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Dance Research Guide: Costume info

a guide to outstanding dance resources for research and enrichment

A quick note on vocabulary...

Searching for "costume" information can pose difficulties, especially if the subject of study is not a theatrical form of dance.  Alternative search words may prove more helpful, such as clothing, dress, attire, apparel, threads, duds, fashion, and so on. Also, body decoration may be of interest, such as tattoos, face and body paint, and skin piercing.

Online costume reference sources

Encyclopedia of National Dress: Traditional Clothing Around the World [ebook] / ABC-CLIO, 2013.  This amazing work encompasses most of the globe and deals the history of dress in the different countries and regions, as well as present-day.

Berg Fashion Library database provides integrated text and image content on world dress and fashion throughout history. Useful to scholars, students, professionals, and anyone interested in dress, it includes the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, an extensive E-Book collection, a vast image bank, extra reference resources and more.

Encyclopedia of clothing and fashion [ebook] / Valerie Steele, editor in chief. New York : Scribner/Thomson, c2005.  Besides being useful to search in multiple ways, there's an article on Dance Costume within this encyclopedia that describes costumes for a number of dance styles and genres, and gives references for many more.

International Encyclopedia of Dance / Oxford University Press.   Most dress or costume-related content is included with articles on types of dance or other subjects, but three large articles treat the subject geographically:  Costume in Western Traditions, Asian Traditions, and African Traditions.  Images may only appear in the print version, located in the Library Annex by call number GV 1585 I586 1998 (request the title by clicking "More Information / Retrieval Requests" at the bottom of the catalog record).  

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Online.  This comprehensive online resource includes articles on the cultural context of dances, rituals, and ceremonies, including dance. Costume details are likely to be intermixed with other text, as well as represented in photos and images.

Vintage newspaper sources: Chronicling America, from the Library of Congress, is moderately old (1836+); Access Newspaper Archive, "the world's largest (global) archive of newspapers," contains articles back to the 1700s. America's Historical Newspapers offers articles from the 1600s through the 1970s. The New York Times Historical database offers dates from 1851-2007.  Nineteenth Century US Newspapers might be useful for that century. Sample a page from Access Newspaper Archive ("What is Decency's Limit in a Dancer's Dress?", 1922).

Other sources that may be helpful

Encyclopedia of Urban Cultures: Cities and Cultures Around the World (Grolier) / 2002 (4 volumes).  This 4-volume set has been moved to the Bolt St. Library Annex and must be requested.  Contents:  v. 1 Essays. Abidjan-Casablanca; 2. Cayenne-Kyoto; 3. La Paz-Rangoon; 4. Recife-Zagreb and Appendices.

Encyclopedia of World Cultures (G. K. Hall) / 1991 (10 volumes). This multi-volume work has been moved to the Bolt St. Library Annex and must be requested.  The contents may give a clue as to which volume(s) will be most useful:  1. North America; 2. Oceania [Pacific Islands, Australia...]; 3. South Asia; 4. Europe (Central, Western and Southeastern); 5. East and Southeast Asia; 6. Russia and Eurasia; 7. South America; 8. Middle America and the Caribbean; 9. Africa and the Middle East; 10. Indexes.

Dance Through Time: Images of Western Social Dancing from the Middle Ages to Modern Times (Oxford, Bodleian Library), 2012.  Main Stacks, N8217 D3 B375 2012.  Over 600 years of imagery devoted to major themes in the representation of dance.  Images are derived from the renowned Bodleian Library, including 14th-century manuscripts, satirical prints, dance cards, and invitations to balls.

Imaging Dance: Visual Representations of Dancers and Dancing (Hildesheim, New York, Georg Olms Verlag), 2011.  Main Stacks, N8217 D3 I43 2011.  Spanning the globe from eastern and western Europe to Turkey, Korea, Polynesia and the United States, Imaging Dance presents the interpretations of thirteen dance and art scholars regarding images of dance and dancing, from the sixth century AD to the present.  Chapters increase the understanding of these artistic renderings and offer information about the contexts and settings in which dance occurs, socio-cultural attitudes towards dance and dancing, artistic techniques and conventions, religious and political philosophies, rituals, repertoire, and details of movement.

Print costume sources

Subject headings that are useful for costume:  Ethnic costume; Costume [name of country]

Possible subject words/phrases to search for costume:  (costum* OR dress OR clothing) AND (encyclopedias OR handbooks); (theat* OR danc*) AND costum* (you may need to add NOT fashion).


National Dance / Margaret Allenby Jaffe.  Crowood, 2006.  Reference stacks, Call No. GV1643 A43 2006.  This excellent book has a lengthy chapter on the Development of Costume, mentioning a number of specific countries or areas, plus chapters on specific countries or regions.  NOTE:  this work concentrates on European countries.

History of world costume and fashion / Daniel Delis Hill. Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Pearson Prentice Hall, c2011.  Main Stacks, Call No: GT511 .H55 2011.  Clothing and dress - History; Fashion - History

The worldwide history of dress / Patricia Rieff Anawalt. New York : Thames & Hudson, 2007. Reference stacks, Call No: GT511 .A53 2007.  This pictorial history of ethnic costume goes from the present, across the globe.  All aspects of dress and accessories are covered - footwear, headgear, outerwear, jewelry, armor, special costumes, garment decoration and face and body modification.  Sources include vintage and modern-day photographs, museum-quality artifacts, historical paintings, miniatures, woodblock prints, statues, stone plaques, monumental carvings, friezes, murals, mosaics and pottery.  Diagrams and line drawings explain how garments are worn.  Influences are traced from culture to culture; discussions of each region's population, geography and climate further explain clothing customs.

Dress in detail from around the world / Rosemary Crill, Jennifer Wearden and Verity Wilson ; with contributions from Anna Jackson and Charlotte Horlyck ; photographs by Richard Davis ; drawings by Leonie Davis. London : V&A ; New York : Distributed by Harry N. Abrams, 2002.  Main Stacks, Call No: [Quarto] GT2050 .D74 2002

The complete history of costume & fashion: from ancient Egypt to the present day / Bronwyn Cosgrave.  New York: Checkmark Books, 2001.  Main Stacks, Call No: [Quarto] GT 375 C67 2001

Ethnic style : history and fashion / Berenice Geoffroy-Schneiter; [translated from the French by Deke Dusinberre]. New York : Assouline, c2001. Main Stacks, Call No: [Quarto] GT513 .G45 2001

Folk costumes of the world / written by Robert Harrold ; illustrated by Phyllida Legg. London : Cassell, 1999. Main Stacks, Call No: GT511 .H37 1999  Over 200 costumes in color, with descriptions relating each to traditions, music, dance and ritual. “Valuable as a design history and visual reference.” -- Theatre Crafts Magazine

Ethnic dress / Frances Kennett with Caroline MacDonald-Haig. New York : Facts on File, c1995. Main Stacks, Call No: [Quarto] GT511 .K46 1995
North America -- Latin America -- Europe -- Africa -- The Middle East -- Central Asia and The Caucasus -- Southeast Asia -- India -- Far East -- Oceania.

The illustrated encyclopaedia of costume and fashion: from 1066 to the present / Jack Cassin-Scott.  London: Studio Vista; New York: Sterling Pub. Co., 1994.  Main Stacks, GT730 .C37 1994. 180 color illustrations...representing varied social classes of European (and later American) society from 1066 to 1990.

Western European costume, 13th to 17th century, and its relation to the theatre / by Iris Brooke ; with revisions and additional material by William-Alan Landes; illustrated... Studio City, CA:  Players Press, c1993.  Main stacks, GT720 .B733 1993