So my historical costuming resources list from 2011 was less than a page long- I’m not saying that I’ve learned a lot in the past three years, but this list is now sitting pretty at a solid nine pages.  Whew.  And people wonder why I want to redo this damn series.

This list is by no means an exhaustive one- it’s a list of (primarily western) historical fashion resources, both online and offline, that is limited to what I know, own, or use!  It’s a work in progress, and I’m definitely hoping to expand on it as my knowledge base grows.  First things first, how about a little:


  • Read, and read about more than just costuming.  Allowing yourself to understand the cultural and historical context surrounding the clothing of a particular region/period can be invaluable in sussing out good costume design.  Looking at pictures is all well and good, but reading about societal pressures, about construction techniques, daily routines, local symbolism, whatever else will really help you understand the rhyme and reason behind costuming from any given context.
  • Expand your costume vocabulary.  When you’re delving into a new topic, costuming or otherwise, picking up new terminology is essential to proper understanding and furthering your research.  Write down or take note of terms as you come across them- google them, look up synonyms, and use those words as a jumping off point for more research.  What’s a wire rebato?  How does it differ from a supportasse?  Inquiring minds want to know.
  • Double-check your sources.  Especially on the internet, and double especially on tumblr.  I love it, but it’s ground zero for rapidly spreading misinformation.  Books are usually your safest bet, but also take into account their date of publication, who’s writing them- an author’s biases can severely mangle their original source material.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Do everything you can to find out information on your own, but feel free to reach out to people with more specialized areas of knowledge for help!  Be considerate about it- the people you’re asking are busy as well- but a specific line of questioning that proves you’re passionate and that you respect their subject matter expertise can work wonders.

Okay, onto the links!


It’s impossible to overstate the importance of getting off the internet and looking into books!  God bless the internet, but books are (generally, this isn’t a rule) better-researched and better-sourced.  Bibliographies also mean each individual books can be a jumping off point for further research, which is always a fantastic thing.

Remember- owning books is awesome and you should absolutely assemble your own library of resources, but LIBRARIES.  Libraries.  You’ll be surprised to find what books are available to you at your local library.


Patterns fo Fashion books
Detailed, hand-drawn diagrams of historical fashion, inside and out.  Pretty amazing stuff.

Fashion in Detail books
Not what you want if you’re looking for photos of entire costumes- note the “in detail” bit up there.  Just a beautiful series, and great reference for all the little things you might miss otherwise.  The V&A has an amazing fashion collection, and it’s great to see them share it with the world.





  • Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book 1 / Book 2
    Hands on analyses of extant garments, comparisons to art from the period, brilliant if you’re interested in this particular period.  First book is out of print (for now), but is pretty attainable on not-Amazon.  To be brief, Jenny Tiramani is a goddess and we could all only wish to be as knowledgeable and thorough as she is.




Everyday Fashions Series
Fashion/department store catalogs are an amazing resource for fashion during the last two centuries, and these are all fantastic places to start.



  • Pharaonic Egyptian Clothing
    By Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, an invaluable resource on Egyptian clothing.  Unfortunately out-of-print and irreplaceable, but I have seen it pop up at several libraries!  Might take some time to scan the entire book and make it available online.





Books are dandy, and I love them, but the internet is an ever-evolving resource that you can tap into- it’s up-to-date, it gives a voice to people who wouldn’t otherwise be published, and it’s so very accessible.


  • The Costumer’s Manifesto
    née, now a wiki.  Notoriously difficult to peruse, but it can be a great resource (or it used to be, anyway) if you know how to wrangle it.
  • Démodé Couture
    Kendra Van Cleave’s exhaustive historical costuming site, that only gets better with time.  Van Cleave is an exceptional dressmaker and fashion historian, and I owe her site for so many of my early forays into historical costuming resources on- and offline.
    Far more detailed than anything I could assemble- I had to resist just copying her list.
    Links to other historical costuming resource son the internet- a fantastic jumping off point.
    Extant Costume Collections Database
    Kendra’s exhaustive list of extant garment collections that are accessible online.
    Hideous, hideous site, but full of a surprising amount of pertinent information about historical costume.  Focuses primarily on the 19th century and beyond.
  • La Couteriere Parisienne
    Tons of information arranged by century, including dated portraits, patterns, etc.
  • Textile as Art
    Really neat catalog of textiles and woven garments, with a particular focus on non-western examples.
  • Wikipedia’s History of Western Fashion
    Surprisingly useful, and a great jumping off point for when you’re trying to initially pin down a period.  It is definitely a high-level overview, though- you’ll need to delve into more costume-specific sites as well.



  • Blackwork Embroidery Archive
    I just got into blackwork in a big way, and found this gem- very specific, but very helpful.
  • Elizabethan Costuming Page
    I’ve found that Googling anything about Elizabethan fashion bring you back to this page in some way, shape, or form- an indispensable resource, and easy to browse.
  • Elizabethan Portraits
    A solid collection of portraits from the Tudor/Elizabethan eras- primarily royalty, but with a section for miscellaneous portraits as well.






