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:
ADVICE FOR RESEARCHING HISTORICAL FASHION
- 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.
GENERAL / SURVEYS
- British Costume from Earliest Times to 1820
Fine book with lots of first hand sources, but be wary of the photography in the book- reproduction costumes and thus somewhat less reliable. Though hilarious.
- Corsets and Crinolines
Norah Waugh’s invaluable survey of corsetry and corset patterns- used the world ‘round by modern corsetieres.
- Costume in Detail: Women’s Dress 1730-1930
Elaborate line drawings/diagrams of extant period garments! A fantastic survey.
- Cut of Men’s Clothes
PDF available online! Patterns for men’s period garments.
- Cut of Women’s Clothes
Patterns for women’s period garments.
- Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through World History
This is a library find, unless you have a pretty three hundred bucks lying around- a great, general resource.
- A History of Costume
A lot of good text and info, to be taken with a grain of salt. Be wary of any reconstructions and or “supposed” patterns that aren’t directly based on extant garments or firsthand accounts.
- Fashion (Taschen 25th Anniversary)
A survey of the Kyoto Costume Institute’s fashion collection- broad but beautiful. On every fashion student’s bookcase.
- Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style
Great overview of fashion history from the Smithsonian and DK publishing.
- The History of Costume: From the Ancient Mesopotamians Through the Twentieth Century
Broad costume survey, second edition.
- What People Wore: 1,800 Illustrations from Ancient Times to the Early Twentieth Century
this is one of those “I am putting this here because I used it a ton when I was younger” but man, mixed bag. Really cool survey to browse through, but also work that is a copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy in most instances and thus not necessarily trustworthy as a resource.
- What People Wore When: A Complete Illustrated History of Costume from Ancient Times to the Nineteenth Century for Every Level of Society
A collection of Racinet and Hottentoth’s costume plates from the 19th century. A beautiful survey but, since these are later illustrations, to be taken with a grain of salt.
Patterns fo Fashion books
Detailed, hand-drawn diagrams of historical fashion, inside and out. Pretty amazing stuff.
- Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women, C.1560-1620
- Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s Dresses & Their Construction C. 1660-1860
- Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s Dresses & Their Construction C. 1860-1940
- Patterns of Fashion 4: The Cut and Construction of Linen Shirts, Smocks, Neckwear, Headwear and Accessories for Men and Women C. 1540-1660
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.
- Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail
- Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Fashion in Detail
- Underwear: Fashion in Detail
- World Dress: Fashion in Detail
The one non-western entry in the series.
- Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700 - 1915
LACMA’s response to the V&A’s series mentioned above, also an invaluable resource for historical fashion detail.
- Medieval costume and fashion
Great resource with lots of specific, to-the-year details and diagrams.
- In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion
Analysis of period fashion using art from the period, gorgeous book.
- The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing Sixteenth Century Dress
Firsthand resources, diagrams, and construction techniques for 16th century fashion.
- 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.
- Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, 1750-1790
Linda Baumgarten works with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and is a very, very well-known name in the 18th century costuming spheres. Great breakdown of their collection of extant garments from the period.
- Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the Eighteenth Century
Beautiful extant gowns/scenes from the 18th century.
- Eighteenth-Century Clothing at Williamsburg (Williamsburg Decorative Arts Series)
Extant clothing from the CW Foundation’s collection.
- The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England
Everyday fashion in the CW Foundation’s collection, including details, back & front shots, etc.
- What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America
More of the same. In a good way.
- An Illustrated History of Hairstyles 1830-1930
A fantastic survey of everyday people and their everyday hairstyles.
- Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900
Everyday American fashion during the 19th century.
- Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey
The Victorian Era is the first time we have actual photographs of people in costume- something we can’t say for previous eras. Getting to see fashion in its proper context is an invaluable resource for this time period.
- Victorian and Edwardian Fashions from “La Mode Illustree”
Fashion plates are a fantastic resource- a lot of bang for your buck, and you get to see variations and detailing within a very specific period of time.
- Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazar, 1867-1898
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.
- Everyday Fashions of the Twenties As Pictured in Sears Catalogs
- Everyday Fashions of the Thirties As Pictured in Sears Catalogs
- Everyday Fashions of the Forties As Pictured in Sears Catalogs
- Everyday Fashions of the Fifties As Pictured in Sears Catalogs
- Everyday Fashions of the Sixties As Pictured in Sears Catalogs
NON-WESTERN and REGION-SPECIFIC FASHION:
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN FASHION
- 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.
NATIVE AMERICAN/FIRST NATIONS FASHION
- Arctic Clothing
traditional Alaskan/Canadian clothing and construction techniques.
- Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume
A broad survey of traditional fashion.
- Faces from the Land: Twenty Years of Powwow Tradition
Portraits of people in modern Powwow regalia, insanely impressive work.
- Identity by Design: Tradition, Change, and Celebration in Native Women’s Dresses
a history of Native women’s fashion over the past two centuries.
- Indian Clothing Before Cortes: Mesoamerican Costumes from the Codices
A surprisingly comprehensive account of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican Fashion as sourced from the codices.
- Magnificence of the Tsars: Ceremonial Men’s Dress of the Russian Imperial Court, 1721-1917
Lovely survey of men’s court fashion in Russia.
- Russian Elegance: Country & City Fashion from the 15th to the Early 20th Century
Expensive, but gorgeous.
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.
GENERAL / SURVEYS
- The Costumer’s Manifesto
née http://www.costumes.org/, 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.
- Extant Medieval Clothing
It doesn’t get more specific and useful than this! Exactly what it promises.
- Some Clothing of the Middle Ages
Looks dated, but a nicely detailed survey of archaeological garments.
- 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.
- Late 17th Century Clothing HIstory
Not my personal forté, but this is still a site I’ve had tucked away in my bookmarks for some time.
- 18th Century Clothing Notebook
A collection of links to extant bits and bobs from the period.
- British Photo Detective
A surprisingly neat find- a catalogue of photographic hairstyles and fashion from the Edwardian period onward.
- Timeline of Costume History
…Specifically extant garments from the 1830’s to the 1910’s.
- Beyond Buckskin
Native American fashion and jewelry! Try not to spend all your money.
- Eff Yeah Indigenous Fashion
Modern Indigenous Fashion!
- Loux the Vintage Guru
South African vintage fashion stylist.
- Style Korea
Korean fashion and street style.
- Costumer’s Guide to Movie Costumes
Starting to shift their focus towards facebook, but still a great go-to site for costuming in film.
- Oregon Shakespeare Festival costume rentals
Just some beautiful examples of modern costuming reconstructions of period garments.
- Recycled Movie Costumes
Really neat blog about reused (usually historical) costumes in films.
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
- The British Museum
Extant fashion, fashion plates, etc.
- Colonial Williamsburg
18th century American fashion.
- Glover’s of London
GLOVES. 17th to 21st centuries. More gloves than you could ever ask for.
- Kyoto Costume Institute
Unfortunately not their entire collection, but it does include some fantastic highlights.
- TEXMEDIN Digital Library
Database covering textile and apparel collections from across the world.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art - Costume Institute
Extant fashion, textiles, and paintings- western and non-western.
- Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Textile and fashion arts- everything from doublet bodices to kente cloths.
- National Museum of the American Indian
Amazingly in-depth collection of historical and modern art, costume, objects, etc.
- Victoria & Albert Museum
An unparalleled fashion collection, historical and modern day.
CATALOGS and FASHION PLATES
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.
- Á La Mode, 1795-1920 Fashion Plates
- Archive.org - Deptartment Store Catalogs
Vintage store and manufacturer catalogs, including the 1912 one I used for early Bioshock Infinite research.
- Claremont Colleges Fashion Plate Collection
primarily 19th century.
- Digital Changeling - Period Resources
Victorian and Edwardian period fashion magazines.
- UW Fashion Plate Collection
- Wishbook Web
Vintage Christmas catalogs, from the 30’s through the 80’s.
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:
- http://www.pinterest.com/barbeemt/- historical fashion
- http://www.pinterest.com/marilola678/ -objects, ancient cultures, and archaeology
- http://www.pinterest.com/p8ronella/- European regional fashion
- http://www.pinterest.com/stonefinder/- especially amazing cultural/historical jewelry boards
- http://www.pinterest.com/thedreamstress/ - historical 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 Art of Manipulating Fabric
Great book for sewing techniques, and costume design inspiration- it’s amazing what you can do with the actual surface texture of fabric.
- The Basics of Corset Building
Great starter book for building corsets
- Corsets: Historical Patterns and Techniques
Great overview book, plus a ton of gorgeous photos of extant corsets.
- Pattern Magic I
Absolutely stunning sculptural fabric techniques- she is some kind of WIZARD I swear.
- Pattern Magic II
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 Lady’s Guide to Plain Sewing, Book I
- The Lady’s Guide to Plain Sewing, Book II
- The Workman’s Guide to Tailoring Stitches and Techniques
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:
- Foundations Revealed
corsets and other historical undergarments
- Your Wardrobe Unlock’d
historical fashion & costuming
- History Unstitched
pre-17th century historical fashion & costuming
- 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.