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18th century, books, interesting reading, research, shopping

Building Your 18th Century Costume History Bookshelf

Nobody freak out, but I’m going to try to start blogging again! These days, so much of the conversation around historical costuming happens on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, but I and some other costumers have been discussing how much we miss reading. Blogs allow for longer content, are easier to find and refind, and crucially for those of us who just can’t get into videos, are easy to SKIM. Oh how I love skimming!

So with that in mind, expect some Actual Posting around here. I’ll try to keep up with my current projects, but also go back and discuss some projects I never blogged. I’ve been thinking about what else I can contribute to the historical costuming conversation, and realized that one of my specialities is research. Professionally, I’m an academic librarian who works with history and fashion students, and I write academic research in the history of dress (so far, peer-reviewed journal articles, but I’m working on a book). Furthermore, I think that with so much online content, many may not know just how useful and crucial books can continue to be to your knowledge of historical costume — both the aesthetics of fashion but also their cultural context, as well as cut and construction. Given that my area of expertise is the 18th century, I thought I’d start off with a discussion of the books that I consider core to my bookshelf for this era. This is just a start, I’ll do some future posts on more specific areas of eighteenth-century fashion.

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18th century, interesting reading, research

18th Century Mexican Dress in Casta Paintings

Casta paintings are fascinating sources on multiple levels. “Casta” is a Spanish word meaning “race,” “kind,” or “lineage” (“Between ‘Casta’ and ‘Raza'”). It was a term used in 18th century Latin America to refer to a hierarchy of ethnicity, whereby people were categorized based on their ancestry. Different terms were defined not just for people of Native American, Spanish, and African heritage, but also for different mixtures (so, for example, a castizo was the child of one Spanish and one mestizo [one Spanish, one Native American parent] parent).

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18th century, 18th Century Hairdressing Book, 18th century wigs, publications, research

18th C Hair & Wig Styling book – new perks! Onward!

Pre-orders have been going great with the 18th C Hair & Wig Styling book — I’m just over 50% funded, with 19 days left!  BUT I still have a long way to go, and orders have really slowed to a trickle.  So to encourage more pre-orders, I’ve added some new perks to the Indiegogo campaign!  You can pre-order the book with one of these new perks, OR just buy one of the perks without the book (if, for example, if you’ve already pre-ordered the book):

DONATE WITHOUT BUYING THE BOOK:  A few people have requested this.  You can contribute any amount to the project by using the “Contribute Now” button, but to make it easier, I’ve set it up to easily donate either $10 or $20 to the book project without buying the book.  This gets you my eternal gratitude and your name listed in the book as a supporter.  Also, for those who can’t currently afford the book but would like to see it happen and maybe buy it down the line, if you the $10 or $20 now (or any amount), I will credit you that amount if you buy the book at any time in the future… AND I will sell you the book for $45 minus your credit (rather than $50, the post-pre-order price) at any time.

DETAILED ACCOUNTS OF WIG MAKING & HAIR STYLING FROM THE 18TH CENTURY:  Would you be interested in reading the actual text of 18th century sources?  Then you should consider ordering my English translations of the VERY long, multi-page French descriptions of both from Diderot’s Encyclopedie (1776) and its later edition, the Encyclopedie Methodique (1789).  The 1776 source has been translated into English, but it’s long out of print and if you search for it at online used book stores, it will cost you a minimum of $20.  The 1789 source has not been translated into English to my knowledge (and I’m a librarian, so if it existed, I should be able to find it).  You can support the book project by donating $27 and receive both translations in a PDF document without buying the book (for example, if you’ve already pre-ordered the book), or you can pre-order the book AND get the translations for $75 total.

MARIE ANTOINETTE PENDANTWant to wear a bit of 18th century fabulousness every day?  I’ve designed a small silver pendant (.75″ diameter) with a reproduction of an 18th century fashion plate featuring Marie Antoinette.

Marie Antoinette pendant

You can donate $32 to support the book project and receive just the pendant without the book for $32 (for example, if you’ve already pre-ordered the book), or pre-order the book AND get the pendant for $80 total.


IMPORTANT NEWS ABOUT THE INDIEGOGO CAMPAIGN:  Like I said, I’m well on my way, but I still have a long way to go!  If the Indiegogo campaign doesn’t get fully funded, I’m going to be limited in the amount of money I have to print the book.  This may mean that I will need to limit the number of copies I am able to print, which means I may not have extra copies to sell later on.  In other words, if you want a copy of this book, you should pre-order it before January 31, because you may not be able to buy a copy later!

research, travel


I just got back from a week in beautiful, cold, dark Stockholm!  I was there doing research at the Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum), looking at an 18th c. robe a la turque and some other garments related to my Big 18th-Century-Turkish-Influence project.  It was something of a whirlwind trip, given the flying time from San Francisco to Stockholm (THREE — count ‘em — flights to get home, meaning about 24 hours of travel time), but it was lots of fun!

Stockholm is very pretty.  Lots of it is very Victorian looking, but mixed in (especially in the older parts) are beautiful, warm colored buildings:

Gamla Stan

This was even prettier on the second day we were there, when it snowed!


I was there with my husband, and we did a ton — museums, architecture, shopping for design-y items (Michael’s an illustrator, so he was all “Swedish design! Yay!”).

Kendra & Michael

I got to meet Elisa of Isis’ Wardrobe and Madame Isis’ Toilette.  She took me to Livrustkammaren, where they have the HUGE and fabulous royal dress collection.  I got to see TWO (count ‘em!) Swedish 18th century court dresses, and Elisa was able to tell me lots of interesting things about the various pieces and the royals who wore them:

Coronation dress of Queen Lovisa Ulrika, 1751 | Livrustkammaren:

Wedding dress of Queen Sofia Magdalena, 1766 | Livrustkammaren:

The Nordiska Museet is STUNNING:

Nordiska Museet

And they had a number of really fascinating exhibits, my favorite being the jewelry and costume exhibits (of course!):

Modemakt/Power of Fashion

Modemakt/Power of Fashion

Modemakt/Power of Fashion

Modemakt/Power of Fashion


16th c. pendant

And best of all, I got to study a number of interesting 18th century costume pieces! The curators and conservators were really nice and great to work with, and they had some really interesting items in their collection.

You can see all of my pictures, including many more of the costume and jewelry exhibits, in this Flickr set.

18th century, publications, research

Robe à la Polonaise Article Published!

I am thrilled to report that the research that I have been working on with Brooke Welborn for years is finally available!  Dress, the journal of the Costume Society of America, has just come out with our article on the robe à la polonaise.

I have written up a summary of our findings as promised:

The 18th Century Robe à la Polonaise: Research Summary


If you’d like to read a full copy of the article, you can get it one of two ways (if you’re not already a subscriber to Dress):

1. Find a local library with a print copy of, or electronic access to, the journal Dress.  WorldCat provides a list of libraries who subscribe to the journal.

2. Alternately, you can purchase a PDF of the article from Ingenta Connect.

I’m super proud, and hope you find the information useful!

Robe a la Polonaise, 1780-1; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow; 1932.51.I: museums/collections-research/online-collections-navigator/