Some Digital Fashion Archives

Here is a handful of interesting, perhaps lesser-known archives of interest to fashion researchers.

Barnett Hook Papers and Needlework, Ohio University.

“Many people viewed master needleworker Barnett A. Hook of rural McArthur, Ohio as a curiosity during his lifetime—in fact, he sometimes made his living highlighting his status as one of “only four men in the United States who teach embroidery.” Ohio U has digitized his papers and needlework samples. (Ok, a little local promo here.)

Needlework by Barnett Hook in the collection of Ohio University Libraries

Pantograph Negative Collection, 1940-1945, Illinois Digital Archives

“This collection of images from the Pantagraph, a Bloomington, Illinois newspaper dating back to 1846, records the history of Central Illinois through the work of Pantagraph photographer-reporters between 1940 and 1945. The Pantagraph was known for its coverage of agricultural concerns as well as local sports and social events in 10 counties surrounding McLean County. ”

A search on “fashion” or “apparel” yields a set of black and white photographs with styles from the era. “Campus Fads, Illlinois State Normal University,” shows off jump suits, cuff bracelets, plain pumps, and an alligator clutch bag.

From the “Fashion” subject set of the Pantograph negative collection, 1940-1945

Europeana: Fashion Collections

“Europeana works with thousands of European archives, libraries and museums to share cultural heritage for enjoyment, education and research.”

You probably already know about Europeana: catwalks, individual designers, costumes, jewelry items… nearly 800,000 items.

But I enjoyed discovering their “Fashion Stories”: having all these digital objects to choose from means they can create digital collections such as Masks and Head Coverings, which seems apropos of the moment, and Corsets, a popular research topic among undergraduates I work with.

Phillip Lim, S/S 2009, from

Los Angeles Public Library Digital Collection: Fashion AND Los Angeles Public Library Digital Collection: Clothing

” The Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection contains images from the 1850s to the present, documenting all aspects of life in Southern California, with an emphasis on Los Angeles.”

Subsets of a larger collection of photographs, circa 1930-1964.

A Los Angeles fashion show, about 1930.

3-D Tour of the Museum of Ethnic Costumes, Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology

This “Street View” tour from the Museum’s Google Culture pages lets you walk through the museum and look at the exhibits. Zoom in to see more details in each display case. Included are outfits, jewelry, shoes, and even weaving looms.

Textile resources at the American Philatelic Research Library

The American Philatelic Research Library, a special library located in Bellefonte, Penn., focuses on the study of postage stamps and postal history. According to their website, the library “has one of the world’s largest and most accessible collections of philatelic literature. The collection includes books and journals about stamps and postal history, as well as the history of philately and related subjects like transportation and geography.”

One of the journals that the library carries is Textile-Rama, the quarterly bulletin of the (now defunct) Textile Study Unit of the American Topical Association. The Textile Study Unit studied everything “from fibers to finished fashions including processes and decorative arts” on stamps from around the world.

The catalog entry from the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library notes that Textile -Rama ran from 1977-2009 in 33 volumes, but the APRL only carries the 1995-2003 issues. Each issues is about ten pages long and is illustrated from March 2000, full color from December 2000.

Articles include examples such as French tapestries in Polish philately, Halas lace stamps of Hungary, Kilssam: the traditional domestic handweaving carried out in Korea, Nanduti lace of Paraguay, among many other fascinating topics. Each issue also includes topical collecting checklists and those of newly-issued stamps that focus on fashion, textile and costume topics.

The APRL offers photocopy and scanning services as well as reference assistance by phone and email. American Philatelic Society and library members may borrow books directly by mail and non-members may borrow books through interlibrary loan. The collection may be searched via the Union Philatelic Catalog.