Reliable books on the history of costume are extremely useful in understanding and accurately dating antique garments. I have listed a number of such books here, with annotations detailing the contents of each book. This list is by no means complete, and is part of an ongoing process to create useful annotated bibliographies on historical costume. This list also includes books on fabrics and other textiles, as well as some outstanding books on reproducing historical costumes, which can assist not only in sewing reproductions, but also in understanding how extant garments were created. Good books on historical costume can be expensive, particularly when they are out of print, but they can often be purchased on Amazon, often with better deals available for used books. Specialty businesses and other bookstores are also likely to carry these books, and some can be purchased directly from the writer or publisher. Keep in mind that many books are available through your local library, an academic library you may be able to access, or through Inter-Library Loan, a useful service that your library may subscribe to, which charges fees per book which are paid either by your library or by you.

Bibliographic entries listed here are formatted in Chicago style, with exceptions to standard formatting made when clarification is necessary. Other editions of books may be available, including newer editions. Sometimes older editions than those reviewed exist, but they are often less useful. To offer further information about each book, I have added a link to its purchase page on Amazon.com, or to the purchase page of a more recent or similar edition of the same book; this is not an endorsement of Amazon. Often books are available directly, or from historic/costume supply small businesses, at comparable or better prices. Before purchasing, I recommend researching prices.

See also: Vintage Sewing Manuals

***

Ashelford, Jane. The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society 1500-1914. London: The National Trust, 1996.

  • This beautiful book is certainly an excellent source of imagery, spanning various types of sources, including many full color images of original paintings. However, because it spans such a vast period of time, its usefulness for any specific period is limited. It is a good wider costume history text. It is not instructional. It contains both color and monochrome images. It contains a bibliography and extensive notes. Available on Amazon.

Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction c. 1660-1860. New York: Drama Book Specialists/Publishers, 1978.

  • Along with the others in Arnold’s series, this is an extraordinary work of scholarship. Arnold’s beautiful and highly detailed schematic drawings and graphed pattern diagrams, along with her highly informative text, give detailed and extremely accurate information about the construction of specific historical garments. The background information on costume, and the general construction information, are also quite valuable. The garments included tend to be fashionable in nature, rather than ordinary or work-oriented, some periods are less well-represented than others, and there is very little information about undergarments or accessories, but ultimately, there is only so much that fit into any book. This volume includes excellent introductory information; a pictorial timeline; patterns for numerous gowns, as well as jackets, stomachers, riding habits, chemisettes, and pelisses; “Additional material on the cut of early eighteenth-century dresses;” information on metric conversions, and advice on “Using the patterns for full scale work.” Altogether, the usefulness and accuracy of the book can hardly be overstated. This book, along with others by Janet Arnold, is widely recommended by costumers both historical and theatrical. The book is instructional. The images are monochrome. It contains a bibliography of primary and secondary sources. Available on Amazon.

Bassett, Lynne Zacek. Textiles for Regency Clothing 1800-1850: A Workbook of Swatches and Information. Formerly titled Textiles for Clothing of the Early Republic. Arlington, Virginia: Q Graphics Production Company, Product division of Sally Queen & Associates, 2001.

  • This is an unusual and extremely valuable resource, a book containing 31 three-inch square swatches of actual fabric to illustrate textiles used in the first half of the 19th century. Similar books are available for other time periods. The text and images of the book are also useful, but the swatches are invaluable, really helping to give a textural, three-dimensional understanding of period textiles. The information accompanying each swatch effectively puts it into context, using quotes and citations. Helpfully, the book includes a list of suppliers, for the fabrics in the book and others like them. Most are in Massachusetts. This book is expensive but highly recommended. It is not instructional but will assist in the selection of materials for projects. It contains monochrome images as well as swatches of actual fabric. It contains a bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Baumgarten, Linda, and John Watson, with Florine Carr. Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Patterns 1750-1790. Williamsburg, Virginia: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2000. In association with Quite Specific Media Group Ltd., New York and Hollywood.

