Cover Image: The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle

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Member Reviews

I have already read The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan and was looking forward to reading her next book.  I wasn't disappointed.  I loved all the characters and how from one small village with one wedding dress they could inspire a lending service of dresses. Cressida, Grace and Violet really came alive within the story.  Cressida having moved from London after being made homeless with a bombing raid, rekindled her family ties which had loosened over the years, Violet learnt to realise there was more to life than marrying a title and Grace was the glue that kept the story flowing as she blossomed.  A lovely book.
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This is the story of the Second World War
This is the story of a small village and its attempts to help in as many different ways as possible
This is the story of different women and how they adapt their lives to extraordinary circumstances
And this is the story of trying to keep things normal in the face of terrible conditions.

I loved the characters and how they support each other and make do and mend.
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The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan

I received an advance review copy for free thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan and I am leaving this review voluntarily 

Three plucky women lift the spirits of home-front brides in wartime Britain, where clothes rationing leaves little opportunity for pomp or celebration—even at weddings—in this heartwarming novel based on true events, from the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies' Choir.

After renowned fashion designer Cressida Westcott loses both her home and her design house in the London Blitz, she has nowhere to go but the family manor house she fled decades ago. Praying that her niece and nephew will be more hospitable than her brother had been, she arrives with nothing but the clothes she stands in, at a loss as to how to rebuild her business while staying in a quaint country village.

Her niece, Violet Westcott, is thrilled that her famous aunt is coming to stay—the village has been interminably dull with all the men off fighting. But just as Cressida arrives, so does Violet's conscription letter. It couldn't have come at a worse time; how will she ever find a suitably aristocratic husband if she has to spend her days wearing a frumpy uniform and doing war work?

Having read this book I am struggling to see why the book has such a high rating. I really struggled with this book and did consider not finishing the book. To begin with it felt like it was going to be a nice cosy read but I just could not connect with the writing. I do not usually read historical fiction so I am going to choose to believe that this is the reason I did not enjoy this book. 

Rating 3/5
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As a fan of sewing and historical fiction, I was really keen to read this book. It massively exceeded expectations and I couldn't put it down! I loved every second of it.
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During WWII World renowned fashion designer, Cressida Westcott, relocates to Aldhurst Village the small country village that she fled decades ago. 

Here she joins the local sewing circle where the vicars daughter Grace is seeking help to repair her mother‘s wedding gown. Before long the group find themselves mending wedding dresses for brides across the country during the difficult wartime rationing.

I love that this novel is based on a true story. It was the first I have read by Jennifer Ryan, and most certainly won’t be the last.
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1942, Aldhurst village, England....the war is beginning to take its toll on the citizens of Britain, and the citizens of the small country village of Aldhurst are looking to support their country.  Cressida Westcott, daughter of the manor,  has made a name for herself as a top fashion couturier in London.....but one night sends her back to her home village. And so the wedding dress circle was created!
This is a brilliantly told story of life, and love, on the home front during the Second World War. A group of village women who came together to help other young women. Warm and engaging characters fill this book, with lives that you really care about. 
Based on historical fact, the wedding dress exchange groups did exist during the war ensuring white wedding dresses for as many young people as possible. This is such a heartwarming and enjoyable story! Highly recommended!
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Grace is getting married and she has been given her mothers old wedding dress to use – however it is perhaps not in perfect condition, it has perished in parts and the moths have got to the others and perhaps it is not really a true reflection of Grace but is her impending marriage a true reflection either ? Grace knows if she goes to the local village sewing circle she will be able to find some help.

Cressida Westcott is a name everyone knows ibn the fashion world even during the Second World War. But London is not always the safest place to be and when Cressida’s home and studio are completely devastated and all she has is the clothes she stands in, she needs to find some courage to change. Unfortunately that means going back to the family home where she never had a pleasant life.

