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Recommended Reading List

These links connect you to amazon.com.  They're ordered according to how we rate them, best listed first, but every book here is excellent.  We use them all.  Enjoy exploring this Book List, but before clicking below, please bookmark this page so you don't lose our site.  Tip: You can hit CTRL+D to bookmark instantly.   

Notes on the Book List:   Many books on fashion history, vintage clothing, and garment care are out of print.  We've found they tend to go out of print within a few years, so it's smart to pick up a copy of something you find especially valuable.  For books you can't get in a mainstream book store, tell amazon.com to search for you, or check used/rare book stores.  The 391 non-fiction section of your local library will also have some selection; some have a surprisingly copious number of books available.

 

Secondhand Chic : The Secrets of Finding Fantastic Bargains at Thrift Shops, Consignment Shops, Vintage Shops and More
This book is the best for getting in-depth details on how to choose quality garments, how to decide what's a good buy, and how to find the gem hidden in scores of other items on a rack, or on a website.  Very valuable, and fun to read!

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Time Period: 20th Century
Focus: Purchasing Quality Secondhand Items
Currently Available

 

Retro Chic: A Guide to Fabulous Vintage & Designer Resale Shopping in North America and Online
This book includes a summary of this century's fashion history, but its heart is a directory of where to shop for vintage & designer clothing.  There are listings that include many major cities in the U.S. and Canada - and no matter where you live, you can always use their list of online sites!  Each store listing has a description, many with comments by the store owners.

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Time Period: 19th-20th Century
Focus: Finding Quality Secondhand Items

Currently Available

 

 

Let There Be Clothes : 40,000 Years of Fashion
Simply hilarious, and full of tidbits about fashion history!  This book is a thick, fact-filled rollicking read, highly recommended for the coffee table.  The only drawback: there is no index, so finding that one piece of trivia in the pages can be difficult.  The book is chronological, but you still might find 1790s facts in the 1950s section.  Eccentric, but very, very fun!

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Time Period: Fig Leaf to Modern (1990s)
Focus: Learning About Fashion History
Out of Print, but copies available

 

 

Icons of Fashion : The 20th Century
From 1900 to 2000, this exemplary book is divided by actual fashion periods instead of ten year increments.  Intelligently done, each chapter is an in-depth detail of the era, with information on designers and their collections left out in other books.  Lots of great illustrations as well.

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Time Period: 20th Century
Focus: Fashion History, Design Development
Currently Available

 

 

1000 Dessous : A History of Lingerie
A fantastic pictorial journey of lingerie, undergarments and nightwear!  This book mainly details late Victorian to the 1980s, and is a wonderful image-based archive for the researcher and/or collector.  Be warned: some women in this book are nearly undressed.

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Time Period: Mostly 20th Century, Some Earlier
Focus: Pictures, Photographs, Artwork
Currently Available

 

 

The New Look : The Dior Revolution
After World War II, fashion truly underwent a revolution from the modest wartime silhouette to the posh 1947 Bar Look.  Christian Dior led the way, and this book is a smart, detailed account of the fads and fashion of the time.  A well-focused, good read.

Time Period: Mid-Late 1940s to Early 50s
Focus: New Look Era, Fashion and Lifestyle
Out of Print, but copies available

 

 

Shoes : A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers & More
Fascinating footwear!  There are some incredibly rare shoes shown in this book, as well as perfectly sculpted examples of haute couture.  The book is divided into types of shoes, as its title states.  But it also features shoe designers and their histories, something overlooked by most fashion history books.

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Time Period: Roman Times to 20th Century
Focus: Pictures, Shoe Facts, Shoe Designers
Currently Available

 

Vintage Denim
A history of the major denim brands: Levi's, Wrangler, Lee.  There is an identification and condition rating guide, and a lot of coffee table style narrative about the aura of wearing denim.  Great pictures!

