A guide to researching Australian and international fashion, designs, designers, industries, textiles and fabrics, patterns, tailoring, dressmaking, uniforms, accessories, and body art.

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Nan Brown
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Summer frock

Summer frock

Summer frock of printed crepe de Chine with plain trimming, H87.188/22

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Soft coat, H2008.113/3Fashion is a broad concept. As Rebecca Arnold notes in Fashion: a very short introduction:

Fashion is not merely clothes, nor is it just a collection of images. Rather, it is a vibrant form of visual and material culture that plays an important role in social and cultural life. 

The wide-ranging collections of State Library Victoria yield useful material – books, pictures, magazines, newspapers, online resources – on many aspects of fashion.

Use the tabs on the top of this page to discover resources, and remember that at any point during your search, you can ask for help using the links at the right of the screen.

Clothing, costume or dress?

Although the terms clothing, costume and dress can often be used interchangeably when talking about fashion, it can be useful to determine which of these concepts you are seeking information about before you begin your research. Joanne Eicher in Clothing, costume and dress (available through the Berg Fashion Library online) provides the following definitions:

The term 'clothing' is generally used to mean garments and accessories that cover the body - for example shirts, skirts, dresses, turbans, mittens or trousers are all items of clothing.

'Costume' describes items of clothing, or ensembles that are worn for special occasions, for performance or for disguise. It can also refer to ensembles worn by ethnic groups to indicate solidarity with the group and it's traditions.

'Dress' refers in everyday life to a one-piece garment, but in a broader sense this term describes the process of covering, adorning and modifying the body. 'Dress ordinarily communicates aspects of a person's identity. Dress is the totality of body alterations and additions that help an individual establish credibility of identity in everyday life.'


Press dress, 1866, H141541


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Egyptian lady


Album of Henry G. Turner, 1888, H82.245/1, p.18.