Cunnington, C. Willett and Phillis. Handbook of English Costume in the Eighteenth Century. Boston: Plays, Inc. 1973. These authors have turned out a fabulous series of costume books, by the century. Eloisa refers to this one in her piece in which she discusses deciding on a character’s costume. (I take credit for introducing her to the book.) University libraries, and some larger public libraries, will have copies available in their collection. What is especially helpful is that men’s dress is given as much attention as women’s and the illustrations clearly convey the salient points of a costume’s evolution. They also provide all you need to know about fashion accessories, hats, wigs, jewelry, bags, makeup, and shoes and stockings.

Cunnington, C. Willett and Phillis. Handbook of English Costume in the Nineteenth Century. London: Faber and Faber, 1970. Yes! I have the marvelous third edition of this wonderful book. And it has it all: the styles, the fabrics, the colors, the accessories, from top hats to dancing shoes; everything you need to dress your characters appropriately. Each decade receives its own section, as life, and dress, changed so much and so quickly during this fascinating and complex century.

I also have the authors’ book on the History of Underclothes, which is fascinating, but possibly the worst-illustrated book I’ve ever seen. Some of illustrations are bad photographs of authentic period clothing, so it’s hard to see details. But overall, the text is interesting and extremely useful.

Cunnington, Phillis. Costume of Household Servants. Great Britain: Harper and Row, 1974. Do you see a certain pattern in my books about costuming? This covers what British servants wore from the Middle Ages to 1900. It was extremely useful, and the details were wonderful. Perhaps because servants did not have the means to follow fashion quite as slavishly, at least at first hand, as their employers, their clothing often reflected practicality rather than modishness. In addition, employers were very conscious of the image presented by their servants, and that also dictated their dress. I love the photos of the later years, often of farmworkers in the country, who were certainly anything but slaves to fashion, but had such interesting looking faces.

Styles, John. The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007. Cunnington wonderfully describes the dress of the upper classes in Georgian England, and this book is a comprehensive look  at the styles, fabrics, and tastes of the workers, tradesmen, and ordinary people between the Restoration and the first Voting Reform Act of 1832. The extraordinary changes in life during that time were best expressed for the working classes in the changes of their clothing.  The most touching bit are the many illustrations of the samples of the fabric used to swath the abandoned infants left at the London Foundling Hospital during that time.
This is the site for the Bath Fashion Museum. They have amazing collections of original English costumes, very well presented. I have contacted them a couple times with a particular questions, and they have always been very helpful.
Information about corsets & 18th Century costumes. The illustrations, photos of authentic clothing, alone are worth a visit.


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