Violet Wescott is Cressida’s niece and is beside excitement that this famous and infamous aunt has returned to the family home. Violet sees herself as waiting to find the right husband to keep her in the manner to which she wants to be accustomed to. However the country is at war and young unattached single women are called up to service. Violet is about to learn what life is really like.

These three women with different backgrounds, classes, and outlook of life and love are drawn together because of the village sewing circle. Where just as food is rationed, clothes are rationed too. The make do and mend philosophy is living well and the women come together and share their knowledge, their strength and their wedding dresses so that woman can always have that special outfit for their big day even if there is a war on.

At the heart of the novel as with Jennifer Ryan’s other is strong female characters, showing their strength in different ways. However there is so much you learn from her novels that I was totally absorbed in everything as I devoured this book. Even better when you learn something too and I even almost wanted to get my own sewing machine out and have a go at making my own clothes!

If you are fan of historical fiction and perhaps want a different take on what went on at the Home Front then this and pervious novels are the go to books I would recommend.
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Another really enjoyable story based on facts by Jennifer Ryan. My mother trained as a dressmaker in the 1930s and I can now see where she learned how to transform clothes in the 1950s. I had never heard of the competition for utilitarian clothes and was fascinated. Beautiful characters, all with something to contribute to the story.
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When the bombs over London destroyed the home of one lady, it made her return home to the village where she grew up. What happens there brings everyone together and you need to read this book to find out what happens. I really enjoyed this and am giving it 5 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and publisher for this ARC
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A lovely read. Wonderful characters. i am new to the author but will definitely keep an eye out for more from her.
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In a Nutshell: Quite unlike any WWII fiction I have read. Never knew the fashion industry had such a role to play during the war. Lovely characters, good old-fashioned story-telling. Feels like a romance than a war story. 

1942, Aldhurst Village, England.
Grace Carlisle, the vicar’s daughter. Engaged to a navy chaplain many years her senior. Believes it is her bounden duty to be a dutiful wife and serve the parish where her husband serves. 
Hugh Westcott, Grace’s childhood friend and now Lord of the local manor. Holds a high position in the war office. Believes it is his bounden duty to follow his late father’s instructions and do his best to carry the title ahead. 
Violet Westcott, Hugh’s younger sister. Interested only in finding a rich titled husband so that she can fulfil her end of the family tradition. 
Cressida Westcott, Hugh and Violet’s aunt. Owner of successful design house in London and believes that nothing will take her back to her brother’s house again. 
After a round of intense bombing in London destroys Cressida’s home and design house. She has no choice but to return to Aldhurst to her late brother’s house. This sets off a chain of events that changes the lives of the above characters forever. Along the way, you will meet some gutsy characters and encounter some brilliant ideas of how wedding dresses were made/shared/reused.
The story comes to us in the third person perspectives of the three leading ladies. 

I must confess, I was on a self-imposed break from WWII fiction because the genre had begun saturating me. But after seeing many wonderful reviews for this book from friends here, I succumbed to the temptation and requested a copy from NetGalley. So glad I did so or else I would have missed out on this wonderful story!

Where the book worked for me:
❤ Well, it didn’t follow the typical format of recent WWII fiction: no dual timelines, no first person narratives, no single-minded focus on dreary war-related topics such as survival or death (these are included but the narrative doesn’t limit itself to these). I enjoyed the fresh content within the familiar topic.
❤ I liked the main characters. Violet, Grace and Cressida are very interesting and their arcs allow them to experience a range of emotions. (Some part of their character transition is a bit unbelievable but I liked the change.) A couple of the male characters aren’t far behind, unlike most other historical women’s fiction. Hugh and Landon have a great role to play and are carved well enough for you to know them and their thinking.
❤ The whole writing had such an old-worldly charm to it. Nothing OTT. Good characters facing tough situations and learning to change with the changing situations. It is a survival story in many ways, but not in the typical way. 
❤ While I had read about coupons and clothes rationing in England during the war, I had assumed that the fashion houses would have been closed either due to shortage of material or because of the war circumstances. Reading about how these houses operated with the limited resources available was an enlightening experience. Ditto for the titular ‘Wedding Dress Sewing Circle’ which bonds all the characters together. The author’s research is evident.
❤ The author’s note was nice to read and it reveals the extent to which a part of the story is based on facts.

