about the costumier

A costume reading list.

I’ve had a few requests for a costume ‘reading list’ of sorts over the last couple of months that I’ve been putting off. In part because I own so many books, and I’m not entirely sure where they all are. Equally, though, because I worry about anything presented as a be all and end all of costume reference. This isn’t that. This list is just a snapshot of my distressingly large book collection (that’s a lie – book collections are never distressing unless they are absent), and only the books that I have immediately to hand to reference. I have accumulated these books in a pretty haphazard fashion of the years and they are currently split between London and Edinburgh and I know I’ve left out a lot of incredible books.

I’ve only listed books that are strictly costume and fashion related, rooted in historical and visual reference. If there is a particular period that you are interested in, read around! Artbooks, photography books, history and reference books. Literary theory, film theory, cultural theory. Google is your friend, and you can find almost anything. Films, tv shows, comics, artshows and galleries, theatre, art. Anything and everything. Every film, show or project will have a whole wealth of influences and reference points from the historical to the abstract, and that applies equally to costume. Knowledge is power, my friends.

For that reason I haven’t listed my general artbook collection – artists, eras, photographers etc – unless they relate to costume, fashion or the body. Nor my film, tv and game artbooks. It is a lot. A lot of a lot. There are so many amazing resources, so please feel free to make your own recommendations in the comments!

General Costume History: 

Francoise Boucher, A History of Costume in the West

Keith Eubank, Phyllis G. Tortora, Survey of Historic Costume, A History of Western Dress

F.E. Halliday, Illustrated Cultural History of England 

Aileen Ribeiro, The Visual History of Costume

Melissa Leventon, Costume Worldwide

Pepin van Roojen, Hairstyles of the world

Aileen Ribeiro, Clothing Art: The Visual Culture of Fashion 1600-1914

Akiko Fukai, Tamami Suoh, Fashion: A History

Auguste Racinet, The Complete Costume History (this is a modern reproduction of a 19th Century work spanning from the Etruscans to the ‘modern’ day.)

History and Beauty:

Germain Greer, The Boy

Calloway Stephen, The Cult of Beauty

Ghislaine Wood, The Surreal Body

Designers and Exhibitions:

Claire Wilcox, Radical Fashion (Fun fact: This was my first ever fashion book!)

Andrew Bolton, Anglomania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion

Andrew Bolton, Punk: Chaos to Couture 

Harold Koda, Extreme Beauty: The Body Transformed

Nick Waplington, Susannah Frankel, Alexander McQueen: Working Process

Claire Wilcox, Alexander McQueen

Judith Watt, Alexander McQueen: The Life and Legacy

Claire Wilcox, Vivienne Westwood

Christian Lacroix, Patrick Mauries, On Fashion

Harold Koda, Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations

Kevin Davies, Philip Treacy

Harold Koda, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy



Pre-Renaissance Fashion:

Eugenia Paulicelli, Writing Fashion in Early Modern Italy: From Prezzatura to Satire

Deanna Petherbridge, Witches & Wicked Bodies

Thomas Hope, Costume of the Greeks and Romans

Mary Harlow, Marie-Louise Nosch, Greek and Roman Textiles and Dress

Mireille M. Lee, Body, Dress and Identity in Ancient Greece

15th to 17th Century Fashion:

Margaret F. Rosenthal, Ann Rosalind Jones, The Clothing of the Renaissance World (This is a translation of a work that was originally published in 1590. The translation is a little iffy, but it’s amazing to see original contemporary fashion journalism – of a sort!)

Janet Arnold, Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d

Jane Ashelford, A Visual History of Costume: Sixteenth Century

Anna Reynolds, In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion

Aileen Ribeiro, Fashion and Fiction: Dress in Art and Literature in Stuart England

18th Century Fashion:

Aileen Ribeiro, Dress in Eighteenth-century Europe, 1715-1789

Caroline Weber, What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution

Kimberly Chrisman-Campbe, Fashion Victims

Harold Koda, Dangerous Liaisons

19th Century Fashion:

Amy de la Haye, Valerie D. Mendes, The House of Worth: Portrait of an Archive

Patrick Bonneville, La Photographie Japonaise sous l’ere Meiji

Norah Waugh, Corsets and Crinolines

Alison Gernsheim, Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey

20th Century Fashion:

Nick Yapp, Decades of the 20th Centry – The Hulton Getty Picture Collection 1900-1990 (I can’t express how invaluable this collection of books is for decade overviews)

Martin Battersby, Art Deco Fashion: French Designers

Julian Robinson, The Golden Age of Style

Irene Guenther, Nazi Chic: Fashioning Women in the Third Reich

Dominique Veillon, Fashion Under the Occupation

Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi, The Aesthetics of Power in Mussolini’s Italy

Mario Lupano, Alessandra Vaccari, Fashion At The Time of Fascism

Eugenia Paulicelli, Fashion Under Fascism: Beyond the Black Shirt

Jean Clair, Henri Cartier-Bresson: Europeans

Lensman Photographic Archive, The 1950’s: Ireland in Pictures

Johnny Stiletto, Vintage 80’s: London Street Photography

Patrick McMullan, SO80’S: A Photographic Diary of a Decade

Alberto Oliva, In Vogue

Robin Muir, Vogue 100: A Century of Style


Fashion and Costume in Film:

Lucy Fischer, Inga Fraser, Ronald Greg and Marketa Uhlirova, Birds of Paradise: Costume as Cinematic Spectacle

Deborah Nadoolman Landis Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design

Jonathon Faiers, Dressing Dangerously: Dysfuctional Fashion in Film

Julianne Pidduck, Contemporary Costume Film: Space, Place and the Past

Donatella Barbieri, Costume in Performance: Materiality, Culture and the Body

Sarah Street, Costume and Cinema: Dress Codes in Popular Film

Fashion Theory:

Barbara Burman Baines, Revivals in Fashion

Caroline Evans, Christopher Breward, Fashion and Modernity

Elizabeth Wilson, Adorned in Dreams, Fashion and Modernity

Joanna Entwhistle, The Fashioned Body

Judith Clark, Spectres

Marion de Beaupre, Stephane Baumet, Fashion Statements: Archaeology of Elegance


Historical patterning:

The are any number of historical pattern books out there, including many beautiful reproductions of period patterns, and books from throughout the twentieth century. Even if you’re not a maker (like me!) there is a lot of information to be gleaned from patterns. Studies, like Hunnisett’s and Arnold’s etc, are meticulous and these volumes include a lot of contextual information:

Jean Hunnisett, Period Costume for Stage and Screen: 1500-1800

Jean Hunnisett, Period Costume for Stage and Screen: Medieval-1500

Jean Hunnisett, Period Costume for Stage and Screen: 1800-1909

Jill Salen, Corsets Historical Patterns & Techniques

Margot Hamilton Hill, Evolution of Fashion: c. 1066-1930

Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion: 1660-1860 Vol 1

Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion 2: c. 1860-1940

Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion 3: c. 1560-1620

Jane Malcolm-Davies, Ninya Mikhaila, The Tudor Tailor


Film, Fashion and Consumption –

The Journal of Dress History – The Association of Dress Historians

Costume Journal of the Costume Society – The Costume Society


I will keep this list updated for future reference as I add to my collection, or find books that I missed when compiling this list. If you have any of your own recommendations, please share them in the comments!



A professional costumier working in the UK film industry since 2010, I spend my working day helping to create costumes for screen and my free time over-analysing costume on screen. This blog is a collection of my meta and analysis. By marrying historical, pop cultural and professional knowledge I hope to share the nuance and narrative importance of costume. All thoughts are subjective and entirely my own.

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