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Writing, Illustrating & Publishing => Research => Topic started by: Emily G on July 05, 2011, 02:02 PM

Title: Books about historical costume
Post by: Emily G on July 05, 2011, 02:02 PM
I'm looking for recommendations for books stuffed with pictures of British and/or north-western European clothes through the centuries. (It needs to extend back to at least the thirteenth century or so, and not end before the 1960s/70s) I have John Peacock's "Costume: 1066-1990s" which is nice as an overall reference guide to silhouettes and shapes - but I'm ideally looking for something with more descriptive detail (e.g. about undergarments, colours, fabrics), while not skimping on the pics/drawings. NOT wanting something with patterns or aimed at costume-makers though - unless it's really accessible to someone outside that audience.

Thanks! :hearts

(I know there are a few good websites like but I am definitely looking for books here - reference guides to pore over at my leisure)
Title: Re: Books about historical costume
Post by: Marissa Doyle on July 05, 2011, 03:30 PM
Try Ruth Wilcox's "The Mode in Costume"--I think Dover Books has re-published it.  It only goes through the late forties, though.  I don't know of any books that go into that level of detail across multiple centuries, but Willett Cunningham's "Nineteenth Century English Women's Clothing" is incredibly detailed for that century.
Title: Re: Books about historical costume
Post by: Jaclyn Dolamore on July 05, 2011, 04:56 PM
I have heard good things about Doreen Yarwood's books, such as "European Costume: 4000 Years of Fashion". I have her Encyclopedia of Costume and I'm not such a fan of the encyclopedia format, so I think a chronological book might be better. She illustrates with line drawings, which is also not my favorite, but there is a lot of information packed into the book.

Personally my favorite costume books don't cover such wide periods so I rely on a few different ones. My favorites are:

Dressed for the Photographer: Early Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900, absolutely stellar detail on 19th century dress; I have a LOT of books of Victorian photography with a fashion focus, but this one is my favorite.
Fashion: The Collection of the Kyoto Fashion Institute, photography of real clothing from the 18th-20th century, mostly what the rich would have worn, but it gives a nice idea of silhouettes and colors.
A History of Costume by Carl Kohler is a useful supplementary resource, with some photographs of very OLD extant clothing, supplemented by line drawings and (inaccurate) patterns, it goes back to ancient times but mainly covers late Medieval to 19th century Europe, cutting off in 1870 (the book was originally published not long after in German and then was sort of rewritten in the 1920s).

I also have some for worldwide and folk dress, but that doesn't sound like your focus here.

I have a lot of fashion books and have yet to find one that does it ALL for me...
Title: Re: Books about historical costume
Post by: LMES on July 05, 2011, 04:58 PM
I have a copy of English Costume from the Fourteenth through the Nineteenth Century by Iris Brooke and James Laver. It was published in 1937, and I'm not sure if it's still in print. Maybe a library would have a copy? It's full of pictures and descriptions. Good luck!
Title: Re: Books about historical costume
Post by: rab on July 05, 2011, 07:00 PM
I know you're wanting more of a survey, but if you can't find what you need that way, for medieval clothing, you might take a look at Gale Crocker-Owen (a.k.a. Gale Owen-Crocker and Gale Owen), Dress in Anglo-Saxon England. Jeffrey L. Singman's Daily Life in Medieval Europe has some good descriptions of medieval clothing. Dress in the Middle Ages by Francoise Piponnier and Perrine Mane might also give you some ideas.
Title: Re: Books about historical costume
Post by: Emily G on July 06, 2011, 02:31 AM
Thank you so much, all! Blueboarders are awesome yet again. These suggestions are looking great - I'm checking out library catalogues & online vendors as I type.  :hearts

Jaclyn, I'd be interested in any recommendations you might have for worldwide dress, too? Not for any current research, but for future reference ...
Title: Re: Books about historical costume
Post by: Helen on July 06, 2011, 11:36 AM
When I make costumes for the stage, I use the Costumer's Manifesto as a guide:
Also a book that I have used off and on for 25 plus years is:   The Book of Costume Volume 1 by Millia Davenport (Crown Publishers)
Title: Re: Books about historical costume
Post by: Jaclyn Dolamore on July 06, 2011, 03:45 PM

Ethnic Dress by Frances Kennett (photographs)
Folk and Festival Costume of the World by R. Turner Wilcox (line drawings, LOTS of them, lots of regions covered)
and The Worldwide History of Dress by Patricia Anawalt (big fat lovely coffeetable type book, with a lot of photos and text, which was my big Christmas present this past year, haha, I am such a clothing/costuming nerd)
Title: Re: Books about historical costume
Post by: KC Held on July 06, 2011, 05:18 PM
You might also look at:
20,000 Years of Fashion- A History of Fashion and Personal Adornment (Expanded Edition) by Francois Boucher
The History of Costume by Blanche Payne/Geitel Winakor/Jane Farrell-Beck
Survey of Historic Costume by Phyllis Tortora/Keith Eubank