  • This is an excellent resource for mid to late 18th century clothing research and reproduction. Also, many of the foundational concepts, and even some actual garments, of the book are useful to wider periods of clothing study, though many of the same concepts are also included in Baumgarten’s What Clothes Reveal. It is instructional, including many patterns. It contains both color and monochrome images. It contains information on sources for illustrations as well as endnotes. Available on Amazon.

Baumgarten, Linda. What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America: The Colonial Williamsburg Collection. Williamsburg, Virginia: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2002. In association with Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

  • An enormous and beautiful book focusing on 18th century America and offering a wonderful social and cultural examination of clothes and society, with perspectives I truly respect. The foundational concepts of the book are very constructive, even though its period of focus ends before the 1830s. It addresses pervasive myths and challenges inherent to the study of historic clothing in a very effective way, such as the Scarlett O’Hara myth of tight-laced corsets and tiny waists. It is not instructional. It contains many color images, but most are of 18th century or very early 19th century subjects. It contains extensive notes. Available on Amazon.

Beaudoin-Ross, Jacqueline. Form and Fashion: Nineteenth Century Montreal Dress (Formes et modes: Le costume à Montréal au XIXͤ siècle). Montreal: McCord Museum of Canadian History, 1992.

  • This is a bilingual English and French exhibit publication from the McCord Museum of Canadian History in Montreal, Quebec. It contains beautiful full-color, full-page photographs of gowns ranging from the beginning to the end of the 19th century, as well as detailed information about each style, and a section with further fashion and cultural information including other images. Admirably, it makes connections between extant gowns, antique photographs, fashion plates, and other sources. Altogether a lovely book. It is not instructional. It contains many color images. It contains a bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Bradfield, Nancy. Costume in Detail: Women’s Dress 1730-1930. Hollywood: Costume & Fashion Press, 2009.

  • This book offers an immense collection of skillful schematic drawings of a wide variety of garments over a large range of time, with painstaking accuracy and great thoroughness, offering dresses, jackets, outer garments, undergarments, trims, and accessories, as well as corollary re-drawings of contemporary images such as magazine engravings. Each image is accompanied by detailed notes, but handwritten and printed. While it does not contain pattern diagrams, and is not instructional, the schematic drawings are so detailed, many complete with measurements, that the book lends itself well to assisting in the construction of historical garments. Because it covers so many garments, it helps to give an overview. However, the fact that everything is drawn rather than photographed is in some ways a limitation, however accurate the drawings, and the handwritten notations are somewhat less easily deciphered than print. There is also some overlap in material with Janet Arnold’s works. Overall, this book is widely regarded by historical costumers as accurate and useful. It is not instructional but contains detailed, measured drawings. It contains monochrome line drawings. It contains a list of books consulted. Available on Amazon.

Buck, Anne. Victorian Costume: And Costume Accessories. Revised 2nd ed. Carlton, England: Ruth Bean, 1984.

  • This is one of the definitive mid-twentieth century works on costume, originally published in 1961. It was written by a well-respected museum curator and is widely cited in other books on costume. Like other books of the period, its images are monochrome, and tend to be small. The topic is fairly large for a relatively small book, and many remarks and generalizations about changes in fashion are made without any specific citations. The organization is somewhat confusing, and the book is lacking in much information or imagery for the earliest portion of the Victorian period. As a general overview of Victorian fashion, particularly high fashion, this book remains a fairly good resource, and contains a good balance of images: period paintings, period photographs, period magazine and newspaper illustrations, and photographs of extant garments and textiles, including some where antique garments are actually photographed on models. The book is not instructional. It contains monochrome images. There is a bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Clark, Mrs. (Elizabeth Stewart). The Dressmaker’s Guide To Fit & Fashion; Including techniques for drafting, fitting, and constructing the clothing of the early 1860’s. Learn to make lovely and correct clothing with the help of illustrations, diagrams, and descriptive instructions with the home-dressmaker in mind. Idaho Falls, Idaho: Elizabeth Stewart Clark & Company, 2004.