A number of museums have now catalogued their collections in online, searchable databases, including garments and resources that aren’t currently on display- it’s great being able to go straight to the source for your research.  See also: Kendra Van Cleave’s Extant Costume Collections Database

Clothing and store catalogs are a fantastic resource, though they’re obviously limited to the advent of the department store and beyond.  They’re a fantastic snapshot of what was in-style for everyday folk during a particular year, and they also have a breadth of detail and variety that you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.  One thing to keep in mind is that people weren’t always on the cutting edge of fashion- if you’re designing clothes for a character in 1887, you can look at catalogs from the decades prior as well.

Pinterest is a surprising resource (don’t let the inspirational photos of sunsets and diet cupcakes on the main page dissuade you), and it makes it really easy to jump from board to board to find people with similar interests/collections.  You’re more than welcome to follow me and my boards, but here are a couple especially great people to follow if you want to be absolutely inundated by fashion:

There are so many blogs out there that you can follow on historical fashion, so this is a woefully short list.  These are just talented costumers who I’ve stumbled across over the past couple of years; most (if not all) of them fabricate costumes as well as researching/writing about it, so they really know their stuff:

  • All The Pretty Dresses
    A blog cataloguing extant garment in private collections, up to 1929.
  • Diary of a Mantua Maker
    Historical fashion blog, focusing primarily on the late 18th century.  A deep dive, and a very satisfying one.  Her work is gorgeous.
  • Folk Costume and Embroidery
    As per the blog’s title, all about folk costume and embroidery in different cultures across the world.
  • Idlewild Illustre
    Beautiful costuming blog with occasional articles about historical fashion.  Very thoughtful.
  • La Cotte Simple
    14th-15th century fashion and dressmaking,
  • The Merry Dressmaker
    Costuming, tutorials, all that good stuff.
  • Mode Historique
    Sarah is so talented and so informed. Her blog is a great read, but also includes articles, research and tutorials to help out other costumers and fashion enthusiasts!
  • Rococo Atelier
    Costumer with a focus on the 18th century! I clearly follow a lot of 18th cent. blogs.

For some unadulterated extant dress porn, Tumblr is a fantastic point of reference:

  • Defunct Fashion
    Extant fashion! One of the first historical fashion blogs I followed on tumblr.
  • Fripperies and Fobs
    Extant fashion, beautifully curated
  • Non-Western Historical Fashion
    Examples of non-western fashion through extant garments, paintings, photography, etc.
  • Old Rags
    Western fashion history survey- extant gowns and period plates, paintings, and photos.  They’re pretty fantastic at having everything tagged for its appropriate period.
  • OMG That Dress
    Fashion survey that posts frequently. I had to unfollow for that reason, but I still check them all the time.
  • The Vintage Thimble
    Fashion history blog that does some fantastically researched collection posts.  Love it.
  • Ye Olde Fashion
    Fashion history blog- photos, extant clothing, the whole shebang.


Especially useful if you plan on making your own historical costumes, but the value of understanding how clothing is put together and constructed cannot be overstated.  Most of these resources focus in on historical construction techniques, though a couple of them are more broadly applicable to sewing in general


The Lady and Workman books
Simple, reenacting-appropriate books about basic hand-sewing techniques!  You can carry them in your kit and no one’s the wiser. Pretty rad.


The Harman Hay websites
Invaluable resources if you have the money to shell out for a monthly membership- or however long you need to absorb all the information.  Constantly updated, consistently high-quality, and an amazing community of costumers from around the world:


  • Burnley & Trowbridge
    18th century fabric, notions, patterns, anything you could want.
  • Corsetmaking Supplies
    As per the title, an exhaustive site for every type of corset-making paraphernalia under the sun.
  • Farthingales Corset Supplies
    Another corset supply shop, though Farthingales is particularly admirable for having the elusive 5/16” spring steel corset bones. Purr.
  • Laughing Moon
    19th century patterns.  I haven’t used Laughing Moon myself, but I know a lot of people who do.
  • The Recollections of J.P. Ryan
    18th century clothing patterns.
  • Renaissance Fabrics
    Take a wild guess.
  • Truly Victorian
    The go-to patternmaker for Victorian and early-Edwardian clothing patterns.  Heather is also a complete sweetheart, and can always be hit up in the forums for help and advice.
  • Wm. Booth, Draper
    18th century fabric and notions.

If there’s anything on here that’s wrong, mislabeled, or you yourself have something to contribute, please drop me a line to let me know!  I’m still going to try to vet everything I add to this list, but I’m always excited to discover new books and websites.  Peruse, enjoy, and DESIGN COSTUMES.


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