Writer’s Tools: Clothing

It’s the turn of Clothing. I wrote before about my favorite food books for fiction writing, but clothing is fun to research, too. Not as much fun as food, because obviously.

Best Clothing Resource Book EVER

My one go-to book for clothing research and inspiration, another book I checked out of the library so often I figured it would be cheaper to buy a copy than to pay for the gas, is HISTORIC COSTUME FOR THE STAGE by Lucy Barton, illustrated by David Sarvis.

Each chapter is for a period in (mostly) Western culture (that’s its one flaw: it deals with European costume except for the first few chapters — Egyptian, Biblical, Green, Roman, and Byzantine/Romanesque).

Each chapter begins with a chart giving the approximate dates covered, some important names and events, a few plays that would use this style discusses the general culture, General Characteristics of Costume, appearance of men (including hair, facial hair, hats and/or wigs, shoes, specifically male variations of the general costume), appearance of women, appearance of children, motifs, decoration, accessories, jewelry, the setting, practical reproduction, and further resources.

There are also several pages of highly useful and informative illustrations in each chapter. Here’s one for Roman male costume with patterns and measurements.

ClothingAnd here’s one of women in the Renaissance. Lovely stuff. I’m a bit concerned, I must say, about the child who appears to be holding a kitten by the tail.

clothing of RenaissanceThe book goes so far as to tell you what materials were used in making the clothing, and what modern materials most closely resemble it, so you can use descriptions of texture in your book: Does the headpiece caress the sides of the face, or chafe? What sound would the priest’s robe make against stone?

Another sad thing about this book is that it only takes you up to 1914 (it’s copyright 1935), but it’s brilliant for deeper historicals.

Go git ‘er!

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: A character has to wear clothing from an earlier time for a day.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

You may also like...

One thought on “Writer’s Tools: Clothing

  1. Jane

    June 16, 2014 at 8:47am

    Fancy dress!! Yay!.

    I still have my houppelande, but I seem to have lost my other costumes. No matter. That one is more me anyway. I still have some of the drapery material from which (in fine Carol Burnet fashion) I made my first SCA costume. Ah,the Olde days.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 16, 2014 at 4:05pm

      I don’t have my costume anymore. I only had the one, that Beth Johnson made me back in the day, and I outgrew that after a mere forty years of wear. heh

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. Chris Verstraete

    June 16, 2014 at 5:58pm

    Historic clothing is always interesting to look at. One of these days I have a project in mind to make a miniature outfit from each decade. That’s project #9999 on the list. 🙂

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply

Leave a Reply, If You Ple-az

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.