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The books on this page give general overviews of fashion. They are all organized roughly chronologically from ancient times to now. These books are useful in giving an idea of the context of a particular fashion. What came before, and what came after. They are also valuable looks at the sensibilities of their times.

 

Braun & Schneider
Historic Costume in Pictures

Dover
Paper
The 125 large costume plates reprinted in this volume were originally issued periodically by the publishers Braun & Schneider between 1861 and 1890. This book is a reprint of the third (1907) edition, with new captions, table of contents, and publisher's note. The illustrations are all black and white prints depicting costume from antiquity to the end of the 19th century.

Susan Meller and Joost Elffers
Textile Designs

Abrams
Cloth
Subtitled Two Hundred Years of European and American Patterns for Printed Fabrics Organized by Motif, Style, Color, Layout, and Period this big beautiful book has a wealth of fabric swatch style illustrations (1,823 in colour!). The book covers from about 1790 to 1997. If you really care about which fabric design happened when, this book can tell you. The authors are textile designers, so they tend to focus on the design elements, rather than the manufacturing elements, but the beautiful clear illustrations make this book worth the price, and there is enough info here for the costumer or historian to help date clothes accurately.

François Boucher
20,000 Years of Fashion

Abrams
Cloth
If you can only get one book on the history of fashion, this should be it. Crammed with pictures, punctuated with intelligent, thoughtful text, this is a great reference work on the history of fashion. For the price, it can't be beat. 459 pages, 1,188 illustrations, including 356 plates in full colour.

John Peacock
The Chronicle of Western Fashion
Abrams
Cloth
Like his Chronicle of Twentieth Century Fashion, this book is essentially an illustrated time line of costume. Interspersed with text it is an excellent resource for the costumer. Full colour illustrations by the author.

John Peacock
Costume 1066-1990s

W.W.Norton
Paper
Although technically a different book, in format this book is much like Peacock's Chronicle of Western Fashion. It lacks the text of Chronicle of Twentieth Century Fashion and the illustrations are all in red ink instead of full-colour. It is also a much cheaper book and in paperback.

John Peacock
Men's Fashion a Complete Sourcebook

W.W.Norton
Cloth
Another fine entry in Peacock's fashion time-line series. This large book features over 1000 illustrations from 1789 to 1996, all drawn by Peacock with explanatory essays.

Diana de Marly
Fashion for Men :An Illustrated History

Holmes & Meier
Paper
From 1350 to 1985 this book traces men's fashion in England. It is well-researched, well-written, and has 96 black and white illustrations. This is one of the few books specifically on men's fashion. If you need just one book on the history of men's fashion, this would be the one (perhaps after The Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900. It is the only book I've seen that specifically treats the medieval period. Diana de Marly is an art historian who specializes in costume analysis. Out of print.

Carl Kohler
A History of Costume

Dover
Paper
This is an unabridged republication of the 1928 English edition. It has 594 illustrations and excellent readable text this book traces western fashion from ancient times to 1870. The illustrations and text are accurate and easy to understand.

James Laver
Costume & Fashion: A Concise History, Fourth Edition

W.W.Norton
Paper
First published in the USA in 1969, this classic has been updated by Amy de la Haye, Assistant Curator of Textiles and Dress at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Containing 335 illustrations, 69 in colour, this is a wonderful book for any student of costume. "A standard reference for anyone interest in the history of style and clothes." (Art & Antiques)

Karen Dick, Editor
The Whole Costumer's Catalog

CBTB Press
I recommend this nifty sourcebook. If you can't find that address anywhere else, it's probably in here. Patterns, fabrics, trims, costume supply houses, museum collections, seamstresses, organizations, in fact just about anything you want to find on costuming is listed here, except webpages. This book is self-published and I haven't been able to find anything but wistful references to it online.

Edmond Lechevallier-Chevignard
European Costumes of the 16th through the 18th Centuries

Dover
Paper
A republication of all the plates from Costumes Historiques des XVI, XVII, et XVIII siecles, published in Paris in 1867. The illustrations are based on art works contemporary with the costumes depicted. 150 full-colour illustrations.

Douglas W. Gorsline
What People Wore

Dover
Paper
A fine overview of fashion containing 1,800 illustrations from ancient times to the early twentieth century, well illustrated and commented upon by Gorsline.

Georgina O'Hare
Encyclopedia of Fashion

Abrams
Cloth
From Abraham (a textile manufactory) to Zouave jacket, this fine reference book has entries on a wide variety of fashion subjects. Illustrated and useful, but also Out of Print.

Richard Martin
St. James Fashion Encyclopedia

Visible Ink
Cloth
More of a who's who of modern fashion than a what's what. This book covers all the important designers from 1945 to 1996. Well researched, this book is an excellent resource for those wishing to know more about modern fashion personalities and their accomplishments.

Karen Baclawski
Guide to Historical Costume

Drama
Cloth,
The core of this book is an alphabetical directory, the individual entries divided into two parts: a general description of function, history and development of each item, followed by a detailed examination of several specific examples. These have been arranged chronologically and wherever possible measurements and locations have been included. Includes lots of photos. Out of stock at the publishers.

Stephanie Davies
Costume Language

Drama
Paper
This book is great if you are getting lost in historical costume terminology. Well researched with lots of definitions and a few handy line-drawings to clarify things. Out of print.

E.F.Hartley
Clues to American Dress

Starrhill
Paper
From colonial times to now, this slim volume presents a chatty history of American woman's dress. Line illustrations, 72 pages.

   
   

 

 

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