Historical photo references?
November 11, 2006 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend any good online resources containing reference images, specifically fashion, throughout various historical decades/eras?

I often work on projects that require me to draw characters from different time periods, and I'd like to get a good variety of accurate costumes. The most recent project I'm working on, for example, takes place in 1905 during the (Canadian) winter and I need the characters (both adults and children) to be wearing appropriate clothes for the season and time period.

But please don't limit your answers to this specific example: all image resources are welcome, not just those dealing with this time period, or with fashion.

I'm already familiar with the NYPL Digital Gallery.
posted by Robot Johnny to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You could start by browsing The Costume Page, and looking at resources like Braun and Schneider's History of Costume (which is sort of Victorianized but not a bad place to start for the older stuff, since it is free online). This section of the Costume Page has links to information divided by era.

Truthfully, though, I usually don't look for a source that contains multiple eras -- more typically I would do a targeted Google search for the era or decade in mind. For your 1905 project, I searched for "Edwardian fashion" for a start, and quickly found this (with further reference links here). Here are some pictures of real people in that period, though they are British and quite dressed up in many of the photos.

Finding something specifically Canadian is a little tougher, but I'd probably start looking at various genealogy and history pages, not specifically for fashion pages, and just trying to find pictures of real people. Ideally you want primary sources -- real photos or artwork from the period. That's always going to be better than a compilation of redrawings.

Of course, this depends on what a stickler for historical accuracy you are. I have certainly been distracted when reading a comic that has a period setting when the costume isn't right, so it's worth getting it as close as you can, I think. But I'm sort of a geek about this stuff.
posted by litlnemo at 3:28 PM on November 11, 2006

The Ontario Archives have a lot of pictures online. (Big list. For example, one that might be useful to your current project is Canadian Winters through Time.

Here's a general site for all Canadian archives.

Here are some pages with more general info on fashion history or costume design references:
-Kent State lists a bunch of websites that might help
-Intute collects a bunch of websites on same topics
-La Couturier Parisienne collects info about period costume in Europe from Middle Ages through 20th century.
-Seamlyne a reference site about costume design with a focus on construction
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:39 PM on November 11, 2006

Not necessarily photos only, but the British Vogue has put a cover archive up. The magazine was launched in 1916.
posted by ijsbrand at 3:42 PM on November 11, 2006

Photos of women's dresses from Smithsonian National Museum of American History, browsable by time period, function, etc. They're on mannequins and not shown with hats, etc, but they have very detailed descriptions that might give you a hint of what details to pay attention to when you're drawing.

Here are a few more specific sites with references for your current project, that I found through the links I mention above.

Four dresses of the time, at Kent State - very clear images, 4 angles for each dress.
Photos of ordinary people in Britain, 1890-1918
Fashion plate illustrations (ie line drawings, not photos) of women's dress from 1900-1920ish.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:16 PM on November 11, 2006

The Costumer's Manifesto also has a lot of good links to various pictures (photographs, old fashion magazines, etc.) from or about various eras in addition to having a fair amount of material online itself.
posted by posadnitsa at 5:37 PM on November 11, 2006

Response by poster: These are great! Thanks so much, everyone!
posted by Robot Johnny at 9:49 PM on November 11, 2006

« Older Approximate clothing sizes?   |   Record of my life (well, just one year) Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.