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