Claire’s fancy-pants HISTORICAL FASHION MASTER POST
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.
i’m having a lot of thoughts about representation in media and writing groups you don’t come from or are not yourself and i’m mostly thinking about the things i’ve learned from the late, great dwayne mcduffie, and his Milestone Comics, and him talking about “icons”
and i remember, he talked about, and wrote about, how if you have just one member of a group in your story, they become the sole representative, they become that “icon”. if you have one woman, one queer character, one black character, one trans character, just basically one non-cis-white-straight dude that, whether you expected it or not, they are the icon. they are the representative. and they will be analyzed and criticized to hell and back, they will be put under the microscope. they will have to mean everything to everyone, or mean nothing at all. and i think a lot of writers buckle under the pressure, or the fear of screwing up, and go with “nothing at all” - IE, “a supporting cast member who pretty much never gets to do anything at all” - or they go with no representation whatsoever. it’s too scary for them to handle.
like, i think my favorite example of this is sailor moon. usagi is a clumsy motherfucker, flat out. she’s goofy, she’d often rather chase boys or eat or take naps rather than fight crime, she can fall on her face whether as usagi or in the middle of battle as sailor moon… she’s clumsy, she’s goofy, she’s not what exactly a battle hardened warrior of steel when she starts out!
and she’s loved! she is loved to DEATH. she’s a fantastic, likable, empathetic character, she’s great for audiences to connect with. but i think about her, in relation to the rest of the sailor moon cast, and i think about how there is this vast group of women in the show, from the main cast to the supporting cast, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses, histories, relations, and their own firm, developed personalities.
now, imagine if we took usagi OUT of sailor moon. imagine if we dropped her in some other piece of media, where there are no other women of significance in the story, and usagi - or someone exactly like her - was the only real standout woman in the story.
would the reaction to her be as positive? i’m banking on “probably not”. a girl who procrastinates saving the day to hang out at the arcade or try to meet up with the dude she likes, who’s frequently tripping over herself, or being scared to death initially by the threats she faces? i can’t easily imagine fandom or critical reaction to her being be so kind.
and it’s like, just think on all the media where there’s only one woman, only one PoC, only one queer character, on and on, and think on how shitty or minor their appearances seem to be, or just as often, how little they get to do compared to everyone else, what kind of storylines they get locked into, if any at all
you don’t want just one, is the point. if you’re creating a character and going “this is THE ____ character” in your story, you’re already in for pain. not only have you drastically limited yourself, and your character’s interactions, but you’ve created a singular representative. are you sweating “how do i write ____ characters?” there’s a lot you can do, like, obviously, actually talking to and (this is important) listening to people from those groups, reading stories from those groups, on and on, just fucking digging in and reading and listening instead of speaking, but a very fucking important basic thing is not limiting yourself to making them “THE” character, “THE” representative. it’s pretty shitty for everyone involved, generally.
there will be no variety of representation, no diversity of personality or to these characters, if there is just that one singular character to represent an entire group, and that will suck out loud.
you have to get beyond the idea of the one character, the singular, the “THE”, so to speak. where you would make one character from a group, instead, start with making three. see where that takes you. this is not the end-all, be-all of writing from groups you aren’t a part of, but it is a fucking important and huge step, getting beyond the idea of the singular, the perfect “one”, and getting into writing multiples, many, with all sorts of thoughts and personalities and lives.
WIKIPEDIA MONSTER COMPILATION PAGES FOR PEOPLE
- japanese creatures
- greek creatures
- creatures organised by type
- creatures listed by letter
- humanoid creatures
- filipino creatures
- chinese creatures
- ‘fearsome critters’
- beings referred to as fairies
- creatures that pretend to be human
- a page on therianthropic creatures
- hybrid creatures
- extraterrestrial creatures
- a page of mythology page links
- a section of folklore page links
- flying creatures
- theological demons
- fictional species lists
- mythology related lists
- legendary creature related lists