I showed this paper doll as a sketch about a month ago, the reality is that it can take a long time before a paper doll goes from sketch book to blog. Largely, because I tend to draw a lot for one doll, lose interest and move onto another, so the drawing always happens in fits and starts. I post on a schedule since I think it should be more even for the dolls and since it helps me not have long gaps in my posting. Plus inking is really boring, so I tend to do it in while I’m hanging out with people (who don’t mind chatting with me while I’m bent over a sketch book), watching TV or have an extra half an hour between classes and no homework to get caught up on. I have learned though that if I don’t keep up with my inking, I suddenly find myself with 15 pages to do and that always seems utterly overwhelming.
While these dresses have no real relation to historical costume, I did do a lot of reading up on the 18th Century for my Marisole paper dolls for the 4th of July and I used those books here too. Below I’ll talk about the books I used and why I used them and what I thought was helpful and not helpful about them- for paper dolling, I mean. This isn’t about academic costume research (though many of these books are good for that too). So, if you’d like to know my favorite 18th century fashion books, continue reading below.
I might have an addiction to exhibit catalogs. An Elegant Art: Fashion and Fantasy in the Eighteenth Century is older from an exhibition catalog produced by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for an exhibition in 1983 on 18th century costume. The number of lovely full color photos show off the costumes and a full listing of the exhibit in the back allows you date everything. Close up of fabric and shoes and particularly nice. Shoe research is really important to me, so I’m always looking for good photos of historical footwear. The text has several essays on 18th century life, including one on movement which I found fascinating.
Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Fashion in Detail is part of a series of books from the Victoria and Albert Museum costume collection. The upside of the books is that each garment has a clear line drawing of the front and (sometimes) the back. The downside is that the only photos are of detailed sections giving you a clear beautiful photograph of a button hole or embroidery, but not of the entire garment. I wouldn’t recommend this book on its own, but with other books that give clear all over photographs, it’s a great text and the line drawings are wonderfully clear and easy to work from. If I was going to give a numerical score, I would say eight out of ten. It also covers the 1600’s as well as the 1700’s which is useful (1600’s costume books can be hard to find).
Despite some really catty reviews on Amazon.com, Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques is a pretty good book about corsets. There are patterns, flats (which are useful since they show the backs of the corsets) and one full color photo each of the corsets in question. The text isn’t written to be an academic study, so don’t even go looking for that- it’s a book written by a costumer about corsets, with photos, a bibliography and a really nice range. The regency corsets are what made me pleased with it, but it also shows several different sets of stays from the 18th century. Good as a supplement to other books on this list. I do wish she’d given the full citations for her museum examples though… but that’s just the librarian in me.
Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the Eighteenth Century is the catalog from a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Each room of the exhibit depicted an aspect of aristocratic life, with costumed figures talking, getting dressed, making music, and other activities. The scenes follow the plot of the novel Dangerous Liaisons, but you don’t need to know the story to enjoy the images. What is delightful about the book is that it places the often over the top dresses of the era within their context in period settings. The posed figures sometimes make seeing the costumes clearly a little difficult, so I don’t consider it an ideal book for paper dolling, but it’s a lot of fun to look at and there are some nice essays included on the culture of leisure in the 18th century. It’s not the first book I go too when I need source material, but the full color photos put it in the top few.
Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s Dresses & Their Construction C. 1660-1860 is not just a book of patterns, though it includes patterns for all of the garments shown. It is a wonderful book about historical costume with beautiful pencil drawings, lots of black and white photos of primary sources and excellent text. It doesn’t have the visual appeal of some of the other books on this list, but it does have some really useful images and each item shown comes with a detailed description. I used to avoid Janet Arnold’s books because I thought they were nothing but patterns. In reality, the patterns are only a part of the great material. It has no color photos though, so look elsewhere for eye-candy.
If I could only own one book on 18th century dress, I might just pick Kyoto Costume Institute. The text I can take or leave, but the photos are outstanding. Despite the title, the clothing is really more from about 1750 to 1815, there isn’t anything shown from really early in the 17th century. The costumes shown include formal, informal, underwear, accessories and, my favorite, shoes. I also love this book for the regency period costumes it shows. Because it’s from 1990 and because it was a short print run to start with, the book is really expensive on the secondary market. I have not cross compared, but I believe the same photos were used in Fashion from the The Kyoto Costume Institute which is not insanely overpriced on the secondary market. In fact, it is still in print.
Lastly, I’d like to mention one of my favorite books about 18th century costume that has very few photos and isn’t useful at all for paper dolling, but it is a lot fun and that is Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. The subtitle alone makes me really happy, but the book is a wonderful non-fiction work about the history of costume in the 18th century, French politics and Marie Antoinette, who was more sympathetic then I ever thought she would be.
And this was a really much longer post then I had intended… I suppose that is what happens when you let a book lover talk about favorite fashion books. I hope it is helpful to anyone who wants to do a little research into what they used to wear in the 17th century.