18th c. American Clothing Resources

Sometimes it’s difficult to find books that focus on American clothing from the 18th century, instead of France and England.  Here’s a list of my go-to research books that take a look at American clothing. It’s certainly not complete, but it’s the basis of most of my research.

The Mirror of Antiquity

The Mirror of Antiquity: American Women and the Classical Tradition

Caroline Winterer

Cornell University Press 2007

ISBN 978-0-8014-4163-9

An utterly fascinating in-depth look at how classical ideas and ideals shaped American dress and culture. Recommended for those looking for a deeper understanding of 18th century women’s clothing & early American culture. A detailed, well-researched book. It covers the 18th century and much of the 19th. Illustrated, B&W.

Fitting and Proper

Fitting & Proper: 18th Century Clothing from the Collection of the Chester County Historical Society

Sharon Ann Burnston

Scurlock Publishing Co., Texarkana TX1998

ISBN 1-880655-08-X

A basic book looking at a few great pieces of clothing from the Chester County Historical Society. Mainly Quaker pieces, these are well-documented and the author shows how they were created. Men’s and women’s clothing is included – the book covers basic pieces of clothing worn during the 18th century. Graphed patterns included, illustrated, B&W.

What Clothes Reveal

What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America

Linda Baumgarten

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Yale University Press, New Haven CT, 2002

ISBN 0-300-09580-5

An in-depth look at clothing and culture in America during the 18th century – this book looks into the answer to “why did they do/wear that?” Highly recommended as a place to start a deeper knowledge of American life in the 18th century. Detailed research, fun read – an enlightening book covering all aspects of clothing. Well illustrated in full color – you’ve got to get excited about that.

Costume Close-Up

Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790

Linda Baumgarten, John Watson, Florine Carr

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Quite Specific Media Group LTD NY 1999

ISBN 0-89676-226-2

In essence, this book is a more detailed version of Fitting & Proper. A fascinating look at a handful of American clothes, showing how they were cut, put together, and how they aged over time. It’s great because it focuses on both men’s and women’s clothing. A good place to start costuming – this and Fitting & Proper are my go-to books for when I begin a piece of clothing, because they show the construction very well. Not a heavy read; many illustrations. Graphed patterns and color/B&W illustrations.

Tidings from the 18th Century

Tidings From the 18th Century

Beth Gilgun

Rebel Publishing Co., Texarkana, TX 1993

ISBN 1-880655-04-7

The most down-to-earth and practical costuming book that exists, to my knowledge. A fabulous book to begin re-enacting with. It covers more than clothing, too – the biggest themes of living history and re-enacting are included. An easy, fun read – many of the chapters are in letter format, like an 18th century novel. Some patterns, well illustrated, B&W.

Cloth and Costume

Cloth and Costume 1750 to 1800, Cumberland County, PA

Tandy and Charles Hersh

The Cumberland County Historical Society 1995

ISBN 0-9638923-2-0

I haven’t finished reading this book, but it looks pretty good so far. The biggest drawback are the pictures – the printing and photography are very poor in some instances. The book covers both clothing and its production in Cumberland County PA. Illustrated, B&W.

Have I missed any great reads you know of? Comment below and I’ll add them to my list!

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About Amanda Goebel

I'm an Anthropology / Fashion History and Material Culture graduate from The University of Delaware, currently working on a Master's in Museum Studies. I'm a living historian interested in costume and culture from years before. I love researching the mundane and the everyday that has changed or disappeared since. I re-enact the 18th century, and I recreate clothing from that time. This blog is where I'll write about my research and projects. View all posts by Amanda Goebel

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