).

Here’s the main table of contents of this book to give you an idea.

Fashion Patternmaking Techniques HAUTE COUTURE vol.2

However, the main subject of this article is the second volume of the Haute Couture patternmaking series from Donnanno. It’s pretty much brand new: the English version was published earlier this year (2021).

As you can see in the cover, this book includes designs that explore the possibilities of darts, draping, frills & flounces, collars, necklines, sleeves, trousers, and skirts.

The beautiful illustrations are by Nadie Bonzi.

Here’s the main table of contents. I’ll go briefly through each of them.

Fashion Patternmaking Techniques HAUTE COUTURE vol.2: table of contents

Chapter 1: Haute Couture: Past and Present

The first chapter is about the history of Haute Couture, starting from the 19th century. It tells you about different labels and designers, and how haute couture and its role has evolved during the years. Besides text, it includes pictures of famous gowns. This is just to set the scene, so it’s not a long chapter.

Chapter 2: Creative Darts in Haute Couture

In the second chapter we get to the patterns! It starts by explaining the principles of dart manipulation; how to rotate darts, and how to turn them into gathers, absorb into stylelines, etc.

Fashion Patternmaking Techniques HAUTE COUTURE vol.2, chapter 2 contents

After the basics, you’ll then get to see dart manipulation in action through various dress designs. This book being about Haute Couture, these are pretty complex designs, too!

Here’s an example page to show you what I’m talking about. Lot’s of cuts and measurements there. I really like the idea of this cape sleeve.

Speaking of darts, in this chapter I encountered a tip on sewing only with the bobbin thread and was intrigued. Never knew that was possible! This trick allows you to sew darts in sheer fabrics without creating bulk at the dart point. Have you tried?

Chapter 3: The Magic of Draping, Frills and Flounces

This chapter presents dresses with different flounce details: flounces decorating the skirt, the neckline, or the shoulder, for example.

Fashion Patternmaking Techniques HAUTE COUTURE vol.2, chapter 3 contents

By the way, you’ll find a more detailed chapter about the construction of flounces in the first volume of the Haute Couture series, if you’re interested in the subject.

But back to this book, there are also a few draped dresses in this chapter. It’s just that the patterns are created with the flat pattern method. I feel like it would be easier to drape them, but nonetheless it’s interesting to see how one would go about drafting the pattern directly on paper. See this design for example.

Chapter 4: Haute Couture Details: Collars, Necklines and Sleeves

Another chapter jam packed with cool, but complex designs, several of which I’d definitely like to try making. The amount of pattern pieces is often incredible, but I’d be up for the challenge!

Fashion Patternmaking Techniques HAUTE COUTURE vol.2, chapter 4 contents

This chapter includes a dress that has these rosette motifs. They remind me of Shingo Sato’s vortex technique, so I think this one could be made in TR Cutting as well.

Chapter 5: Haute Couture Trousers and Skirts

Fashion Patternmaking Techniques HAUTE COUTURE vol.2, chapter 5 contents

Getting to the final chapter, we’ll find jumpsuits, trousers and skirts with particular shapes. And I must add here: sleeves, too! It’s a shorter chapter than the ones before, but might even be my favorite chapter, as I enjoy exploring different shapes. The illustrations above give you a good idea on what I’m talking about!

The book ends with some notions on how to shape fabric with darts, gathers, and pleats. There are also instructions for adding boning and applying lace.

Testing Sleeve Patterns

Of course I then had to try a couple of designs myself! I picked sleeve patterns which had an interesting construction, because we like sleeves here! 😀 Both are raglan sleeves. Basically I skipped the rest of the design and did just the sleeves.

I used a different raglan base, which might’ve altered the result slightly. Mine has a different inclination. As a consequence I needed to adapt the instructions a bit.

Here’s what the designs looked like on the book pages. I was curious about the shape of this one.

Raglan Sleeve Design from Fashion Patternmaking Techniques HAUTE COUTURE vol.2, by Antonio Donnanno.

The second sleeve had folds I wanted to try.

Jacket design from Fashion Patternmaking Techniques HAUTE COUTURE vol.2, by Antonio Donnanno.

Here’s my version of the first one. I made it without the flounce at the hemline and used a jersey fabric.

