chao chen, research librarianChao Chen, Research Librarian; Home
email:; phone: 617.627.2057.
Tisch Library, Tufts University


Costume Design

(for The Glass Menagerie)

Research Sources & Tips




Historical Research

Visual Research


I. Historical Research

  A. Research Preparation


1. Playscript analysis—extract as much factual material as possible from the script:

a. When: year, season, a special occasion such as a wedding, etc.

b. Where: country, city, place such as a home or in an office, etc.

c. Who: the age, social class, and relationships of the characters, etc.

——Is there any particular significance to any or some of the above elements?




2. Conduct Historical Research to inform your visual research

a. What kind of clothing such people would wear in such a time period, etc.

b. Do the playwright and/or the characters have anything specific to say about their clothing?

  **Alternatives to Wikipedia:


CREDO Reference

Reference books in all major subjects from art to medicine, psychology to history, and technology to literature. Includes bilingual and biographical dictionaries.

Oxford Reference  

100 major Oxford University Press dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference works in the humanities, social sciences, foreign languages, science, technology and medicine, the performing arts, and religion.

  B. Research on the Playwright, the Play, the Historical Context and the Fashion History


  Use Library Catalogs to find books

Tufts Libraries Catalog

BLC WorldCat (beyond Tufts)


Sample Searches

(note the search pattern; modify to your own needs)


1. Find essays on playwrights in the online source,

Dictionary of Literary Biography:

Tennessee Williams


2. Find books on the Playwright and the Production History of his works at Tisch Library

WIlliams Tennessee (subject browse in the Tufts Catalog)

you will find reference and primary sources such as:


Critical Companion to Tennessee Williams. PS3545.I5365 Z675 2005


The Tennessee Williams Encyclopedia. PS3545.I5365 Z459 2004


Conversations with Tennessee Williams. PS3545.I5365 Z463 1986


Notebooks. PS3545.I5365 A6 2006


Memoirs. PS3545.I5365 Z52


Tennessee Williams: a Guide to Research and Performance. PS3545.I5365 Z8452 1998




3. Find books on Middle West (midwest) or Southern States Social Life and Customs at Tisch:


The Midwest / edited by Joseph W. Slade and Judith Yaross Lee; foreword by William Ferris. (e-book)



A Treasury of Southern Folklore; Stories, Ballads, Traditions, and Folkways of the People of the South.
GR108 .B6


Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South: an Informal History. GT2853.U5 T39 1982


Long Journey Home: Folklife in the South. GR108 .L66


Place Over Time: the Continuity of Southern Distinctiveness. F209 .D43 1997


4. Find books on etiquette and manners

Etiquette -- United States

Women Southern States


5. Find Autobiographies / Biographies and Travels

Middle West -- Biography.

Middle West -- Description and travel.


6. Find Regional or Period Novels

(women or family or families) and (fiction* or novel*) and "middle west"




7. Find books on Clothing in America throughout history at Tisch:


costume united states.

fashion united states.

Clothing And Dress -- United States.



Dressmaking -- History.

Dressmaking -- pattern design

Dressmaking patterns


Women's clothing

Tailoring (Women's)

Vintage Clothing


Check out this title: American Decades: 1930 - 1939. ( Ref. E169.12 .A419 1994.); volume Four, pp189- 193: American Fashion.


8. More subject browse for books on the Larger Context of Fashion History:



fashion history


costume history

clothing and dress

clothing and dress history

Textile fabrics history


Clothing and dress -- Greece

Costume -- History -- To 500

Costume -- History -- Early Works To 1800.


  Use Databases to find Magazine, Newspaper and Journal Articles

Rosemary Ingham and Liz Covey, The Costume Designer's Handbook (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, c1992), 61-62.

Magazines "are particularly valuable resources for costume designers because so many are devoted to fashion, lifestyle, and the daily activities of ordinary people."


Periodicals offer a more peculiar essence of the a period rather than the general description in a costume history


1. Search Across, or separately, these two databases for historical articles, Art Index Retrospective   (1929- 1982) and Readers' Guide Retrospective (1890-1982):


Limit Your Results


Designers' favorite magazines: life, Vogue, Town and Country (1902-1913), Tatler (1830-1832), Punch (1841-1991), Harper's bazaar (1867-1912), National geographic.


