Online Research Resources for Fashion Historians


As I’ve been diving back into text research for an in-depth project, I thought it might be helpful to divulge some of the wonderful electronic resources that I regularly use when doing historical research. These resources are great for mining quotes, finding little-known references and other such tid-bits. Much of the availability of these sources is thanks to Google, and often the things you find are just the tip of the ice-berg (with more research almost always needed via a library):

Google Scholar (free) Links to both primary and secondary sources including patents, scholarly articles, books and occasionally newspaper articles.

Google News (free) Searches many major historical newspaper/periodical literature, but often requires payment to read the complete article.

Google Books (free) A really good way to search for references in books without indexes (but keep in mind not every book is available to search, so a visit to the library is almost always still necessary).

Newspaper Archive (paid) Has a vast amount of smaller, regional newspapers available for search. (paid) Includes census data; birth, marriage an death certificates; some newspaper searching; some photos; Military and draft records; and an easy way to organize family relationships.

L’Officiel de la Mode, 1921-2010 online (free) A marvelous database of historical issues of this french fashion magazine (with many articles in English).

Bibliothèque nationale de France (free) I’m still working this one out – but it seems to be a large vault of text and image history specific to France.

Worldcat (free) Includes listings for nearly every book and article ever published.

California Digital Library Collection (free) Less well-known and older newspapers in a searchable database.

Historical San Francisco Chronicle For those with academic library access, Proquest has recently added this newspaper to its database, a huge help for me personally.

Some new resources have also recently come forward, or are in the planning processes, that readers may find useful. These include The House of Fraser Archive and Screen Search Fashion:

1. “Selling Fashion: Realizing the Research Potential of the House of Fraser Archive, University of Glasgow Archive Services,” by Clare Paterson. Textile History, Vol. 40, No. 2, November 2009. (Maney Publishing)

Abstract: “The House of Fraser Archive is a rich resource for the study of the development of fashion retailing in Britain since the mid-nineteenth century. It is, however, underexploited by textile, fashion and retail historians. During the summer of 2009, the University of Glasgow Archive Services will complete an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project which seeks to improve the accessibility of the Archive. Adopting a progressive approach to archival description, the project is developing an innovative online catalogue, providing fuller access to information about the Archive and the resources contained within it.” [Details on the House of Fraser Archive Project here]

30 May 1953, Coronation Fete at Horley Cricket Club

2. Screen Search Fashion

“A new website featuring fashion on film in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s has been launched. Screen Search Fashion has been developed by Screen Archive South East, at the University of Brighton, UK, in partnership with the Royal College of Art and funded by the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning through Design (CETLD)”

Tangentially, the College Art Association Blog recently listed two new online databases recently made available from the Frick Collection:  a directory that helps those researching the history of collecting art in the United States and a collection of inventories from the Dutch Golden Age. The FIDM Museum blog also recently put together a list of the resources (both on and offline) that they regularly use.

Sigh, now if only Women’s Wear Daily were available online…

*San Francisco Call, Volume 79, Number 99, 8 March 1896 — MOURNING GOWN. [illustration] Via the California Digital Newspaper Collection.

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  • Kat March 03, 2010 10.33 am

    Perfect! I’ve been developing a similar list of places online. Now I can link this post and make it easier!

  • Jo March 03, 2010 01.53 pm

    I would gladly pay for a complete run of Sears catalogs online.

  • Arden Kirkland March 03, 2010 02.25 pm

    thanks so much for sharing this, Heather! I’m emailing the link to my students right now.

  • Heather Vaughan March 05, 2010 10.21 am

    Jo – you may be in luck! The Sears Catalog Archive looks like it might be inching towards putting the catalog archive online:


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