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


The terms clothing, costume and dress are often interchangeable, but it can be useful to determine which of these concepts are relevant before beginning your research.  You can explore definitions in The dictionary of fashion history available in the Redmond Barry Reading room.  This title is also available through the Berg Fashion Library. This database can be accessed outside the Library by Victorian registered Library users.

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 its 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 often reflects and projects aspects of personality and outlook.

The Library has a large range of material on the history and social aspects of costume, clothing and dress. To find this material search the catalogue using such terms as costume, clothing and dress, ethnic costume, fancy dress. Add terms such as social aspects or history for a more specific search. 

Journals & magazines

From the dropdown box next to the search box choose Journals & newspapers and enter keywords to find what journals we hold. For instance here is a search for journals on costume.

Online articles

Searches can be done across our databases for fulltext articles, from any page of our website or from the Library catalogue. Choose the Articles option from the dropdown menu next to the Search box.

For instance see this example of a search for national dress.

The search can be narrowed using some of the options at the left hand side of the screen, for example you can restrict your results to peer-reviewed journals.

Online databases and archives

The Library has several extensive fashion databases. These can be accessed within the Library by anyone, and outside the Library by Victorian registered Library users.

Search both databases using specific terms such as costume or costume history

From our Pictures collection

Seasonable fashions  A/S14/01/85/12

Seasonable fashions A/S14/01/85/12 



Seasonable fashions A/S04/11/86/173

Seasonable fashions A/S04/11/86/173 


Seasonable fashions A/S27/01/87/13

Seasonable fashions A/S27/01/87/13 

From our Pictures collection

Celebrated E.E.E.corset

The celebrated E.E.E. Corset H2000.180/207

From our Pictures collection

Miss M. Elliot

 Miss M. Elliot H87.264/17


Melba, dressed as

Melba, dressed as "Helene." H84.303/2 

Couple dressed as Pearly Costers H2014.89/23

 Couple dressed as Pearly Costers H2014.89/23 

Photograph of a young woman in a national dress or folk dancing costume H2012.171/93

Photograph of a young woman in a national dress or folk dancing costume H2012.171/93 


Portraits of Japanese men in working costume H95.62/17

Portraits of Japanese men in working costume H95.62/17