Women's Wear Daily Archive

a searchable and browsable archive of Women's Wear Daily, from 1910 to the last twelve months. Key moments in the history of the industry, as well as major designers, brands, retailers and advertisers are all covered in this publication of record.


Vogue Archive (U.S. edition, 1892 - current)





2. Two more databases for historical articles:

American Periodicals (1740 - 1940)
British Periodicals (1680s - 1930s)


3. You can expand more broadly to include databases on many different subjects:

Academic Search Premier, America: History and Life, Art Full Text, Communication & Mass Media, Film & Television Literature Index,  Music Index Online , RILM Abstracts of Music Literature and Women's Studies International

Limit Your Results



4. Two favorite collections of core journals of all disciplines:



Project Muse


5. Drama & Theatre (MLA)



For reviews of theatre productions, first-hand, contemporary account of a historical event, etc.





Book, Movie, Music, Play, And Video Reviews (in LexisNexis)

Factiva (more international coverage)

Alt-PressWatch (1970 -present)

Ethnic NewsWatch (1959-present)





Times Digital Archive  (1785 - 1985)

New York Times Online Archive
(1851 - 3 years before current date)


American Newspapers (1690 - 1922)


In print:

New York Theatre Critics' Reviews. (1944 to 1994)
Ref. PN1601 .N4
(Continued by National Theatre Critics Reviews.
Ref. PN 2000 .N3)

Tip: Use the Year End Index, either in the front or in the back page in the binder.


Set up for your ILliad account to request articles, books and other materials that are not available at Tufts.

II. Visual Research

  Digital Images

  Print Images


1. Clothing, Costume and Fashion

National Museum of American History, Clothing and Accessories (from the 1700s to the present day)

ARTstor (images from outstanding museums, photographers, libraries, scholars, photo archives, and artists and artists' estates from all over the world.)

Browse by collections; for example:
Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
(The Metropolitan Museum of Art) Brooklyn Museum Costumes collection


Or, search by keywords: brooklyn costume.


Eyes of the Nation: A Visual History of the United States (Documentary photography)

Berg Fashion Library Online

A unique online portal which offers fully cross-searchable access to an expanding range of Berg content collections – including the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion online, e-books, reference works, images, and much more. For a full list of content click here.

The Costume Institute at the MET

Five continents and seven centuries of fashionable dress, regional costumes, and accessories for men, women, and children, from the fifteenth century to the present.

Costume Society of America   (check out the Regional Sites on this page)

The Costumer's Manifesto

Created by costume designer and professor, Tara Maginnis, the Costumer's Manifesto is one of the World Wide Web's largest, and most eclectic, costume sites. Of note is the Historical and Social aspects of costume section with links for various time periods and genres.

The Costume Gallery

The Costume Gallery has 15 websites dedicated to the history of the fashion / costume / textile industries. They have over 40,000 web pages, 85,000 images, and two databases.


Fashion Era

Contains 885 content rich, illustrated pages of Fashion History, Costume History, Clothing, Fashions and Social History.

Fashion Resources: Clothing & Costume History (Kent State University's fashion library)


Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (browse the collections by decades, e.g. 1920s, 1930s.)

University of Wisconsin Digital Collections, All Sewn Up: Millinery, Dressmaking, Clothing and Costume

This digital collection includes millinery, dressmaking, clothing and costume books from the UW-Madison collections. These books from the first half of the 20th century (1907 – 1940’s) include the history of clothing, styles of dress, fashion drawing, and design and construction of hats, clothing and costumes.

Texas Fashion Collection

Currently, over 500 items are available for browsing by decade, country of origin, and other themes.



Apparel Search

"An apparel industry directory providing members of the fashion industry with links to virtually every aspect of apparel, fashion, textiles, and clothing."


Commercial Pattern Archive

"A unique tool for researchers and designers to recreate or date clothing from 1868 to 2000."



