Although not every online-source is as reliable, there’s a wealth of information out there! This is a list of some of the resources I use.
One of the main resources for me is simply other historical sewing-blogs. Seeing how people made something, explained with progress photos and information can teach you a lot. Some of my favourites:
A Damsel in Disdress (Prior Attire)
Fashion-plates & original patterns
This is a complete archive of the Dutch fashion magazine De Gracieuse vrom 1862 to 1936. It includes fashion plates, and also original patterns! I’ve written a tutorial on how to find the patterns, which can be found here.
Online library achive, which includes many fashion books and magazines. You can search by place and century, and then browse through. Loads of high-resolution scans of fashion plates, including La Mode Illustree . The only downside is that you can’t save which page you were on. (another tip: don’t just search in the ‘Fashion Plate’ link in the menu, you’ll find more by browsing by era or location).
Original patterns by the Symington corset company, one of the big names in Victorian corsetry. Patterns range from 1898-1901.
Original historical patterns gathered in one place. Tip: use the search engine or browse the archives to find things.
Original corset patents. The site is a bit confusing to me, but many great resources.
A project at the LAMCA museum to pattern some of their collection. For now it’s mostly menswear, but a couple of female garments as well. Great looking pattern and description of the garments.
The Danish national museum also has patterns for some of their fashion collection. Browse to the timeframe and you can see links to the items. A couple of them have a pattern link included. (Google translate is your friend)
A collective online collection for 22 of the leading fashion musea in Europe. This is perfect for browsing through museum collections. Only downside is that searching often needs to be done in the original language, and that searching by creation year is not possible.
The metropolitan museum of art has a huge costume collection, and it’s all in their online database. You can search the collections or browse by category (‘costume’) or era. What I like most about the met. collections is that most items are photographed very well. From front and side, in high resolution so you can zoom in and look at the details. This doesn’t hold for every piece, but most are very well documented. This is invaluable when re-creating something, and just great when admiring a dress.
Pinterest is perfect for looking for and sharing inspiration images. There’s loads of images out there. The only problem might be tracking down the source of some images and garments, and sometimes stuff gets labeled incorrectly (movie costumes being described as originals for instance). Having said that, I love being able to save my inspiration in one place. My own boards are here.
Janet Arnold’s Patterns of fashion – One of the best known resources, and for a reason. Every volume contains patterns taken from original garments.
17th Century Dress Patterns by the V&A – I only have the women’s part II book, but it’s absolutely brilliant. In-depth chapters on each existent garment, complete with many detail pictures, inside and out, an x-ray (to see boning etc), patterns (left&right, inside&out), and a complete description on how it was made up.