Claire Hummel's Historical Fashion Reference & Resources

A comprehensive list of historical fashion resources, including patterns, textiles, embroidery and more!

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Claire Hummel's Historical Fashion Reference & Resources

A comprehensive list of historical fashion resources, including patterns, textiles, embroidery and more!

fashion, art, history, resources, links

Claire’s Historical Fashion Reference & Resources

Last updated:1/12/2024

I first put this document together back in 2014, and haven’t gone through the process of doing a full update—adding new resources, culling any dead links—in some time. Four million years, I think? So here we are. I decided to reformat it somewhat this time around: rather than sorting by books-vs-online resources, I’m sorting by era/region, and using 📚 and 💻 emoji to clearly denote what’s available as a book or online ( or 🧵 for sewing resources). That means that if you’re looking for a particular century, you shouldn’t have to dig around in more than one place!

This list is by no means an exhaustive one- it’s a list of (primarily western for now) 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:

Quick note: If you find a link or resource that’s no longer available, please let me know ( twitter, tumblr, e-mail, etc.) and I’ll make sure to retire it or find a replacement as soon as I can!

(I’m also totally open to any additions or recommendations, just shoot me a note and I’ll check it out 🖤)

Advice for Researching Historical Fashion (or anything, really)

* 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 mores, about construction techniques, daily routines, local traditions & symbolism, and whatever else will really help you understand the rhyme and reason behind costuming in 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 doubly especially on tumblr/pinterest/tiktok. I love them (and use them!), but they can be ground zero for rapidly spreading misinformation. Books are often your safest bet, but also take into account their date of publication, and who’s writing them—an author’s biases can severely confuse or misconstrue how they’re interpreting 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.

* Keep track of the information you find. There’s nothing more infuriating or heartbreaking than trying to remember where you saw that one particular jacket with the sleeves that do that thing—whether it’s using PureRef, a google doc, bookmarks, a post-it, anything: keep track of what you find so you can come back to it later!

Okay, onto the links! If you’re on desktop, you should be able to click the small icon to the left of the page to expand an Outline for easy navigation.

Chronological Western Historical Fashion

General / Surveys

* British Costume from Earliest Times to 1820 📚

A great, text-heavy book with lots of reliable first hand sources. Be wary of the Victorian photography in the book—the reproduction costumes are somewhat less reliable.

* Costume in Detail: Women's Dress 1730-1930 📚

Elaborate line drawings/diagrams of extant period garments! A fantastic survey.

* The Cut of Men's Clothes: 1600-1900 📚

Online: free PDF available on 💻

Patterns for men’s period garments, based on extant examples.

* Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930 📚

Patterns for women’s period garments, based on extant examples.

* Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through World History 📚

Online: Volumes 1 and 3 are free to borrow on 💻

This is probably going to be a library find for you—a great general resource, and at least volumes 1 and 3 are available online.

* A History of Costume 📚

Online: free to borrow on 💻

A 1960’s survey of historical fashion, including a lot of great text and patterns/diagrams for recreation.

As always, be wary of any outdated photos of “reconstructions.”

* 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. Some neat spreads of details like purses, women’s shoes, etc.

* The History of Costume: From the Ancient Mesopotamians Through the Twentieth Century 📚

Online: free to borrow on 💻

Broad costume survey, second edition.

* What People Wore: 1,800 Illustrations from Ancient Times to the Early 20th Century 📚

Online: free to borrow on 💻

One of those “I am putting this here because I used it a ton when I was younger” books—a great survey to browse through, but full of illustrations based off of other work so definitely to be taken with a grain of salt.

* The Historical Encyclopedia of Costumes 📚

Online: free to borrow on 💻

Auguste Racinet’s 19th century survey of historical fashion. To be taken with a grain of salt, since it’s a later publication, but absolutely worth browsing.

* What People Wore When: A Complete Illustrated History of Costume 📚

Online: free to borrow on 💻

A collection of both Racinet and Hottentoth’s costume plates from the 19th century, but with some additional context and copy that is missing from Racinet’s original.

* We Wear Culture 💻

A collaboration between Google and more than 180 museums, schools, fashion institutions to collect and curate historical fashion. Eminently searchable and filterable.

* Met Publications 💻

The Met has graciously uploaded a substantial portion of its library for perusal and download, including over 50 books on historical fashion. I might call out a couple of them specifically throughout this document, but it’s worth browsing through the entire collection.

* MoMu: Historical Dresses Undressed 💻

A video deconstructing the layers under various pieces of extant historical clothing - the entire channel is worth a looksee, but this is an especially lovely little video.

* 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.

* La Couteriere Parisienne 💻

Fantastic survey of fashion as seen in period art, paintings, magazines, patterns, etc. Tons of information, clearly arranged by century/time period.

* Wikipedia’s History of Western Fashion 💻

Shouldn’t be the be all, end all resource for historical costuming, but a surprisingly robust jumping off point for when you're trying to initially pin down a period of historical fashion. It is definitely a high-level overview, though- you’ll need to delve into more costume-specific sites as well.

* The Cutter’s Guide 💻

Kind of a mind-boggling number of visual references and resources put together by Siam Costumes, a costume house out of Thailand.

* Shorpy 💻

A fantastic resource for day-to-day clothing from the 19th and early 20th centuries, even if it isn’t catered specifically to fashion photography.


Historical costuming legend Janet Arnold’s detailed, hand-drawn diagrams of historical fashion, inside and out. Currently in the process of being reprinted in 2022.

* 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 3: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women, C.1560-1620 📚

* Patterns of Fashion 4: The Cut and Construction of Linen Shirts, Smocks, Neckwear, Headwear and Accessories for Men and Women C. 1540-1660 📚

Currently out of print, scheduled to be reprinted in Winter of 22/23.

* Patterns of Fashion 5: The content, cut, construction and context of bodies, stays, hoops and rumps c.1595-1795 📚


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 and Eighteenth-Century Fashion in Detail 📚

Online: Free to borrow on (older edition, 1998) 💻

* Nineteenth 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.

* Dress in Detail from Around the World 📚

Military Uniforms

* An Illustrated History of Uniforms from 1775-1783: The American Revolutionary War 📚

An exhaustive overview of uniforms during the Rev War, beautifully illustrated.

* L’Armee Française: Uniforms, Equipment, Armament 💻

* Military Headdress: A pictorial history of military headgear from 1660 to 1914

Claire Hummel's Historical Fashion Reference & Resources
Tags Fashion, Art, History, Resources, Links
Type Google Doc
Published 02/05/2024, 12:14:14


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