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Printable Version

Books to start with for costuming a living history character

shuttlecock.jpg (6720 bytes)

A Girl with a Shuttlecock, 
by Jean-Siméon Chardin, 1737


  • Gehret, Ellen J.. Rural Pennsylvania Clothing,
         York, PA: George Shumway, 1976. [ISBN 0-87387-105-7]

This book has excellent photos of original garments, however, most garments are of the nineteenth century, and are of Germanic origin. This must be taken into consideration when using the book as a guide for eighteenth century clothing! Use it as a reference for construction technique, and not cut, if you are doing clothing for other than a Germanic character in the first half of the nineteenth century. It is over 20 years old now, and we are sure that if Mrs. Gehret were here to do a new edition, there would be things she would add or change, as her research undoubtedly surpassed the publication of her book. The photos show wonderful details of cloth and stitches, and the book is a great resource to costumers who are new in historical clothing.
 (Note: this book might be available from living history vendors - check before spending the used prices!)


  • Bradfield, Nancy. Costume in Detail, Women's dress 1730-1930,
    Boston: Plays Inc., 1968,1981. [ISBN 0-8238-0260-4]

An excellent resource for understanding the construction of clothing, as well as styles through the periods discussed. Wonderful illustrations of many extant garments, showing the inside, cut and construction details. Also has re-drawn illustrations from original art of the same period as the garment, showing the use and look of the garment as worn.


  • Hersh, Tandy and Charles. Cloth and Costume, 1750 to 1800, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.
    Carlisle, PA: Cumberland County Historical Society, 1995. [ISBN 0-9638923-2-0]

A volume representing a tremendous amount of research on original garments and textiles, and household inventories of the period. Great photos and wonderful, and useful charts and tables!


  • Earle, Alice Morse. Two Centuries of Costume in America, 1620-1820.
    New York: Macmillan, 1903. Reprinted, Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1971. [ISBN 0-8048-0969-0]

A two volume set, with lots of basic information. Consider its age in the history of costume research.
If you are suspect of anything, try to find other resources to add to the information.

Note: Volume 1 is available in a Kindle version (possibly free), in addition to print versions.


  • Warwick, Edward, Henry Pitz and Alexander Wyckoff. Early American Dress.
    New York: Blom, 1965.

This book breaks out the geographical areas of North America, and further into categories of time period, gender, etc.


  • Ashelford, Jane. The Art of Dress, Clothes and Society, 1500-1914.
    London: National Trust, 1996. [ISBN 0-8109-6317-5]>Be Careful!

No matter what time period interests you, you are sure to find something to drool over in this book! Lots of color photos of original garments, side by side with contemporary artwork. A must see!


  • Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Women's Clothes, 1600-1930.
    London & Boston: Faber & Faber, 1968. [ISBN 0-571-08594-6]

A standard in the costume field. You should at least be familiar with this one! It will help you to understand the cut of styles of your period, and will also help you to learn to recognize the period of costumes.

Available in several editions.


  • Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men's Clothes, 1600-1930.
    London: Faber & Faber, 1964. [ISBN 0-571-05714-4]

The companion book to the one above! You should also be familiar with this one, for the same reasons!

Available in several editions.