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For images of clothing from historical periods, start with a search for books listed in the online catalog. Search terms that you might use are:

Look under narrower subject headings, if applicable, such as:

If you are looking for images relating to specific time periods or occupations, search relevant headings. For example:


General Internet Image Searches

Note that not all images found on the web are available for reuse. Unless stated otherwise, the creator (artist, photographer, etc) owns the image and holds all usage rights. Learn more.

Beware that internet image searches will often bring up pictures of people in homemade costumes, which may not be historically accurate. 

Google Images

Image search engine. Filter for reusable images by selecting "Tools" and then "Usage Rights."

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Wikimedia Commons

A searchable collection of 27+ million "freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute."

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All images are reusable. Remember to cite your source.

A searchable collection of digital photos. Please note the copyright and reuse policy for each image. Flickr lets you limit searches to "creative commons," U.S. government, and other reusable/public-domain categories.

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Find reusable images by using changing from "Any license" to reusable licenses (on the results screen). Remember to cite your source.

Newspapers & Magazines

Vintage newspaper articles or articles on international topics can include useful photographs.

Vogue Archive

The Vogue Archive contains the backfile of Vogue magazine (US edition), spanning the first issue in 1892 to the current month, reproduced in high-resolution color page images. It preserves the work of the world's greatest fashion designers, stylists and photographers and is a unique record of American and international fashion, culture and society from the dawn of the modern era to the present day.

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Includes high-resolution, color images of fashion and design. Spans 1892 to the present.
New York Times (ProQuest Historical Newspapers)

Digital archive for the New York Times dating back to 1851. An excellent database for history, including full-text and full-image articles. For most dates, the collection includes digital reproductions of every page from every issue--cover to cover--in downloadable PDF files. For access to recent issues, go to the New York Times online or search US Newsstream.

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Full-text access to the New York Times from 1851 - present.
Newspaper Databases

is a complete list of Randall Library newspaper databases.

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More newspapers available from Randall Library.

More Costume Ideas

Performance Design Archive

Includes costume design documents from 1930 to the present, mostly from Europe and the United States

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Oxford Art Online

Oxford Art Online is an innovative new gateway that offers users the ability to access and search the vast content of Grove Art Online and Oxford art reference in one location. Including eBooks on art and art history.

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allows you to search two library databases (Grove Art Online and Oxford Art Reference) at one time.
ARTstor Digital Library

The ARTstor Digital Library is a nonprofit resource that provides over 2.5+ million digital images in the arts, art history, architecture, anthropology, history, humanities, foreign languages and literatures, religion, and sciences with an accessible suite of software tools for teaching and research.

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provides over 2 million digital images.
NYPL Picture Collection Online

A collection of American & international images "mostly created before 1923."

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American Memory Project

Images, videos, and presentations compiled by the U.S. Library of Congress related to American history.

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The Costume Page

Resource of collected information regarding costuming. Includes costuming history, costuming by era, by ethnic group, Halloween, and costume-making.

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Elizabethan Costume Page

Resource provides information on clothing from the Tudor and Elizabethan periods in England, from peasant to upper class, children to adults.

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Fashion Plate Collection

Digitized fashion plates from French, British, American, and other fashion journals between 1806-1915.

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History of Costume

Resource for students studying historical fashion as well as Victorian-era costume designers. Resource is a digitization of plates printed from 1861 to 1880 and bound under the title "History of Costume." These plates consisted of 500 designs of historical dress from antiquity to the end of the 19th century.

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London College of Fashion Cordwainers Shoe Collection

Images from a collection of English shoes, ranging "from 1780-1990s."

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London College of Fashion Paper Patterns

Patterns "dating from the 1920s to the present day," from Europe and America.

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London College of Fashion: The Woolmark Company

Photos "[f]rom the 1940's through to the early 1980's" from London, France, Germany, and the United States

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Milwaukee Repertory Theater Photographic History

"[A] visual chronicle of the artistic productions of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater in the years 1977-1994," including costumes.

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Works of Art: The Costume Institute

Photograghs of selected items from Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum, spanning 2000 B.C.E. - present and "five continents."

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Library of Congress Historical Images

"[P]hotographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings"  on a variety of topics. International in scope, but with an emphasis on the United States.

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Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Digital photos of garments and accessories from the 18th century - the present.

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Europeana Fashion

Images and texts of historical European clothing and accessories, contemporary designs, catwalk photographs, drawings, sketches, plates, catalogs, and videos.

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Blanche Payne Regional Costume Photograph and Drawing Collection

Collection of drawings, photographs, art, and postcards from research trips to Yugoslavia and other countries in 1930 and years 1936-1937.

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Motley Collection of Theatre & Costume Design

is "a rare collection of original materials ... comprising over 5000 items from more than 150 productions in England and the United States... from 1932 to 1976 for plays by Shakespeare and modern classics, opera, ballet, and motion pictures."

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Chicago History Museum - Costume and Textiles

Museum holds more than 50,000 costumes and textiles dating from the eighteenth century to the present. Collection materials include clothing worn by former presidents and first ladies, sports stars, celebrities, and other luminaries, as well as by everyday Chicagoans. The Museum’s textile holdings include a significant representation of military flags, political banners, quilts and coverlets, samplers, rugs, and other household textiles. Highlights include mid-twentieth century textiles designed by Chicago-based artists, such as Ellenhank and Angelo Testa.

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Lisa Coats

Portrait of Lisa Coats
Humanities Librarian
Phone Number: 

Liaison Librarian to Creative Writing, English, Film Studies, Music, Philosophy and Religion, Theatre, Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies, World Languages and Cultures

Costume History

Consider also using Randall Library's multitude of history resources when looking at the history of costuming. 

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Finding Books on the Shelf

Ready to find library books on the shelf? Our books are arranged in Library of Congress call number order. Below are some helpful links and just ask a librarian for help if needed.