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Historic Costume: North America and Western Europe: Visual Reference

Visual Reference Tools

"Visual Reference" is a general term for a wide range of materials that fall into two general categories:

Primary sources were made in the period and place being studied. Examples include clothing advertisements from  women's magazines, dress patterns printed in period newspapers, drawings by a fashion designer, or an actual article of clothing. Primary resources that are rich with images can also yield, with careful analysis, an insider's view of the ideas, concerns, and values of a place and time. 

Secondary sources, on the other hand, are created by scholars and costumers who have studied primary resources, synthesized what they have learned, and presented it for others in the field. Secondary sources are arranged by century indicated on each tab. To find more, search OBIS using the tips on the "Databases" tab of this guide.

Background and Context

Librarian / Research Help

Photograph of Barbara Prior, the Art Librarian

Barb Prior (she/her)  Head, Clarence Ward Art Library
Top Floor, Venturi Art Building
Email us at

Supports classes across the College and Conservatory and those using the Allen Memorial Art Museum

Subject expert for: 
Art & architecture of East Asia, Africa, Latin America, Islam, the Ancient Mediterranean, the Western Middle Ages, the Renaissance & Baroque periods, and Global Art of the 20th c & 21st c.
Complete list of Barb's Research Guides

Schedule a Research Appointment                                                              



Websites and museum collections

Also of use


   Dress: The journal of the Costume Society of America
   Art Library, GT605.D74.  1981, 1983-1991