  • This wonderful little book is focused on the mid 19th century, but many of the techniques presented are relevant for a wider span of time than the book’s focus. Mrs. Clark’s websites are focused on the period of 1840-1865, as is the latest, expanded edition of her Dressmaker’s Guide, which combines her various books as well as newer information into one volume. Because this book is a general, functional resource primarily intended for reenactors, it does not cite sources or really explain how information was obtained. However, Mrs. Clark’s websites, forum posts, and conference workshops make it clear that she is a well-informed expert whose information is gleaned from extensive, detailed research. More information can be found at www.thesewingacademy.com. This book covers the construction of undergarments and dresses, as well as some outerwear and accessories, explaining construction methods, pattern-drafting and draping techniques, and tips for achieving a historically accurate and flattering fit. It also contains instructions for creating a custom-shaped dress form using duct tape. This book is instructional. It contains monochrome images. It contains a “Read More About It” further reading list that briefly covers some research concepts and techniques. Mrs. Clark’s website and other publications are also quite useful for understanding construction techniques and for creating reproductions. Not available on Amazon, but the 2nd edition as well as other publications by Mrs. Clark are available direct.

Cunnington, C. Willett. English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century. London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 1937.

  • A very dated but charming book, which was an early attempt to organize, categorize, and understand women’s clothing of the 19th century, not long after the close of that period. Organized by decade and then by subcategory, the book also helpfully lists prices, but much of the theoretical analysis is very dated at this point. Not fantastically useful, but worth looking at if readily available, which it often is, in local libraries. It is also available in a later reprint from Dover, which does not have any color images. It is not instructional. It contains mostly monochrome images but the original version also contains some color photograph plates. Available on Amazon.

Cunnington, C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington. The History of Underclothes. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1992.

  • This book contains some useful monochrome images of underclothing from a broad period of time, but is at this point quite dated, particularly in terms of the theory used in the text. It was originally London: Michael Joseph Ltd, 1951. If readily available, which it often is in local libraries, the book is worth looking at, but there are much better resources available. See entry on English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century for further information on the author. This book is not instructional. It contains monochrome images. It contains a brief bibliography of primary and secondary sources. Available on Amazon.

Earnshaw, Pat. The Identification of Lace. Buckinghamshire, UK: Shire Publications Ltd, 2000.

  • This loving little history of lace is full of monochrome images of beautiful lace, generally organized by type, but it places little emphasis on period, and is unfortunately rather confusing, at least to one who is largely unfamiliar with the various skills of lace-making. It is not easily readable, so I have not found it especially enlightening, but it does contain many lovely pictures. Not being an expert on the topic, I cannot vouch for its authenticity, but it does appear in many historical costuming bibliographies. It was originally published in 1980. It is not instructional. It contains monochrome images. It contains a bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Ewing, Elizabeth. Everyday Dress 1650-1900. London: B. T. Batsford Ltd., 1984.

  • While this book comes to us from a somewhat dated period of costume research, having been published in 1984, it seems like a valuable resource for images of, as the title states, “everyday dress.” There are period cartoons, drawings, and photographs, as well as images of extant garments, illustrating the differences between high fashion extremes and the clothing worn by ordinary people. I have not read the entire text, but would recommend taking it with a grain of salt, as there appear to be few direct citations, and costume history books from this period tend to rely heavily on generalizations and hearsay. Nevertheless, this book, which appears in many library collections, is valuable as a source of information, especially images, of ordinary clothing, on ordinary people, which can be difficult to find, especially going farther back in historical time period. It is not instructional. It has monochrome images, which are plentiful. It contains a select bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Fenelly, Catherine. Textiles in New England, 1790-1840. Old Sturbridge Village Booklet Series. Sturbridge, Massachusetts: Old Sturbridge Village Inc., 1961.

  • This little book seems like a useful resource, placing textiles in their regional and temporal context very effectively. It particularly focuses on home-made and otherwise ordinary objects and materials. It is not instructional but it does have helpful photographs that give some construction information. The photographs and images are monochrome and generally small, but well printed. Additionally, higher quality images of the same items may be available on the Old Sturbridge Village website. There is no bibliography, but there is a list of available booklets in the series. Available on Amazon.

