Back in Business

The Western Costume Research Library is open.

Photographs and fashion plates from our collection

After 6 months, I’m delighted to announce that the library has reopened. I spent the beginning of quarantine going through our collection of 19th and early 20th century photographs. Many of the photos had been misdated, so I brushed up on my costume history, bought some books on cabinet cards and cartes de visite, and attempted to re-date and reorganize them. The photos are a great resource for costume designers to see how people actually dressed and how the garments actually fit. Fashion plates are lovely, but they give a skewed impression of the past.

Formerly, these photograph were taped or stapled to card stock and filed in our fashion clipping file folders. It was painful to see. In reorganizing the library, I have made an effort to separate “fashion” from “clothing,” by which I mean images of real people are distinct from fashion images. In costume, believability is vital, so most (though certainly not all) productions require a degree of authenticity. I removed the photos from the folders and from the card stock mounts, then filed them in photo sleeves. They are now more accessible and will hopefully be a useful resource.

I posted some of them on our company instagram page with tips for dating, and plan to post more on our library’s instagram. Be sure to follow @westerncostumeresearch. If you need access to the library, please call us to schedule an appointment.

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