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Miriam & Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and
Costume and Fashion History: A Guide to Resources
The literature of costume and fashion history is diverse in nature. The first printed books on the subject appeared in the sixteenth century. Illustrated surveys of historic costume blossomed in the late eighteenth century and reached a peak by the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Scholarly developments in the 1920s and 1930s produced studies in which fashion and dress received new psychological and sociological evaluation. More extensive scholarly and popular publications on historical dress began to appear by the 1970s, including exhibition catalogues from museum permanent collections and temporary exhibitions.
While costume history extends from antiquity to the modern era, the bulk of publications on fashion history cover the period from the mid-to-late nineteenth century to the present, with emphasis on individual designers and their work. Many publications link fashion history with the development of haute couture. Costume history studies generally consider fashion synonymous with stylistic change.
Modern publications usually define the term “costume” as a mode of dress specific to a time period, nation, or social class. The terms “fashion” and “style” are often used interchangeably to indicate a predominant form of dress during a given time.
Costume publications can be found throughout the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, from Special Collections to the General Research Division. The majority of works on costume and fashion history, however, are located in the Wallach Division’s Art & Architecture Collection, and served through its reading room (Room 300).
If you need further assistance, visit our reference desk, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.orgCompiled by Paula A. Baxter, March 2007