For the second design, I ended up changing the measurements, because the ones used in the instructions created a narrower sleeve. I felt like the measurements given were too ”conservative” so I amped them up and the result now looks more like the illustration. More precisely, I widened the sleeves at the widest point and increased the pleat volume at the armscye.

I thought this design looks pretty cool and I definitely want to make myself a blouse with this sleeve!

My Thoughts

So who should get the book(s)?

I’d say these two books are best suited for more advanced patternmakers who know their way around and understand garment construction.

The reason for this is that the books don’t explain how to create the basic pattern blocks, so you need to have those already. You’ll find it useful to have basic blocks created with Donnanno’s method, but if you’re good with patterns, you’ll be able to adapt the instructions for other methods as well. You just might have to change some measurements.

Also, there aren’t many written instructions for the patterns, or how to sew the garments. Some patterns are more difficult to understand than others. In fact, they can become real puzzles, as you might’ve noticed in some of the example pages I added earlier.

In any case I find that together these two Haute Couture books give you lots of inspiration and it’s interesting to discover how to create the flat patterns of various complex designs. Here are two more design examples from volume 2.

Designs from Fashion Patternmaking Techniques HAUTE COUTURE vol.2, by Antonio Donnanno.

Some of the dresses have elements you might have seen already browsing through Pinterest, such as the one on the left in the picture above.

As usual, I personally like to choose details from different designs, rather than going for the complete look, and then make the pattern my own by modifying the measurements and proportions. In other words, it’s all about understanding the underlying technique to create the different shapes and structures.

If you feel like this is too advanced, you should definitely have a look at the other, more basic books in the series instead. I have all of them in Italian, except the Childrenswear book, and can recommend them.

You should be able to get these books in various languages at online bookstores, such as Book Depository, and of course on Amazon, too.

I hope you’ll find these an excellent addition for you book collection!

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  1. Thembeka Maqungo Reply

    Hi Minna
    How do you get the books in South Africa.

  2. Ciao shape of fabric…molto utile quello che scrivi è sempre una gioia leggere, io ho i 3 libri Di donnanno e anche questo mi sembra interessante e come hai detto c’è bisogno di saperlo un po’ interpretare…io intanto mi ispirò molto a te vorrei molto saper realizzare tutto quello che fai è bellissimo…continuo a seguirti e se parli in italiano spero che mi aiuterai se ti farò qualche domanda in futuro 😊🤗ciao Nicole

    • Grazie per il tuo messaggio. 🙂 Sí, sono contenta che li hanno tradotti anche in altre lingue, così saranno utili a più persone. Scrivimi pure via email se hai qualche domanda. Intanto, fai esperimenti in carta e stoffa e vedrai che imparerai tante cose! 🙂

  3. Hi there
    Thanks for all your amazing information… and the mention of your courses. Please can you help me understand the rosette pattern – where must I cut and where do i fold – I dont understand his pattern. Sorry – I am a newbie but so want to make the sleeve. Louise SA

    • You’re welcome. 🙂 I’d say there are in fact easier ways to make the rosette sleeve than creating a flat pattern. Have a look at my smocking tutorial, where I make a rose sleeve. And also check out Shingo Sato’s Tr Cutting School and especially the “vortex technique”. You might be able to find videos on YouTube.

  4. Bablu Nirmal Reply

    Hi. I am finding it a difficult to understand certain certain measurements. Can you please explain what is the “Sector” measurement in the Antonio Donnanno books? Also while drafting the sleeves what is the base bodice section measurement? I would very grateful if you could help with this

    • Yes, I remember wondering about that, too. The meaning is explained in his first patternmaking book. It’s basically the section that remains between the chest and back widths under the arm. He has included a formula for measuring it like this: upper arm circumference measurement + ease divided by 3.14 + 1.5cm.

  5. Kiana Carn Reply

    I’m trying to understand what the little numbers mean on the illustration? I only have the haute couture v 1 & 2. So I’m a bit confused. I pattern make in the US so I understand the concept the numbers are throwing me off.
    Thanks for your help!

    • Hello! 🙂 They are measurements in cm, like length and width measurements for the part near the number. Some of the numbers are pattern piece numbers but then they are placed in the middle of the pattern piece.

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