Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Book Review: The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan

Pages: 411
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: May 31, 2022
Publisher: Ballantine
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


Goodreads says, "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? Meanwhile, the local vicar's daughter, Grace Carlisle, is trying in vain to repair her mother's gown, her only chance of a white wedding. When Cressida Westcott appears at the local Sewing Circle meeting, Grace asks for her help—but Cressida has much more to teach the ladies than just simple sewing skills. Before long, Cressida's spirit and ambition galvanizes the village group into action, and they find themselves mending wedding dresses not only for local brides, but for brides across the country. And as the women dedicate themselves to helping others celebrate love, they might even manage to find it for themselves."


Clothing designer Cressida Westcott is famous for her designs, but she now finds herself in a tough spot. It's WWII and during the London Blitz, she loses not only her home, but also her studio. So, she has no choice, but to return to her family's country manor. This is less than ideal as she left for good reasons and doesn't feel like dealing with her haughty brother again. Her only hope is that her niece and nephew will accept her. Enter Violet Westcott, Cressida's niece. Her aunt coming to her quiet country village is news unlike any other. She can't wait to connect with her famous aunt and just as she starts to, her conscription letter comes saying she must serve. Also in the village is Grace Carlisle, who is getting married soon, but doesn't have a dress. There's a clothing rationing going on, so this was a common concern. Her only chance at a white wedding is to repair her mother's old dress. In the village, there's a sewing circle and when world-famous Cressida enters, things really start to change for not only the sewing circle, but for the village, and the women, too.  They plan to help all the brides and honor their dreams of a white wedding dress by setting up a Wedding Dress Exchange that becomes widely successful. Jennifer Ryan's The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle is a quiet novel, even though it takes place during WWII, and it was utterly charming.

Cressida is such a delightful character in The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle. She is definitely a fish-out-of-water in the quaint town of Aldhurt as she is probably the very definition of chic. Even though Cressida grew up there, she has changed, is now a major fashion designer, and has left the quiet country life behind. However, while she is there, she learns so much about herself, about people, and her outlook on life. 

At first when readers encounter Violet, they may think she is merely an aristocratic socialite without a deep thought in her head; however, she learns a lot as the story progresses. Cressida's entrance into the village, and Violet's life, changes Violet's world for the better. Violet also is forced to look at the dark sides of war. Then there's Grace, who is stuck marrying a vicar and has plans to mend her mother's old wedding dress so she can wear it. This gives Cressida an idea that starts a revolutionary act. The local sewing circle has big plans and these plans even make their way to Eleanor Roosevelt.  

My favorite part of The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle was the English village of Aldhurst.  I didn't want to leave! It was like visiting a place straight out of a Masterpiece show on PBS and I loved it. Ryan also brought the time period to life very well, but in a way that was cozy. It wasn't overly focused on the horrors of WWII, which I appreciated, because sometimes you need a charming read that will make you smile and this was it! I also learned a lot about the rationing of sewing supplies and cloth during the war, which I knew nothing about. I could appreciate this aspect of the novel as well as the fact it is based on a true story.

If you enjoy historical novels that will give you a comfy, cozy feeling, look no further. Jennifer Ryan's The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle was just that and I didn't want to leave Aldhurst behind.

Are you a fan of Ryan's novels? Have you read The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  


  1. So much about WWII is horrific and hard to read about (although I do gravitate towards the time period in my historical fiction reading), that sometimes it's nice to get these types of stories.

    1. It really was like a breath of fresh air! Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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