Foster, Vanda. A Visual History of Costume: The Nineteenth Century. London: B. T. Batsford Ltd., 1986.

  • A beautiful and well-organized selection of images, with wonderfully detailed captions going over the individual elements of costume in each image. The images are from a variety of source, including painting, drawings, engravings, fashion plates, cartoons, and photographs. The book is a good resource for a varied selection of excellent images of 19th century fashion and costume. It is not instructional. It contains monochrome images as well as a small selection of color plates. It contains a select bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Fukai, Akiko, Ed. Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century (The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute). 2006 edition published by Barnes & Noble by arrangement. Köln: Taschen, 2006.

  • Commonly referred to as “the Kyoto book” by historical costumers, this is widely considered one of the essentials. It has been published in multiple forms; this Barnes and Noble edition is a single volume as opposed to earlier two-volume editions, and pages are smaller but there are some additional pages included in this edition which are not in others. The book offers an immense quantity of artistically arranged, glossy full-color photographs of numerous costumes in the museum’s collection, ranging from the 18th century all the way through the 20th, almost exclusively very fine or formal clothing; 20th century garments are primarily designer offerings in the haute couture range. There is little in the way of “ordinary” clothing in this book, but it offers a beautiful look at high fashion’s changes over time, with overall very good text, though it sometimes leans toward the overly artsy approach. The clothing is almost entirely Western, despite the collection being in a Japanese museum. The book is extremely useful in the study of 19th century costume, particularly high fashion. It is recommended widely by historical costumers. It is not instructional. It is almost entirely composed of glossy, full-color photographs. Contains a bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Ginsburg, Madeleine, ed. The Illustrated History of Textiles. Foreword by Charles Saumarez Smith. New York: Portland House, 1991.

  • This beautiful book edited by a former Victoria & Albert Museum staff member is an admirable effort to combine different aspects of the textile study into one volume. Containing numerous full-color photographs, it covers historical development, stylistic change, technological innovation, as well as textile conservation and collecting. It seems to be an excellent overview and a useful resource, especially relating to the museum field. It is not instructional regarding construction, though it has textile care information. It contains many full color images. It contains extensive notes and a bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Grimble, Frances, Edited, Translated, and with Additional Material by. The Lady’s Stratagem: A Repository of 1820s Directions for the Toilet, Mantua-Making, Stay-Making, Millinery & Etiquette. San Francisco, CA: Lavolta Press, 2009.

  • This massive text is an almost incomparable resource for its period, though Frances Grimble has also published a similar volume for the 1870s and other useful texts on Victorian and Edwardian costume and sewing. Edited by a recognized expert, it contains six translated and reworked French fashion and beauty instruction manuals, five of which date from the 1820s and one from the 1830s. It is well organized and extremely thorough, including some editorial information incorporated into the text. It helps to fill a gap in costume research resources between the Regency/Empire/Federal period of the very early 19th century, and the Victorian period. The schematic drawings, patterns diagrams, and construction information are extremely thorough and comprehensive. The sheer volume of information is very impressive. This text is highly recommended for the study of early 19th century costume, especially as a contrast and complement to the more utilitarian, and un-edited, Workwoman’s Guide. The book is instructional. It contains monochrome images, though not a great many. It contains a bibliography and “Further Reading list,” as well as a glossary and index. Available on Amazon.

Hunnisett, Jean. Period Costumes for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women’s Dress 1800-1909. London: Unwin Paperbacks, 1988.

  • This book, like its companion text, is an extremely useful theatrical costuming text with good period shaping, but sized for an “average” modern figure, and with streamlined, simplified, theatrical construction techniques. Despite its looseness with historical accuracy and gaps, it is a very useful resource, especially for filling in the blanks between other resources; it is often recommended by historical costumers, but with reservations. It is instructional, with diagrams. It contains monochrome images. It contains a bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Hunnisett, Jean. Period Costumes for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Outer Garments, Book II: Dominos, Dolmans, Coats, Pelisses, Spencers, Calashes, Hoods and Bonnets. Studio City, California: Players Press, Inc., 2003.

