Recommended Costume Books

I had started making a post and had a clever title…and then forgot to save the draft. Whoops.

I was asked a few days ago for costume book recommendations for those who are interested in pursuing costume making for fun (and maybe profit, but there’s never really much profit in art…sadly). Most of my recommendations are for Medieval, Tudor and Renaissance as that is the general time parameters that are set by the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism, I don’t have any books on early period Roman and Norse stuff, as they are mostly rectangular construction and sources are plentiful online. I will list some sources for later period stuff as best as I can remember from other recommendations, but these are mostly not ones that I have in my library.

My list of good quality costume resources include, but are not limited to, and in no particular order (yet…I may edit it into chronological groups later):

Jean Hunnisett – Period Costume for Stage and Screen. There are three books that I can find on Amazon–one for Medieval to 1500, 1800-1909, and one for coats, spensers, hoods and bonnets–looks Regency period. Great for that 10 foot rule, but apparently includes some shortcuts to have the right *look* but not necessarily period processes. Also, the books are all listed at $99 each…check your second hand booksellers.

Janet Arnold – just about everything she’s ever published, but mostly including her Patterns of Fashion series. There are lots of great extant examples, detail photos, patterns that you can adapt to your size (this is mostly for experienced costumers). First book: Drama Publishers, 2005. ISBN 9780896760264. Second book: Drama Publishers, 2007. ISBN 0896760278. Patterns of Fashion: The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c.1560-1620. McMillan/Drama, 1985. ISBN 0333382846. Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d. Routledge, 2015. ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1909662537.

Mary Fernald & Eileen Shenton. Historic Costumes and How to Make Them. Dover, 2006. ISBN-13 ‏: ‎ 978-0486449067. Nice little paperback book…can’t find my copy just now, and I haven’t used it yet, so I can’t really give a STRONG recommendation… but it has Saxon to Victorian patterns, apparently.

Fransen, Norgaard and Ostergard. Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns. Aarhus Universit Press. 2011. This is another book intended for more experienced tailors with extant examples, re-created examples (all cut from the same bolt of cloth, apparently), and patterns that can be scaled to fit your measurements. ISBN 9788779342989

Mikhaila, Ninya and Jane Malcolm-Davies. The Tudor Tailor: Techniques and Patterns for Making Historically Accurate Period Clothing. Costume and Fashion Press. 2006. Great book with scalable patterns, step by step instructions, tips for doing the pieces as they were done in period from materials to embellishments. ISBN-13: 9780896762558

Juan de Alcega…Tailor’s Pattern Book 1589. This is an extant pattern book from Spain. This is a master’s level book (that is still well beyond my understanding and skills) that includes some of the very odd layout markings and requires a conversion chart that is in the front of the book. Most of it is written in Medieval Spanish, so….yeah. ISBN 0-89676-234-3

Mathew Gnagy. The Modern Maker, Vol 1: Men’s Doublets. This is the only book of his that I have in my collection at this time, but he does have other published works. It’s fantastic, walking you through step by step with lots of pictures. ISBN-13: 9780692264843.

Sarah Thursfield. The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant: Making Common Garments 1200-1500. Costume and Fashion Press, 2001. A good primer on making a pattern, fitting, seam finishes and embellishments for the average person in the high Middle Ages. ISBN 0-89676-239-4.

Kristina Harris. Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques. Dover, 1998. I just got a copy of this book for fun. I have grand plans to try to make one of these one day, but chances are it’ll just be something that I think about but never start. That’s OK. Dreaming is fine.

Abby Cox and Laruen Stowell. The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking. Page Street Publishing, 2017. ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1624144530

This is not a complete list, and I may add more to it from time to time, but this is the list off the top of my head and stuff that is on my bookshelf next to me at the moment. Peruse, research, learn and enjoy!

Best regards, Elewys

11th c. Finnish Masku Humikkala

This is a lovely 11th century piece with some half-turns included, which are indicated by the ovals inside the ovals.

· Humikkala is a little town about 20 minutes northwest of Turku, Finland. Built around 1490-1510, the Masku Church and surroundings represents one of the oldest parishes in Western Finland.  dedicated to John the Baptist and St. Ursula. Next to the church is the Masku Museum, founded in 1974, which has a collection of finds from the local area.  Near the church, researchers found an Iron Age burial ground. The Humikkala cemetery, called the “hill of corpses” is on a hillside next to the Masku church.  There were 49 inhumation graves found here, and this fragment came from grave 32. Like others, this find is dated to 1000-1100.

· A note about the identification of finds at these anthropological digs.  While I couldn’t find the specific item number for THIS piece, I did find one for another one in the neighboring grave.  This item was given the code KM 8656: H32:18 ; KM is Kansallismuseo = National Museum of Finland; the number 8656 identifies the dig site for the Humikkala findings, H means hauta = grave, 31 is the number of the grave, and 18 is the object number in that grave.  Having these identifying numbers helps a great deal when you are looking for more information from the museums that store these finds.  This piece was actually found in grave 32 (H32), so we know that the item code would start KM 8656: H32… I’m still looking for the item number on this guy…but having that much information narrows down the search tremendously.

Seija Sarkki researched it in the 1970´s publishing a book in 1979 called “Suomen ristiretkiaikaiset nauhat” or The Finnish Crusades.
Volume 18 of Helsingin Yliopiston arkeologian Laitos. Moniste
Moniste (Helsingin Yliopiston Arkeologian Laitos)
Volume 18 of Moniste / Helsingin yliopiston arkeologian laitos, ISSN 0355-1881 ISBN 9514516281, 9789514516283

Sarkki, S. (1979). Suomen Ristiretkiaikaiset Nauhat. Arkeologian Laitos. Helsinki, Helsingin Yliopisto.

Sarkki was not a weaver and had a unique way to translating the textiles by trying to figure out how they were woven, and Maikki Karisto, co author of Tablet-Woven Treasures and Applesies and Fox Noses, took her drawings and created patterns from them.  This proved to be challenging for Maikki and Mervi Pasanen; the pattern above is the result of that reconstruction.

I hope you enjoy weaving this piece as much as I did! It’s got a lovely texture to it and will be a gorgeous addition to your medieval kit!