Teaching Fashion: Digital Image Resources

We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words.  When it comes to teaching, it is certainly true!

Here’s a fact: Chiffon is a sheer, balanced plain weave fabric, made of fine filament yarns with a very high twist, commonly made of silk or polyester fibers.

Here’s an image:

Pleated Silk Chiffon Dress by Jean Desses. (1960s). Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation (Nafplion/Greece) Retrieved from http://www.texmedindigitalibrary.eu/?show_item&item_id=413

How much more exciting, meaningful, and memorable does the addition of this picture make the definition of “chiffon”? Incorporating images into our lectures allows students to mentally tie together visual and verbal information.

Sources of Fashion Digital Images

Where can we get images to help illustrate our lectures? Trend services such as StyleSight or WGSN have a wealth of searchable new and fashion images.  However, full access requires a subscription.  A number of universities and museums have photographed their collections and made them available online. Both garment and textile images are available. Many offer the opportunity to zoom in and view the details.  While we would all love to have a full collection of objects to show our students, this is the next best option!

Online libraries can also be a great source for student assignments.  Textile students could find pictures of assigned fabrics and analyze how the technical aspects of the fabric contribute to the success of the garment design. Fashion history students could find images for a report on a designer.  Possibilities also exist for webliography projects if your class has a companion website.

TEXMEDIN Digital Library

The TEXMEDIN Digital Library contains images of nearly 800 items from the textile and apparel collections of the Textile Museum of Prato, Centre of Documentation and Textile Museum of Terrassa, Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation and Carpiformazione. Item dates range from the 15th century to present.  The image collection is searchable by categories such as time period, material, and technique.  Images are accompanied by an in depth description and other information such as the designer and country of origin.  Images may be zoomed to view the details.

University of Minnesota Goldstein Museum of Design Digital Database

This database contains over 3000 images of apparel, textiles, graphic design, and decorative arts objects.   Both historical and modern items are included.  To view GMD collection items, click on Advanced Search, deselect all and select Goldstein Museum of Design. Enter search terms of your choice.  You can narrow your search by date, creator, source, etc.  Image thumbnails and cataloging information are available to all users. These materials must be used for educational purposes only.

University of Washington Fashion Plate Collection

This collection contains 417 digital images collected by Blanche Payne. Photographs, postcards, art prints, and fashion plates are from some of the leading French, British, American, and other continental fashion journals of the 19th century and early 20th century. Search the database by your own keyword or by the pre-defined historical periods.    Click on the thumbnail to reveal the large image and full information.

Day dresses by Paul Poiret. (1927). Les Idees Nouvelles de la Mode et des Arts, Paris, France. Retrieved from: http://content.lib.washington.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/costumehist&CISOPTR=574&CISOBOX=1&REC=1

Additional Fashion Plate Collections:

Claremont Colleges 19th Century Fashion Plate Collection

Pratt Libraries Fashion Plate Collection

Philadelphia University Paul J. Gutman Library Digital Collection of Victorian Textile Trade Cards

This digital collection contains Victorian trade cards, which specifically focus on services and/or products related to the textile industry in the United States.  There are many images of men, women and children dressed in fashion of the period.  The database is fully searchable and front and back card images are accompanied by source and date information.

Baxter Shirt trade card. (1880?-1900?). Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.philau.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/TCards&CISOPTR=1671&REC=2

Giving Credit where Credit is Due

As we use these digital resources in our teaching presentations, it is a great opportunity to demonstrate to our students the importance of giving credit for use of digital resources. For example, I might put under an image on a Power Point slide “Christian Dior Spring 2010 collection from StyleSight.com”. In assignments, it is a great opportunity for students to practice these types of citations.  Purdue’s Online Writing Lab has some great information on this point.

I hope these resources help you add a new visual dimension to your lectures and assignments! Also see Tove’s Online Fashion Resources posting here on Worn Through for  further visual and verbal fashion resources.

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  • Jenna November 06, 2010 03.09 pm

    Great post and thanks for introducing these lesser known resources! Have bookmarked them all for future browsing.

  • Ingrid November 08, 2010 05.49 pm

    Thanks for a great article and for adding to my list of resources. It is always useful to have new ones to call on from around the world.


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