  • This book, like its companion text, is an extremely useful theatrical costuming text with good period shaping, but sized for an “average” modern figure, and with streamlined, simplified, theatrical construction techniques. Despite its looseness with historical accuracy and gaps, it is a very useful resource, especially for filling in the blanks between other resources; it is often recommended by historical costumers, but with reservations. It is instructional, with diagrams. It contains monochrome images. It contains a bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Ingham, Rosemary and Liz Covey. The Costume Technician’s Handbook: A Complete Guide for Amateur and Professional Costume Technicians (Completely Revised and Updated Edition of the Costumer’s Handbook). Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann Educational Books, Inc., 1992.

  • This is a very well-regarded general costuming book, not focused on historical accuracy but useful as a broader resource, particularly with regards to pattern-drafting and technical aspects of costuming like dyeing and wig creation. It was originally published in 1980 but was completed updated for the 1992 edition. For modern theatrical construction techniques, this book is very helpful, but for historical accuracy, it is important to look elsewhere for the details. The book is instructional but not very historical. It contains monochrome images as well as a color section. It does not contain a bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Johnston, Lucy. Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail. London: V&A Publishing, 2009.

  • This wonderful specimen offers beautiful close-up photographs of garments in the Victoria & Albert museum collection. The garments generally represent the height of fashion and the pinnacle of exquisite workmanship, so they certainly do not document ordinary people, but the fashion and construction details revealed are fascinating and informative. Each close-up, full-color photograph is accompanied by a detailed schematic drawing of the full garment, and thorough information about the garment and its relationship to the fashions of its day. The book is organized thematically rather than by period, which lends itself well to the extreme focus on the specific details of a relatively limited number of garments. As a historical overview it would be confusing, but as an enticing record of garment intricacies it is extraordinarily helpful as well as inspirational. It is also interesting, and unusual, in that it combines men’s clothing and women’s, specifically showing instances where fashions crossed gender lines. This magnificent book is highly recommended for anyone studying the clothing of the nineteenth century; its counterpart by Avril Hart and Susan North focusing on the 17th and 18th centuries is also outstanding, as are the 20th century counterpart by Claire Wilcox and Valerie Mendes, and the newly published book in the series on Underwear by Eleri Lynn. It is not instructional. It contains many full-color images. It contains a further reading list. Available on Amazon.

Lady, A (Anonymous). The Workwoman’s Guide: A Guide to 19th Century Decorative Arts, Fashion and Practical Crafts (A Facsimile Reproduction of the Original 1838 Edition). Guilford, Connecticut: Opus Publications with Old Sturbridge Village, 1986.

  • This is the single most important resource available for the research and reproduction of 1830s clothing, but it is also useful for other parts of the 19th century. Originally published in England in 1838, it is a thorough practical guide to sewing and various handicrafts, intended particularly for middle and upper class women who wished to maintain their own households and also assist the poor and needy. Because of the charity aspect of the book’s aims, many projects and patterns offered are extremely practical, functional, and simple, in addition to a variety of more elaborate, decorative, delicate, or frivolous projects. There is a wealth of information here, but it can be difficult to understand, since the author assumes that the reader is an early 19th century woman who already knows how to sew, knit, etc., and understands the fashions and habits of the period. This leaves many questions unanswered for modern sewists. An annotated version of this book would be extremely useful, but as yet does not exist. However, used in conjunction with other books, and with online resources including images of extant garments or items similar to those depicted in the book, it can be an invaluable resource. It is instructional. It contains plates of line drawn monochrome images with garment and item drawings as well as pattern schematics, which are often not to perfect scale but include measurement information. There is no bibliography. This book is available on Amazon and is also readily available digitally via Google Books.

Mackenzie, Althea. Hats and Bonnets, from Snowshill, one of the world’s leading collections of costume and accessories of the 18th and 19th centuries. London: The National Trust, 2004.

