I really wanted to like this book. Really.
I got "Chic and Simple Sewing: Skirts, Dresses, Tops and Jackets for the Modern Seamstress" by Christine Haynes at the library. The cover is cute, and I immediately liked that the book lays flat and included full sized patterns. Unfortunately, that's about all the praise I can give it.
The designs are arranged by season, even though it's quite clear that it's arbitrary. The patterns are designated on a level of difficulty from one to five and list the required skills. The very first dress, "The Classic Wrap Dress" is pretty cute, as is "The Opera Dress". Those are the only ones that look even close to something you'd wear.
None of the designs have zippers, buttons, darts, lining, facing, interfacing/stabilizer, or even embellishment suggestions or views in alternate fabrics. Everything is shapeless and shoddily constructed. The hems are all machine-stitched, and the designs don't even fit the models that well. All of the accessories on the models were wrong, too, including a prominent black woven belt that keeps reappearing to hide many elastic waistbands. There's also a large bottom ruffle shown on FIVE different dresses.
There are very few diagrams, and I was surprisingly annoyed that Haynes didn't even show how the patterns ought to lay on the fabric. She mentions in the 40 page general sewing instructions that all of the patterns should be laid out to maximize your fabric usage.
That reminds me: the patterns. I went ahead and made the wrap dress, and the book told me to cut out a handful of patterns that came with numbers, like "20, Bodice Back Side". The previously-mentioned full sized patterns are still printed on tissue paper, and every piece has generic names. There's no mention of the dress as well, so I could've easily cut out another "Bodice Back Side" if I didn't also match the number.
Back to my making of the wrap dress. The instructions offered little more than, "Cut out your pattern. Sew your dress." I bought the recommended yardage, but after cutting, I still have about half of it left (that's fine-- I'd rather have extra than coming up short, and I'm also glad I picked fabric I like).
Here's an example of the vague direction given: "For this dress, pick something lightweight, medium weight, or even slightly heavier." (p.105) Lots of help, eh?
If you're still with me, I will say that the small pattern actually seems to be a small. And the wrap dress did indeed come out OK. I promise to post pictures soon, but right now I'm way too tired to model. Bottom line, "Chic and Simple Sewing" gets a big thumbs down from the Park Avenue Sweat Shop.