Book & Movie Reviews

I've listed only the sources that I know and trust, with a quick description of each.
I add to this list as I discover new "must haves" for my own library.
If you have a favorite source you think I should add, please click


The "buy this book" or "buy this movie" link will take you directly to where you can complete your purchase online.
If there is no link, Amazon does not offer the item.


A History of Costume by Carl Köhler. The English language version of this book was first published in 1928, but don't let that fool you into thinking the material is out of date. This book covers the years 3000 BC to 1870 AD, with pictures of actual clothing, construction information, and diagrams with the dimensions of actual garments. Buy this book


Bloomingdale's Illustrated 1886 Catalog: Fashions Dry Goods and Housewares by Bloomingdale Brothers. This paperback is great for anyone researching the late 19th century. There are many different styles of virtually every type of garment worn by men, women, and children, so it's a designer's gold mine. Also, since this is a catalog of actual garments sold in 1886, it's great documentation for authenticity mavens. Buy this book


Vintage Hats & Bonnets 1770-1970: Identification & Values by Susan Langley. Particularly of use to collectors, this book is great at helping you authenticate and estimate the worth of all the vintage hats in your collection. This reference work also offers historical overviews with a focus on fashion. Buy this book


From the Neck Up by Denise Dreher. This is the best book I've found on millinery, with complete construction techniques, glossary, and graphed patterns. The book starts with Egyptian crowns and goes up to baseball caps. If you have even a passing interest in hat-making, this book is a must have. Buy this book


Patterns for Theatrical Costumes: Garments, Trims, and Accessories from Ancient Egypt to 1915 by Katherine Strand Holkeboer. Note that this book does not provide patterns for exact reconstructions of historical garments. For the theatrical person or someone just looking for historical costume ideas this is a great place to start. The patterns provided are not traditionally-sized, so it requires the reader to have the ability to draft and adapt basic pattern pieces and no construction details are provided. The patterns give results which duplicate the basic silhouettes and overall effects without "authentic" construction techniques, so this is ideal for theatrical applications. An overview of sleeve styles and decorative patterns used in each century is included. This book is a "must have" for many members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, myself included. Buy this book


Medieval Costume and Fashion by Herbert Norris. Yes...this is the original Norris finally reprinted. Some consider this the "holy grail" of medieval costuming, and while this book has long been a staple of re-enactors and theatrical costumers, it is not for the sewing novice. Also, while Norris offers beautiful illustrations as well as historical narrative, he fails to provide the actual sources, therefore authentication of both can be an issue. If you are attempting museum-quality replicas, definitely check with other reliable sources to confirm the information from Norris. Buy this book


Tudor Costume and Fashion by Herbert Norris. I highly recommend this book if you have any interest in Tudor costume. There are a multitude of illustrations representing all social classes, including details of accessories, which is something frequently overlooked by other authors. Again, if you are attempting museum-quality replicas, definitely check with other reliable sources to confirm the information from Norris. Buy this book


Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d by Janet Arnold. This book is sometimes called the “Bible” of Elizabethan costuming. It's big, it’s pricey, and totally worth it! Written by the same woman who wrote Patterns of Fashion, this book discusses and documents every aspect of women’s fashion during Elizabeth's reign, concentrating on the Queen herself. It contains portraits and photos of period costume and accessories, wardrobe records and accounts (transcribed and annotated), as well as a very comprehensive glossary of period costuming terms. This book is aimed toward more serious Elizabethan costume researchers not those interested in a basic intro to Elizabethan costuming. Buy this book

Patterns of Fashion (4 books covering different time periods and garments) by Janet Arnold. These books document actual garments in minute detail. Dimensions, photographs, fabric descriptions, construction techniques,...I could go on all day. You need a basic to intermediate working knowledge of sewing, but anyone who is attempting to recreate period clothing would benefit from reading the appropriate Arnold tome. If you're planning to enter your finished garment in a competition, you should read these books before you begin your project!


Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women 1560-1620 Buy this book

Patterns of Fashion: 1660-1860 Buy this book

Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen's Dresses & Their Construction 1860-1940 Buy this book

Patterns of Fashion 4: The Cut and Construction of Linen Shirts, Smocks, Neckwear, Headwear and Accessories for Men and Women C. 1540-1660 Buy this book


Tailor’s Pattern Book by Jean Pain and Cecilia Bainton. This book is one of the best sources for primary documentation of Elizabethan costume. It is is a facsimile of Juan de Alcega's famous Tailor's Pattern Book, printed in 1589, containing the layouts for the entire range of Spanish fashionable dress. This is an absolutely essential book for those re-creating period Spanish attire. It also contains information on fabric types/widths used during the 1500s, and equivalency charts for 16th century units of measurement. Buy this book


Elizabethan Costuming 1550-1580 by Janet Winter and Carolyn Savoy. While there are many historical and patterning inaccuracies, some Renaissance Faires use this book as their costuming "bible". The instructions are easy to follow and there are a lot of helpful illustrations.
Buy this book


The Tudor Tailor by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies. The pictures and instructions are great, but this is not for the novice sewer. If you’re making complete ensembles from the skin out, this book is a requirement especially if you’re not familiar with period underpinnings. If you’re going for “faire-wear” then the book above will suffice.   Buy this book


The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant by Sarah Thursfield. This book is great for not only a wide range of styles but a wide range of garments as well, even shoes and hats! It covers many years, so it’s extremely useful for any medieval re-enactor or history buff. It’s especially useful because it tells you what was worn when.  Buy this book


Orlando starring Tilda Swinton. Based on a Virginia Woolf novel, this unusual tale follows the life of a young nobleman who is commanded by Queen Elizabeth I to stay forever young. Miraculously, he does just that. The film follows him as he moves through several centuries of British history, experiencing a variety of lives and relationships along the way, and even changing sex. The clothing is ABSOLUTELY TO DIE FOR! My personal favorite is the doublet Orlando wears when the Thames is frozen over. Oh, and the story is good, too.  Buy this movie


Dangerous Beauty starring Catherine McCormack. Based on the true story of Veronica Frano, a Venetian courtesan who becomes a hero to her city, but later becomes the target of the inquisition. Because the heroine is a courtesan some of her costumes are not what a “decent” Italian lady would wear, but as a whole, the costumes are stunning. There are several gowns which would be authentic if a chemise were worn underneath, but are VERY scandalous for the time period without. Her fencing outfit (what little there is of it!) is adorable. Good movie. Buy this movie


Luther starring Ralph Fiennes. Based on the true story of Martin Luther, this movie has fantastic German clothing of the early 16th century. I couldn’t care less about the religious aspects of his life but I have a degree in Elizabethan history and the movie jibes with what I know about Martin Luther’s life. Good movie, awesome clothes. There are several pieces I plan to make...they’re that good! Buy this movie


Dangerous Liaisons starring Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, and John Malkovich. Based on the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses this movie is full of intrigue, betrayal, sex, violence, etc. It’s AWESOME! Ok, I love it for the clothing. At the time, this was the first mainstream movie which showed an 18th century female patrician being dressed (properly) from the underwear out. I reveled in this movie the first time I saw it in an indie-theater. Fast-forwarding and pausing was my great pleasure once it came out on video. (Yeah, I’m old). Lots of other movies have been made based on this novel, but I still think this is the best, and not just for the clothes!  Buy this movie

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