  • This small, square book offers a beautiful and surprisingly information pictorial survey of the history of hats and bonnets, along with other items of headwear, throughout two centuries. It is a very thorough survey, with many high quality photographs and excellent information, including a glossary. The images are primarily photographs of extant garments in the museum’s collection but there are period images as well. An extremely valuable resource, from a clearly valuable series. It was not recommended by anyone specifically but comes from the highly reliable British National Trust. It is not instructional but contains useful construction information. It has full color photographs throughout. There is no bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Mackenzie, Althea. Shoes and Slippers, from Snowshill, one of the world’s leading collections of costume and accessories of the 18th and 19th centuries. London: The National Trust, 2004.

  • This small, square book offers a beautiful and surprisingly information pictorial survey of the history of shoes and slippers, along with other items of footwear, throughout two centuries. It is a very thorough survey, with many high quality photographs and excellent information, including a glossary and shoe diagram specifying parts. The images are primarily photographs of extant garments in the museum’s collection but there are period images as well. An extremely valuable resource, from a clearly valuable series. It was not recommended by anyone specifically but comes from the highly reliable British National Trust. It is not instructional but contains useful construction information. It has full color photographs throughout. There is no bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Meller, Susan, and Joost Elffers. Textile Designs: 200 Years of Patterns for Printed Fabrics arranged by Motif, Colour, Period and Design. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1995.

  • This massive book is full of gorgeous full-color photographs of textile and of painted swatches of original textile designs. It would clearly be a highly inspirational book for designers, as it is organized around styles, themes, types, and designs. Unfortunately for the historic costumer, it is not organized by period, so attempting to utilize the book to hone one’s “eye” for a given period is quite challenging. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful resource. Available on Amazon.

Merrimack Valley Textile Museum. Homespun to Factory Made: Woolen Textiles in America, 1776-1876. North Andover, Massachusetts: Merrimack Valley Textile Museum, 1977. Exhibit Catalog.

  • A well put-together museum exhibit catalog detailing 100 years of evolution in American wool textile production. It looks extremely useful, but is somewhat outside of the area of focus for my project, so I did not read the entire text, however I would recommend it to anyone interested in textile production during the period in question. It is not instructional. It contains monochrome images. It does not contain a bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Miller, Marla R. The Needle’s Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution. Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006.

  • This is an invaluable resource for studying the lives and work of needlewomen of the 18th century and early 19th century, and includes some useful information and insights about clothing. It is extremely helpful in offering an increased understanding of women’s interactions with textiles, clothing, and the market, although drastic changes to those relationships were occurring by the 1830s. It was recommended on the mid 19th century sewing forum, www.thesewingacademy.org. It is not instructional. It contains some monochrome images and eight color plates. It contains extensive endnotes but no generalized bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Olian, JoAnne, Ed. 80 Godey’s Full-Color Fashion Plates: 1838-1880. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1998.

  • This book is full of delightful full-color images of hand-painted fashion plates from the widely popular Godey’s Lady’s Book, dating from 1838 to 1880. There is also a helpful introduction and a section of “Notes on Plates,” which offers the original accompanying text for the fashion plates, describing each ensemble. As a survey of high fashion styles, this book is quite useful and inspirational. It is not instructional. It contains color images. It does not contain a bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Rexford, Nancy E. Women’s Shoes in America, 1795-1930. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2000.

  • This is a beautiful and lovingly researched book that offers an extraordinarily thorough and remarkably engaging history of footwear. The author is clearly an expert who has done extensive research, and the information contained here is extensive and detailed, including construction information. The research seems well-contextualized and well-organized, illustrated by many images. It is not instructional but does offer some diagrams and construction information. It contains mostly monochrome images but has a substantial section of color plates as well. It contains a glossary, extensive notes, image credits, and an “Index of Illustrated and Cited Shoes: Alphabetically by Museum,” though there is no bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Salen, Jill. Corsets: Historic Patterns and Techniques. Hollywood: Costume & Fashion Press, 2008.