Where the book could have worked better for me:
💔 It is somewhat clichéd despite the novel topics it contains. There is no suspense, no character conflict. Almost everything is guessable. All character behaviour is predictable. The romances are easy to figure out the minute the character steps on the page. I don’t mind straightforward storytelling but maybe this was a bit too much so. 
💔 In many ways, it hardly feels like a WWII story except for the mention of certain ideas as rationing and the blitz. 

Despite the few reservations I had with the simplistic storytelling, I mostly enjoyed the story. It is a feel-good kind of read and if you read it without over-analysing it or expecting something earth-shattering, you will have a wonderful experience. Recommended to historical war fiction fans who aren’t looking for a grim read.

4 stars.

My thanks to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for the DRC of “The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.
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Another remarkable wartime read from a favourite author!

When Grace Carlisle’s mother died young, Grace stepped up to take her place not only in the home, but also in her father’s parish where she spends her days helping out anyone and everyone in need. With her wedding day looming and new rules about clothing, her only hope of being married in white is to wear her mother’s wedding dress, but there has been considerable moth damage; will it be possible to renovate the frock in time? At the local ‘big house’, Cressida Westcott has returned to live, temporarily, with her niece and nephew after her home and business were bombed in the Blitz. Cressida, not used to sitting on her laurels, soon becomes involved in village life and she has more skills to offer than just being a lady of the manor . . .

As with the author’s other novels, this is a delight from beginning to end. I always enjoy reading the acknowledgements and the amount of research carried out is quite mind boggling! It shows in all the little details throughout – like women in the village being referred to as ‘Mrs’ or ‘Miss’; when we were children we wouldn’t have ever considered calling a neighbour or friend of our parents by their Christian name. Also shining through is the determination of everyone to pull together during the war and it’s easily seen how it was the beginning of the end of the so-called ‘class war’. Everything about this one was a sheer delight and I revelled in it. Of course, Grace and Cressida’s stories were so very different but equally enthralling. Beautifully written and so very entertaining, this is easily a five star read and I recommend it to all lovers of a rather good tale!

My thanks to the publisher for my copy via NetGalley; this is – as always – my honest, original and unbiased review.
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Thank you to #NetGalley for my advance copy of #TheWeddingDressCircle by #JenniferRyan

Grace is the perfect vicars daughter since her mothers death, filling the role of assisting the vicar and helping the villagers 
But who looks after Grace as World War Two. Rages around them the women of the village come together to support each other and help the war effort in their own way. 
Loosely based on a true happenings this little book is a treasure. 
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Another great historical fiction from Jennifer Ryan

I've read and loved all of Jennifer Ryan's previous books, and this one is just as good. She has something of a formula: take some true details of life during WWII, add a village, some loveable and not-so-loveable characters, and plenty of drama, and press play; but it works really well. Her novels are always charming, heartwarming and realistic without being too stark.

In this one we follow Grace, the vicar's daughter, Violet, the upper class girl whose family owns the nearby estate, and Cressida, Violet's aunt who left her family home as a young girl to become a famous London fashion designer. When Cressida's house and studio are bombed she's forced back to the village to stay, and when Grace needs help repairing her wedding dress the two become friends.

I loved the dynamic between these three. Often there are more characters to follow in Ryan's novels, but here you really get to know all the women properly. My personal favourite was Cressida, I really enjoyed her storyline. The historical detail was so good, it was really interesting reading about the fashions and I like how Ryan weaves in real events.

I highly recommend this novel, especially if you enjoy historical fiction, and even if you aren't really a fan of war fiction.

