This book is *THE* guide for tailoring suits of the 1890s. When I first flipped through the book in the store, I was intimidated by the diagrams shown throughout the book. But honestly, if you have a roll of wide paper, a large ruler, a quilter's square, a french curve set, a few pens and pencils, and a calculator, it isn't very difficult. You just have to be sure to follow the directions carefully--and pay attention for slight mistakes in the print (I have found just two so far, and they're just a matter of common sense, one being the size of a measurement needing to be 1/6 of something instead of 1/3).
Once you have drafted your basic bodice pattern, you essentially use it again and again as a base for most of the jacket and shirtwaist patterns in the book--so you just have to retrace them and make the changes for the new pattern. And the method of measuring ensures the right fit the first time (as long as you remember to add seam allowances on the pattern edges).
If you don't like or need the "Leg 'O Mutton" sleeves, you can substitute the plain sleeve pattern included in the book. Most of the patterns, with some modifications, will work well for a range of about 1877-1882 and 1890 to 1905. You could even use the vest pattern for a modern vest, or even a men's vest if you lessen the measurements in the bust area. The longer jacket patterns would work very nicely for modern coats, as well.
One thing--if you want to look authentic, you will need a corset (no pattern is included in the book). trulyvictorian.com has a great pattern that is very easy to work with (I've used it to great success before). If you don't need a corset, it won't be a problem since the patterns are drawn to measure to fit you.
Happy drafting and sewing!