Fashion-Focused Digital Resources: Met Publications

MetPublications, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s portal for electronic versions of its exhibition catalogs and academic literature, has expanded in the last year to include over 400 titles. Many of these books, published since the 1960s, are now out of print. Some are available for free download or print on demand; others offer a preview with a link to purchase. MetPublications is complemented by the Met’s collection of over 400,000 high-res images of public domain works in the museum’s collection. These works are identified within the Met’s collection database by an “OASC” icon, and users can click the download arrow to save object images. Exhibition catalogs are a great source for researching and dating historic costume, or simply a way to review an exhibition you missed or discover a new thematic approach to a topic. Below are some selections  for fashion historians from the Met’s extensive open online library. Follow the links and click “download PDF” to view the full text of each catalog.


American Ingenuity: Sportswear, 1930s–1970s

Beginning in the early 1930s, American designer sportswear came into its own, later becoming a major force in fashion that continued into the 1990s to influence the way women dress. Designers such as Bonnie Cashin, Tina Leser, Vera Maxwell, Claire McCardell, Clare Potter, and Emily Wilkens initiated a new standard of dressing, one that is right for the lifestyle of the modern woman and that is purely American in its practicality, simplicity, and democratic elements. Richard Martin, Curator of The Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, has brought these designers together again, and his text both examines their position and import as a historical group and discusses their individual accomplishments. – Excerpt from Publisher

The Ceaseless Century: Three Hundred Years of Eighteenth-Century Costume

The shapes and silhouettes, the corseted waists and deep décolletage, the incredibly wide and flat skirts—in a word, the majesty—of eighteenth-century style have provided lasting inspiration for fashion even to the present. In this fascinating volume, which accompanies a fall 1998 exhibition of the same name at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Richard Martin, Curator of The Costume Institute there, discusses and analyzes fashions of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, using the eighteenth century as a touchstone to discuss the complex navigation that characterizes revivalism. – Excerpt from Publisher

Christian Dior

Published 50 years after Christian Dior’s “New Look” of 1947, and accompanying an exhibition at The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, this book presents a chronology of Dior’s creations. They are drawn chiefly from The Costume Institute’s collections, which include an extensive record of the designer’s achievement as recognized by his New York clients of the 1940s and 1950s. Among the illustrations are extravagant evening wear, chic accessories, and details of Dior tailoring, as well as documentary photographs from the Dior Archives, Paris. The text places Dior’s achievement in the cultural perspective of postwar renewal: the desire for optimism, the return to innocence, and the reclaiming of the pleasures of fine clothing and other sumptuary arts. Analyzing the “New Look,” the authors set out to demonstrate the abiding impact of Dior’s formulation of an icon for fashion’s postwar renaissance. – Full Abstract from Publisher

Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the Eighteenth Century

During the reigns of Louis XV (1723–74) and Louis XVI (1774–92) fashion and furniture merged ideals of beauty and pleasure through their forms and embellishments. With their fragile surfaces and delicate proportions, tables, chairs, and other pieces of furniture enhanced the elite’s indulgence in leisurely pursuits, fostering highly complex standards of etiquette and performance. Men and women restated the splendor of the Rococo and Neoclassical interiors of the period in their opulent costumes. For the eighteenth-century libertine and femme du monde, a refined elegance and delicate voluptuousness infused their world with a mood of amorous delight. Dangerous Liaisons takes its theme from this era, when trifling in love propelled the energies of elite men and women, providing almost daily stimulating encounters, and when, as has been written, “morality lost but society gained.” – Excerpt from Publisher

Image credit: MetPublications

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