I'd like to thank the publishers, Pan Macmillan, and Netgalley for kindly providing me with an advance release copy, I really appreciate it.
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story of 3 women n WWII can recommend will put more on amazon when my broken wrist is out of plaster
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Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and Jennifer Ryan for the chance to read this ARC in return for a review which is totally my own opinion.

I had read Jennifer Rynas previous book The Kitchen Front - and thoroughly enjoyed it so it was an easy option to request this book.

And I was not at all disappointed - based on true facts this book described the 'make do and mend' ethos brought about by War and clothing coupons in great detail and was obviously researched very well. 

I have had some more reading time than I often would have whilst sat beside my Fathers hospital bed - and this was a book that was easy to read but really informative - and in fact I also read at other times as I was so keen to find out what happened next. 

The characters are well written and in the main likeable - though, of course, with many novels there is always a bad apple and people that one doesn't like or who really irritate - much like life really 

I do recommend this book and hope that the author finds another wartime topic to research and write another novel for us 

Thank you again to all involved
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Thank you for letting me read The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan. I have now finished it and thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The research that went into the writing of this book is both fascinating and informative, and the psychological progression of the main characters’ personalities during the course of the story was interesting too, as they found their true selves and subsequent happiness.
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I’ve enjoyed Jennifer Ryan’s previous books and this one didn’t disappoint either.It’s also set during the Second World War and tells the story of a group of women who are part of a sewing circle and who decide to recycle old wedding dresses to get round the clothing ration which severely limited how many clothes could be bought in a year.Each of the main characters has her own story which progresses throughout the book and as always,it concentrates more on the way the war affected everyday life for the people at home ,which is very interesting.
This is based on true events, which I knew nothing about before reading it. 
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC in return for an honest review which reflects my own opinion.
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I really enjoyed this read. Some fiction based on war can be fighting-heavy and quite depressing and scary. But this one was focussed on those back home and it was really quite joyful even amongst their troubles and hardships. 

I much preferred the female characters to the men. For me, the men were background people, surplus to requirements, but the women were where the story lies, where the power is. It’s so refreshing to read about strong women in the 1940s, a time where women were not seen as equal to men. 

We live in a world of one-use, fast fashion and mass markets. It’s getting better - thanks in part I think to the pandemic - but it’s a real eye-opener to read about a community whose only way of living is through second hand, reuse, the epitome of make do and mend, but it wasn’t moapy or sad, it was rejuvenating, giving new live to things as well as people. 

I loved the exquisite detail of dressmaking and tailoring. It isn’t too complicated to follow, but equally does not presume the reader to be completely naive. You can feel the fabrics described and see the garments made. Fashion is often seen as frivolous, especially during time of war, but this book shows just how much it means to have a little joy, a little something just for you when the world around you is crumbling.

As morbid as it may seem, I really enjoy books set in the war. This tugged at my heartstrings in a different way to others. We usually read about soldiers on the frontline or those in concentration camps, but rarely do we read about the sacrifices made and the torment experienced by the everyday folk and I think that makes it more real for the average reader.
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This was the first book by Jennifer Ryan that I have read...and I thoroughly enjoyed it... in some ways her writing style reminds me of Erica of my favourite escapism authors!

Set in Kent and London during WWII , Cressida is estranged from her family, which after the death of her brother consists of a niece Violet and a nephew Hugh.

Violet and Hugh's characters grow on the reader...initially they are portrayed as two young upper class upstarts with no real knowledge or understanding of how the real works lives.

During the blitz, Cressida a very successful dress designer loses not only her home but her business in the same evening... with nothing other than a coat, handbag and a silk nightie... she spends the first night in a shelter before phoning her nephew to ask for refuge at the family's manor in Kent .

Lots of twists and tales... village ladies doing their best for the war effort... making clothes out of old ones... mending them etc...and then quite by chance they start recycling wedding dresses.

We have a lot to learn from the hardships suffered during WWII, and while I would never want to have suffered as our grandparents and parents did, I think this book should encourage us to recycle our clothes... mend, sew change whatever... however I doubt todays youngsters would ever consider doing that!
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