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Time Period: 20th Century
Focus: Vintage Denim Market & Culture
Out of Print, used copies available

 

Alligators, Old Mink & New Money
The quirky title is an apt descriptor of the lively contents in this book by sisters Alison & Melissa Houtte.  It chronicles Alison's journey from a newly discovered model in the 1980s, who flew alone to Paris in her teens, to a vintage clothing shopowner in Brooklyn... read full review

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Time Period: 20th Century
Focus: Anecdotal

Currently Available

 

Vintage Style: Buying and Wearing Classic Vintage Clothes
This book is more like a hardcover magazine, focused on our favorite subject - how to wear beautiful vintage clothing in a contemporary wardrobe.  It is a showcase of 36 people wearing their favorite vintage items, discussing the history and allure of this terrific way of dressing.

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Time Period: 20th Century
Focus: Vintage/Contemporary Style Mixing
Currently Available

 

The History of Underclothes
Written by a researcher for historical purpose, this book covers undergarments' development by extant garments, documents, and illustrations.  A very well researched book, covering every period in-depth, with lots of pictures of extant garments.  Essential for those reproducing clothing and participating in re-enactments.

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Time Period: Medieval Times to 1939
Focus: History of Undergarments
Currently Available

 

Ladies' Vintage Accessories
A beautiful book, packed with vintage eye candy for the accessories lover!  The prices are realistic and the details are informative - a very good choice!  The only wish we have is that there would be more mid-late 20th century accessories in some sections.  Lots of emphasis on Victorian to early 1900s items.

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Time Period: 19th-20th Century
Focus: Accessories ID & Value
Currently Available

 

The Ladies' Room Reader Revisited
Described as a "curious compendium of fascinating female facts", the Reader has a section on wardrobe trivia, including a mini-trek through 20th century fashions from yours truly.

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Time Period: Ancient to Modern
Focus: Fashion Trivia
Currently Available

 

Men's Fashion in the Twentieth Century
One of very few books on men's fashion history, this book sets period illustrations and photographs against an interesting narrative of what men wore through the 20th century.  The focus is on historical context, not identification or valuation.

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Time Period: 20th Century
Focus: Men's Fashion History
Currently Available

 

Men and Women: Dressing the Part
A book for anyone interested in the sociological reasons behind gender differences in dress.  Clothing as identity, as status, and as differentiation are all examined in developing ideas about men's and women's roles.  A section on children is also included.  This book was written by affiliates of the Smithsonian.

Time Period: Cross-Period Reference, Mostly Victorian to 20th Century
Focus: Gender & Clothing
Out of Print, used copies available

 

 

The Official Identification and Price Guide to Vintage Clothing
This book was published in the 1980s, and is out of print, but it is a great attempt at a solid price guide.  There are pages of items with prices, skimpy on the pictures, but well-described.  There is also a Glossary of Designers and an analysis of prices as they vary throughout the U.S.  There is value to be found in this book, if you can access a copy of it.

Time Period: Victorian to 20th Century
Focus: Pricing and Practical History Info
Out Of Print, used copies available

 

 

Encyclopedia of Textiles
If you have clothing with no fabric content labels, this book can be a great help in identifying just what that fabric is.  It has a good mix of pictures of fabrics, but without the physical feel of the fabric, it's hard to imagine exactly what's described, unless you already know the fabric named.  Nevertheless, it's a good reference, and it also details how some fabrics are made.

Time Period: Modern
Focus: Names & Types of Fabrics, Production
Out Of Print, used copies available

 

 

The Mode in Costume
Covering ancient civilization to the 1940s, this book is a detailed account of various outfits.  The author has black and white sketches of each outfit, with written descriptions about fabrics, trims, and accessories shown.  A chronological layout with pages of more notes per era, this book was printed in the 1950s and in the 80s.

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Time Period: Byzantium to 1940s
Focus: Specific Ensembles and Fashions
Out Of Print, used copies available

 

If you know of a book we should list here, please email.  Feel free to include your own review.  We may include your review (complete or partial) on our site.