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The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan
Historical fiction

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle

by Jennifer Ryan

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Quick take

Prepare to be inspired by this winning story of women challenging the expectations laid on them by society during WWII.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Inspirational

    Inspirational

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Real-life-characters

    Real-life characters

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_War

    War

Synopsis

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 galvanize 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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle.
The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle

GRACE CARLISLE

The Vicarage, Aldhurst Village, England

January 1942

“I found it!” the Reverend Ben Carlisle’s voice called from the attic. Grace felt her breath catch as she dashed across the vicarage landing to see him come down, a long, flat box held ceremoniously in his arms, a bittersweet smile on his face.

“Where was it?” she breathed.

“It was hidden in a corner behind some boxes of books.” Her father’s black trousers and shirt were flecked with dust, the edge of his white vicar’s collar smeared with dirt, but he still looked good for almost fifty, Grace thought, with his tall frame and his dark hair silvering at the sides

“Bring it into my bedroom,” Grace said as she raced ahead of him, tidying the small bed in the corner, smoothing down the quilt her mother had made for her. “I can’t believe you found it after all these years.”

He put the box onto the bed. “She always hoped you’d wear her wedding dress.”

Even ten years after her death, his eyes still betrayed his grief. Grace worried about him, sitting alone in his study, distancing himself from not just his parish but the world. Already battling shell shock from the last war, her father had been brought so low in his grief after her mother’s death that Grace had had to take on much of his parish work, organizing weddings and funerals, baking loaves at harvest, and setting up the nativity for Christmas. She’d also taken on his parish visits, looking after the sick or bereaved, helping the poor, fitting them around her job with Mrs. Bisgood at the village shop. The villagers were sympathetic about his seclusion, but Grace fretted over what would happen to the parish once she left for her marital home.

“Open it, then,” he urged.

As she pulled off the box lid, the gleam of ivory satin shone brightly from beneath. “Oh, it’s beautiful!”

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Why I love it

Clothes and WWII stories are two of my very favorite things. So it’s no surprise I ate up The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle with a spoon, a deliciously warm and heartrending tale with a fabulous vintage wedding dress at its tender heart.

Based on the true stories of brides being lent wedding dresses during the war, this story is set in lovely Aldhurst, the kind of quaint English village you never want to leave. I settled in with this delightful escape to a kinder, gentler time and loved discovering fascinating things about the rationing of sewing supplies and cloth and the page-turning tension of the war. But it’s the characters who bring the book to life: charming and modest Grace Carlisle, who is pledged to marry a passionless vicar. Chic couturier Cressida Westcott, head of a fashion empire, whose life changes so unexpectedly. And entitled Violet Westcott (sister to the wonderfully brooding Hugh, a childhood friend of Grace), who is forced to come face-to-face with the realities of war.

Before long, inspired by Grace’s mother’s wedding dress, Cressida rallies the local sewing circle to mend and recycle wedding dresses to help wartime brides. It’s empowering to see women helping women, taking charge of their own happiness. I was sad to leave Aldhurst but it was healing to visit this charming place where good things happen to good people, a lovely reminder that helping others is one of the things that makes life so satisfying.

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Member ratings (11,421)

  • Morgan S.

    Dardenne Prairie, MO

    oooohhhhh my god. this book, i’m speechless. it’s literally written SO beautifully. it left me feeling so happy and hopeful for my own future. such sweet meaning to it. HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend ❤️❤️

  • HannahGrace B.

    Argyle, TX

    this was so sweet! it took about 100ish pages to get the story started and the writing was a bit more “tell” than “show” which bothered me at first but once i connected with the characters i loved it!

  • Ashley T.

    Fargo, ND

    I did not expect to love this...and then I read the entire thing in less than a day. If you need something heartwarming and filled with positivity, please read this. I promise you'll love it. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • Sarah B.

    Lithonia, GA

    I’m a huge fan of Ryan’s previous books, and this one didn’t disappoint. Her characters are dimensional and her plots are layered, while maintaining a “comfy” sort of feeling. Plus sewing! ♥️

  • Maggie K.

    Voluntown, CT

    Loved the pace of the book, the way the story weaves through multiple character's journeys and the overall style. Not normally a book I would have chosen but so glad I did! I highly recommend this! ❤️

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