  • This is a wonderful new resource that greatly adds to the available information on corset-drafting, with a variety of extant corsets appearing both in photographs and graphed pattern schematics at half scale. A must-have resource for historical corsetieres. The garments range from c. 1750 through 1917, plus two dolls’ corsets, and two of the designs written out with detailed instructions. There is a great deal of useful background, historical, and construction information. Salen’s intention with the book is to offer more variety than in available in the extremely useful but widely used Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh, and she succeeds admirably, with extreme thoroughness. It is instructional, with diagrams and detailed construction information. It contains monochrome diagrams and patterns, as well as full-color photographs. It contains a further reading list and a list of suppliers. Available on Amazon.

Severa, Joan. Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 1995.

  • This enormous book is an excellent resource for examining 19th century clothing from 1839 onward, especially on a more ordinary level than many high fashion-oriented resources allow. It contains a vast quantity of early photographs, carefully organized chronologically, and generally subdivided into women, men, and children. Each image is carefully analyzed in a detailed text description, though some well-known historical costumers have asserted that Severa’s assessments of presumed color in daguerreotypes and other early photographs are extremely uncertain or incorrect. Available on Amazon.

Steele, Valerie. The Corset: A Cultural History. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2001.

  • This excellent text is by far the best scholarly work I have thus far encountered on the contentious topic of corsetry. The approach is balanced and open-minded, offering a true examination and exploration, rather than yet another demonization or fetishization of the corset. It even includes information on recent experiments done examining how modern women felt and were able to move, even exercise, while wearing reproduction corsets of different periods. In short, this is an exemplary resource, from a great author, and I highly recommend it to anyone examining the history of the corset in any time period. It is not instructional, but does contain a wide variety of excellent pictures, and helpful information on the changing silhouettes and technologies of corsetry that would assist a corset maker, including some period diagrams. It contains many images, both full color and monochrome. It contains extensive notes and a bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Trestain, Eileen Jahnke. Dating Fabrics: A Color Guide 1800-1960. Paducah, Kentucky: American Quilter’s Society, 1998.

  • This book is oriented toward collectors of antique quilts, offering up a vast quantity of color-photographed swatches of printed textiles organized by date in order to help collectors identify the date of origin of quilts. However, it is also quite useful in researching printed cotton fabrics for other purposes, and ideal for training the eye to recognize typical designs and colors of different periods, since the swatches are organized by period, and then by color family. It is a practical rather than scholarly guide, but it is widely respected for its accuracy and helpfulness. The background information provided is a useful overview, and altogether the book is very accessible. Its area of focus in the field of textiles is narrow, but it does quite well in that area. An important fact to keep in mind in using this book for research in the making of reproduction clothing is that not all fabrics pictured are dress goods; some materials may be more typical for home decorating. Bearing this in mind, the book in an excellent resource for clothing reproduction. It is not instructional. It contains full color images. It contains a bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Waugh, Norah. Corsets and Crinolines. New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1970.

  • This is one of the historical costume classics, and remains an excellent resource in the research of historical underclothes. The organization of the book is somewhat confusing, and it does have some gaps, but it is nevertheless extremely useful, containing a multitude of scale pattern schematics, along with garment illustrations, though the schematics, unfortunately, are not graphed. The book is instructional, with diagrams both period and modern. It contains monochrome images. It does not contain a bibliography. Available on Amazon.

Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Women’s Clothes 1600-1930. New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1968.

  • One of the historical costuming classics, this excellent book offers a multitude of scale pattern schematics, along with garment illustrations, though the schematics, unfortunately, are not graphed. The organization of the book is somewhat confusing, but it is nevertheless an extremely valuable resource. Options for any particular period are rather limited as the book endeavors to cover a broad range of time. There is a significant quantity of supplementary material included to accompany the text and pattern schematics, including a variety of types of period images. The book is instructional, with diagrams. It contains monochrome images. It contains a limited bibliography. Available on Amazon, as is the comparably excellent Cut of Men’s Clothes.

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