2. Photographs

American Memory

City Gallery

Getty Images Inc. Time & Life Pictures: Defining Visions of an Enduring History

Google LIFE Photo Archive

New York Public Library Picture Collection

New York Public Library Web Gallery of Images

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog

3. Culture and History Museums

Image Quest  (two million rights-cleared images from some 40 image collections

American Association for State and Local History

Smithsonian Museum

The American Association of Museums
This is the largest and most important museum organization in the world.


Note: You might need to identify artists creating art during a certain time period and search for their art works when other types of visual materials are not available.

Selected Painters for Costume Design Research. (Source: Rosemary Ingham and Liz Covey, The Costume Designer's Handbook (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, c1992), 61-62.

Art Museums and Art Images


Art Project (museums from around the world by Google)


4. Documentary and Family Films

e.g. Chicago Film Archives


1. Search for books of photographs in Tisch Library


Documentary photography -- United States


e.g., Symbols of Ideal Life: Social Documentary Photography in America, 1890-1950 / Maren Stange.



Photography -- Middle West

Photographers -- Middle West



Use this Reference Work to identify more photographers; it lists 65,000 photographers.


    **Index to American photographic collections: compiled at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House / Andrew H. Eskind, editor; Greg Drake, Kirsti Ringger, Lynne Rumney, associate editors.




Portrait photography -- United States


Advertising -- Clothing and dress.




2. Books with color plates, photographs, etc. are often the official records of the objects. For example:

book coverThe Fashion Book. Oversize: TT503 .F37 1998
Ref. GT720 .C37 1994

Spanning 150 years, the whole industry is represented -- from pioneering designers to influential photographers and the people they photographed. It is an A -- Z guide to 500 clothes and accessory designers, photographers, models and those iconic individuals who instigated or symbolize a whole fashion movement.

Each entry is illustrated with a photograph or drawing which shows a quintessential aspect of their work or style. An accompanying text describes where they fit into the fashion story and includes essential biographical information about the creator. (Publisher)


A Few Titles to Get You started:

Album of American History. 4 vols. Ref. E178.5 .A48 1981

American Costume, 1915-1970: a Source Book for the Stage Costumer. PN2067 .O3 1982

American Decades (1900 - 2009.)

American decades primary sources (1900-1999)

Common Threads: a Parade of American Clothing. GT605 .H35 1992

Dress Codes: Meanings and Messages in American Culture. GT605 .R835 1995

Dress in American Culture. GT605 .D75 1993

Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900. GT610 .S42 1995

The Good Old Days; a History of American Morals and Manners as Seen Through the Sears, Roebuck Catalogs 1905 to the Present. E161 .C68

Picturing the South: 1860 to the Present: Photographers and Writers. Oversize: F215 .P56 1996.

Reference book of women's vintage clothing, 1920-1929.



Use keywords such as pictorial, exhibitions, photography, plates, drawings, etc. to search for books with images in the Tufts Library Catalog:

A sample search:
fashion and (pictorial or exhibitions or photography or plates or drawings)

Advanced Keyword Search for books with images

Material Type:

Click here to see Search Results

Material Type:

Click here to see Search Results


1. "or" and ( ) to nest related/varied expressions;

2. photo* search photo, photographs, photography, etc.

3. limit search results to books.



A Few Reference Titles at Tisch (with images)

book coverEncyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion.
Valerie Steele, editor in chief.
Ref: GT507 .E53 2005


book coverThe Worldwide History of Dress.
Patricia Rieff Anawalt.
Ref. GT511 .A63 2007


book coverThe Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Costume and Fashion: From 1066 to the Present.
Jack Cassin-Scott.
Ref. GT720 .C37 1994


book coverThe Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing through World History
edited by Jill Condra.

Ref. GT507 .G74 2008

Costume in Detail; Women's Dress, 1730-1930. Stack: GT580 .B67 1968

A Pictorial History of Costume; a Survey of Costume of all Periods and Peoples from Antiquity to Modern Times including National Costume in Europe and Non-European Countries. Oversize:  GT513 .B76 1955