March 15, 2014

Top 5 Books for Costuming Inspiration

Though now there is Pinterest, which is a costuming inspiration and research resource so rich I don't think any one doubts how amazingly useful it is, once there were only books. I don't know if you've noticed, but I am a little old fashioned, and though I may own a Kindle too, I am a book lover through and through. As a teenager, after seeing Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette in 2006, I fell in love with historic costume and as a result of this sudden infatuation my parents bought me some lovely books for that Christmas on the subject. I have developed quite the library of Costume and Textile history books since then so I have decided to compile a little list of my favorites for seeking inspiration. In no particular order here are 5 of my favorites!

Fashion: a history from the 18th to the 20th century. The book that for me started it all, I received it for Christmas those many moons ago and poured over its large colorful pages. The Kyoto Costume Institute has one of the best collections of historic dress in the world and in this tome they are displayed in full glory. Ranging through the early 1700's through to the early 2000's, all of our favorite eras to recreate are represented inside. This book will always hold a special place in my heart as my number one, the book that started me on a path to the full obsession for historic dress I have now!

Hailing from the excellent collections of The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Fashioning Fashion includes breathtakingly close up images of some gorgeous gowns. The quality of the photography in the book is outstanding and the detail shots and beautiful collection make the book a must have for historic costume enthusiasts!

Though I wish there was a more extensive book catalog of the Costume Institute's (Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York) collections, this book is another full of great inspiration that lives on my shelf. For people who love costume, 100 dresses could never be enough, especially when considering the huge breadth of the MET's collection in total. But this book is still a nice addition to the costumers shelf :)

From another magnificent collection, that of the V&A in London, comes a series of books on the often overlooked details of fashion. I have three of the current four releases in this series, I have yet to acquire the last on twentieth century fashion but I hope to add it to my library soon.  For those who labor over details like seam finishes, fly fringe and embroidery these books are a wonder with their high resolution photographic close ups. They also provide drawings of the garments that are helpful in understanding the full garment and mark the seams which is handy. Again I wish there was a book like the Kyoto museum's that was a full catalog of the V&A's extensive collection, tomes like that are difficult and expensive to produce and the Fashion in Detail series is still an excellent addition to any costumers bookshelf.

Though there are several resources for original fashion plates online, I find it nice to flip through them at full size and appreciate the detail. If you are at all in interested in Victorian and Edwardian costuming, I highly recommend these books of plates from Harpers Bazaar and La Mode Illustree. I hope to be adding to my non-existent Victorian costume closet this year and I know I will be investigating the gowns in these books for inspiration. With both of these books being priced much lower than the investments above, they are a relatively inexpensive addition to kick-start a historic costuming book collection.

I hope I have inspired some of you to consider a physical costume history library. As wonderful as pinterest and tumblr are, sometimes nothing beats a cup of tea and a really wonderful book to star off your next project!

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