Reference Books

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So there’s a HUGE amount of information out there on the subject of sewing costumes-

Stage costumes, theatrical costumes, historical re-creation, walk-arounds, competition, the works!

Here are a few books that I have in my collection that I have found useful.   Whether it be for patterning, illustrations, inspiration, timeline, upper/lower classes, fabric use, fiber content or just plain eye candy! This is by NO means a complete list of my stuffed XL bookcase of reference materials. Just a few that may help pique your interest. Check your local thrift stores, used bookstores, Amazon & eBay for the best prices.


1. Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles, by Phyllis G. Tortora

An excellent resource of fabrics and materials. Most fabric terms I’ve come across have been in this book.  The revised and expanded edition features over 14,000 definitions of fibers, fabrics, laws, and regulations affecting textile materials and processing, inventors of textile technology, and business and trade terms relevant to textiles.


2. Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer

The book book focuses on vintage couture garments, the sewing processes translates well to historical dressmaking. Bias finishes, hem facings, hand sewing tips and multi-layered garment techniques are covered with photos and illustrations.


3. Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail by Lucy Johnston

A series of books for 1800s fashions. Full-color, detailed photos of extant garments at the Victoria & Albert Museum and detailed line drawings allowing you to see where seams are located.


4. Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Fashion in Detail: The 17th and 18th Centuries

.Drawing from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s world-famous collections, the book contains a gallery of exquisite photographs, accompanied by clear line drawings showing the construction of the complete garment and a text that sets each in the context of its time.


5. From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking by Denise Dreher

For the past thirty years, From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking, has been the bible of hatmaking for milliners working in theater, film and entertainment. It is the most complete and unique book on millinery to date. All of the hatmaking techniques are explained step-by-step and clearly illustrated by more than four hundred photographs and drawings. Professional millinery supplies, methods, materials and equipment are described and illustrated in detail with substitutes and improvised methods included for milliners with limited resources and budgets.


6. Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns: A Complete Lady’s Wardrobe by Kristina Harris

A selection of scaled dressmaker’s patterns from the popular late 19th-century magazine The Voice of Fashion.  The book details 50 garments for women, from handsome daytime and evening dresses to casual tennis outfits, a riding habit, and undergarments.


7. Costume 1066 to the Present  by John Peacock

More than a thousand illustrations, based on surviving garments and contemporary paintings and photographs, demonstrate the astonishing changes in men’s and women’s clothing over the centuries. Clear and detailed drawings, plus notes that pinpoint specific features such as fabric, decoration, accessories and cut, make each costume immediately comprehensible.


8.  Masterpiece of Women’s Costume for the 18th & 19th Centuries   by Aline Bernstein

32 complete costumes all shown in color and black and white. Meticulously rendered to reveal minute details, each costume is accompanied by detailed descriptions, line drawings of each garment piece and accessories appropriate to the period.


9.  Newport Fashions of the Gulded Age Paper Dolls  by Tom Tierney

Yes, it’s a paper doll book. I love Tom Tierney’s illustrations and detailed information of each outfit. 30 costumes model the aristocratic American styles worn by the Vanderbilts, Astors, Belmonts, and other patrician ladies from the 1870s through the early 1900s in full COLOR!


10.  Teach yourself to Embroider  by Donna Kooler

Step by step instructions for 15 embroidery designs. Full color w/photos and detailed instructions. A great place to start if you want to learn to embroider by hand.


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