Museum collections of major national museums and private
institutions show actual costume and accessories. In the UK the Victoria and
Albert Museum in Kensington, London is one of the prime sources of costume. The
other great costume collection is held at the Costume Gallery in Bath, in the West of
England. Both venues house superb collections of costume.
In Bath, the Costume Gallery provides individual audio controls
with up to 6 language translations. The costume displayed is only one quarter of
the actual costume available and it is all used in regularly rotated displays.
Prior to the medieval era those seriously researching costume
details, need to resort to written sources. These are often difficult to use and
are usually in Latin or medieval English. For example many royal household
accounts have never been translated into modern day English. They do not always
translate well as they were often written by monks and other educated clergy.
Sometimes the references to clothing are lost in the translation.
Until the 16th century most evidence is taken from the
Few artefacts before 1600 AD have survived. Those that have,
were usually found in extreme environmental conditions where either intense cold
or dryness preserved articles. Such items have been found in freezing areas of
Russia or the contrasting dry sands of Egypt. Sometime jewellery or hard body
equipment such as ivory beads and armoury survive, whilst the surrounding fabric
may have disintegrated.
One of the easiest ways to see fashion plates is by visiting a
museum site or commercial site that sells them on the internet.
For the collector who is interested in a particular era and maybe who just wants to enliven their decor
with a set of fashion plates then there are
great reproductions of fashion
plates on the market. Learn how to spot difference between
modern reprint fashion
plates at my page here.
Some of the most attractive examples of reproduction
print fashion plates I have seen are for sale at alldressforms.com and some
examples are shown below.
Late Victorian Dress
two late Victorian pictures above are of fashion plate reproductions of the
originals found in La Mode Illustrée and sold by
alldressforms.com in their fashion Art section.
Visual representations of dress need to be cross-checked with
other information. The problem of artistic license has always existed and even
the photographs available after Kodak's camera invention of 1888, are not always
a true record.
Exhibition Catalogues such as those from the Great Exhibition
of 1851 give facts that are frequently illuminating. Auction houses produce
catalogues and Sotheby’s and Christies have catalogues with detailed
information of sales collections such as Wallis Simpson’s jewellery and the
sale of the clothes of the late Princess of Wales, Diana.
There are collections of trade cards and advertisements in
national and local collections. Companies, especially long established ones,
often have a written history or records that they will allow the public to
access. Old catalogues of shops such as that of Sears or Harrods or Selfridges
are a rich source of information.
In addition cartoons, especially those by Punch magazine, can
encapsulate fashion or current ideals of modesty or immodesty. Similarly moral
writers of today still describe fashion as right or wrong just as writers
of 1000 years ago did.
Public libraries, museums, galleries and private collections may contain
family records with account books and local business archives. Newspapers both
local and national have always carried articles on fashion and the materials
used in fashionable dress. Centenary celebrations and the like sometimes
reveal huge collections of photographs that someone found in an attic.
Fashion-Era.com looks at women's costume and fashion history and analyses the mood of an era. Changes in technology, leisure, work, cultural and moral values. Homelife and politics also
contribute to lifestyle trends, which in turn influence the clothes we wear. These are the changes that make any era of society special in relation to the study of the costume of a period.
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