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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Terri Berends
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Clare Harlow
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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.

- Rebecca Arnold, Fashion: a very short introduction

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 in our collections and beyond. Remember that at any point you can Ask a Librarian, and that your feedback or suggestions are welcome.

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


From our Pictures collection

Afternoon frock of flowered taffeta; organdy trimming, H87.188/24

From the series Portfolio of fashion designs 1929. Artist unknown, but previously attributed to Manton's (a competitor of Myer with a wide range of men's, women's and children's goods appealing to middle-class shoppers).

Books from our collections

Items - Is Fashion Modern?

Items: Is Fashion Modern? presents 111 items of clothing and accessories that have had a profound impact on the world in the 20th and 21st centuries. Accompanies MOMA's 2017-2018 exhibition.

Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme

Expedition explores how garments made for the most inhospitable environments on earth and beyond have inspired more than sixty years of fantastical, otherworldly fashions.

The World Atlas of Street Fashion

Discover the inspirational world of global street styles and the fascinating stories behind them, accompanied by hundreds of stunning photographs.

Punk girls

Fashion, music and politics collide in this landmark photography publication by one of Australia's most acclaimed artists.


A funny, lyrical, illuminating book on the rich and little known history of the humble sock, its various incarnations throughout the world, and on what socks teach us about the frailty and awkwardness of the human body.

Cool : style, sound, and subversion

Cool is a compendium of global youth subcultures and street styles--from Flappers to Swing Kids, to Goths to today's Normcore--that have shaped the fashion zeitgeist.

Be Dazzling

Delighting in gems, tinsel, pompoms and sequins, this book brings a welcome splash of razzle-dazzle to pre-loved items and daily life.

Parade : the story of fashion in Australia

A good history of Australian fashion and style covering colonial elegance, Victorians, Edwardians, thirties glamour, sixties hippies, seventies disco, power-dressing eighties and news-making nineties.