I’ve been collecting vintage clothing & accessories since I was 20 years old. As a visual learner and voracious reader, it was probably inevitable that I would accumulate an extensive library of books about vintage fashion, some for reference, and many for the sheer eye candy indulgence. Here’s an introduction to one of my favorites.
The single reference book that I use the most is Essential Terms of Fashion: A Collection of Definitions by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta, published in 1985.
I keep this book next to me when I’m working on writing descriptions. As you can see from my photo, I’ve used it so much the binding has cracked. Sometimes I need to confirm that I’m using the correct term for a design detail (is that deep set sleeve dolman or raglan or batwing?). In the process of double-checking, I often stop to browse. Then the next time I’m faced with an unusual collar I know just where to go. I can open the book to the collar chapter and pinpoint that long collar that’s rounded at the end instead of pointed – aha! It’s a dog’s-ear collar!
The book is organized in chapters with lots of line drawing illustrations within each chapter. There are the aforementioned chapters for sleeves and collars, as well as chapters on dresses, skirt, handbags, pleats, pockets, jackets and many more. What’s the difference between a Balmacaan, a Chesterfield, a Cocoon and an Inverness? You’ll find it here (hint: they’re all coats).
Look for more favorites from Maggie’s vintage fashion library, coming soon!
This book is out of print. However, you can purchase a used copy:
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