Getting Started

[Note: While the steps below are static text that dates to whatever the date is at the top of this post, the resources listed below this text are constantly and dynamically updated.  You can also see them in our Zotero Library.]

  1. LOOK – Examine the garment carefully and try to fully describe it in as much detail as possible. It can be helpful to sketch the silhouette or key details.
  2. IDENTIFY THE DATE – If you already know the date, go to the relevant decade page to find further resources on dress in that period. If you don’t know the date, head to the century overview pages and look for the century and then decade that seems closest.
  3. COMPARE – Once you know the correct decade, it can be very useful to compare your garment to what was fashionable at the same time. Was it typical? What kind of context would it have been worn in?
  4. DIG DEEPER – Review the suggested primary and secondary sources for your decade (and perhaps century) and select the ones that sound most promising. Look online or find sources at the library and see what they have to say. Remember one good source can often point you to others, so see what sources they’re citing and find those as well!
  5. ASSESS – What have you learned? What can you say about the purpose, style, materials, construction and fashionability of your chosen garment (whether depicted or real)? How does it fit within its time period?

Research Sources

Have a research source, museum collection or other resource to recommend?  Contact us!

Where to Start? Recommended Survey Texts
Fashion Dictionaries
Research Methods
Conservation & Display
Fashion Studies - State of the Field Articles
Fashion Journals

Museum Collections

Accessory Museums
Design & Decorative Art Museums
Designer Museums
Fashion Museums & Collections - Americas
Fashion Museums & Collections - Asia
Fashion Museums & Collections - Europe
Textile Museums

Online Sources

For Runway Images
For Designer Biographies
Research Databases (Subscription)