Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Costumer's Bookshelf

What books have I been introduced to or found helpful in my time as a Costume Production student?

For most classes, books were not required. But I was introduced to a number of books that have been helpful as reference books. Having the excuse to purchase costume books was one of my favorite parts of being a costume graduate student, and I always tried to keep my ear to the ground for the latest and greatest and old and obscure costume books. Here are my favorites...


Draping for Apparel Design

Both by Helen Joseph-Armstrong, I prefer these two books above all below because I find them to be very well illustrated and the directions clearly written and the subjects covered are very comprehensive. There is even a draping in bias section, which many other books don't have. And the patterning book has a section on patterning children's clothing. These are the two that I keep close at hand when creating a pattern.

Below are other books that have been recommended to me in my time at CMU, and that I have on my bookshelf. I refer to them rarely though, as most of my questions can be answered with the above two books.

Draping for Fashion Design

Principles of Flat Pattern Design

Historical Scaled Patterns:

Patterns of Fashion (all four by Janet Arnold)

Period Costume for Stage and Screen (three on women's dresses, and two on outerwear)

Moden 1790-1840

One in a series of books on Danish Costume. Has pictures of originals and graphed patterns created from those originals. An excellent source of graphed patterns...although a bit expensive. The other books in the series are Moden 1700 arene, Moden 1840-90 and Moden 1890-1920.

The Cut of Women's Clothes

Seventeenth Century Women's Dress (two books in a series of books by Jenny Tiramani - excellent!)

Costume Close-Up

Fitting and Proper


Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing

This book is excellent and is always kept at hand.

Couture Sewing Techniques

This book was the go-to book for our Couture Techniques class. Many of the tips and tricks that we learned in the class are also available in this book. It is an excellent resource for any stitcher desiring to create garments at the next level.

Other sewing books helpful to have on hand...

Vogue Sewing

Threads Sewing Guide

Singer Sewing Reference Library (series)

This is a series of special topics books - these are all excellent! I want to own the whole set!

Fine Machine Sewing

Costume Technician's Handbook


Classic Tailoring Techniques (see also for Menswear)

These were the textbooks for the Tailoring classes that I took at CMU.


The Victorian Tailor

A fabulous book for anyone interested in tailoring victorian menswear.


Millinery for Every Woman

From the Neck Up

Vintage Hats and Bonnets

Ribbon Flowers

This is my favorite flower making book. Helen Gibb has the best techniques for making realistic looking flowers from ribbon.

A Passion for Ribbonry

The Artful Ribbon

Fabric Dyeing:

Fabric Painting and Dyeing

Textbook for the fabric dyeing and fabric painting classes that I took at CMU.

Do you have any Patterning or Sewing books that aren't on this list that I should know about? I always love learning about helpful costuming books!

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  1. I loooove the Janet Arnold book. I'm hoping to work from it sometime this year if I can make the time for myself! Thanks so much for sharing this list - I picked up a pattern drafting book. My skills are very rudimentary since I didn't finish school.

  2. Very nice list! We share many in common. I just need to stop being scared and go make something!