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


Costume Design

(for Gem of the Ocean and other plays)

Research Sources & Tips





Historical Research

Visual Research

Librart Research Guide on The Evolution of Fashion


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:


Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: the Black Experience in the Americas. Ref. E185 .E54 2006.


Oxford African American Studies Center


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 Clothing 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:

Auguest Wilson


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

Wilson, August


e.g. Glasco, Laurence Admiral and Christopher Rawson.  August Wilson: Pittsburgh places in his life and plays. 2011.


you will find reference and primary sources such as:


The Cambridge companion to August Wilson / edited by Christopher Bigsby.


Conversations with August Wilson / edited by Jackson R. Bryer and Mary C. Hartig.




3. Find books on Southern States Social Life and Customs at Tisch:


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





African Americans -- Southern States -- Social life and customs.


African Americans -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh -- History.


4. Find books on etiquette and manners

Etiquette -- United States


5. Find Autobiographies / Biographies and Travels

southern states -- Biography.

southern states -- Description and travel.


6. Find Regional or Period Novels

southern states --fiction


African Americans -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh -- Fiction.




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


costume united states.

fashion united states.

Clothing And Dress -- United States.

Clothing and dress -- Social aspects -- United States -- History.

African Americans -- Clothing

African American men -- Clothing


The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures: The Mid-Atlantic Region


The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures: The South



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


8. In the Tisch Collections


African Americans Periodicals

Journals of Southern Culture




9. Afro-Americana Imprints 1535-1922




10. 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.


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)





African American Newspapers - 19th Century


African Newspapers, 1800-1922

African American Newspapers 1827-1998


American Newspapers (1690 - 1922)

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (1860-1922)


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

Times Digital Archive  (1785 - 1985)

Readers' Guide Retrospective (1890-1982)

American Periodicals (1740 - 1940)

British Periodicals (1680s - 1930s)



     Some of the oldest continuously published magazines in America, including American Spectator, Commentary, Commonweal, Dissent, Harpers Magazine, NACLA, The Nation, The National Review, The New Republic, New York Review, and The New Yorker.



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. African American Photographs

American Memory

African American Photographs Assembled for 1900 Paris ExpositionGladstone Collection of African American Photographs


African American Images


African American History (pictures on Pinterest from many different collections)

Black History (pictures via Pinterest)

Vintage Black Beauty & History!  A collection by Angela Williams via Pinterest.


Celebrating Black History: 50 Cultural Giants. A photograph collection courtesy of Time magazine.

Teenie Harris Archive (Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh) Quoted from this site: "Charles 'Teenie' Harris (1908-1998) photographed Pittsburgh's African American community from c. 1935 to c. 1975. His archive of nearly 80,000 images is one of the most detailed and intimate records of the black urban experience known today."

Documenting our past: the Teenie Harris Archive Project. (the Catalogs of the photographs in the above archive.)


The Church in the Southern Black Community (University of North Carolina) Part of the project "Documenting the American South). Includes biographies, autobiographies, church documents, sermons, histories, etc


City Gallery

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

Google LIFE Photo Archive

New York Public Library Picture Collection

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture -- Images and Illustrations

New York Public Library Web Gallery of Images

Africana & Black History

Several thousand items ranging from historical documents and rare visual materials to contemporary photo-journalism, relating to the entirety of African American history from the 16th century to the present; selected in the course of developing the NYPL website "African American Migration Experience."


Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog

2. 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




3. 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:
Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
(The Metropolitan Museum of Art) Brooklyn Museum Costumes collection


Or, search by keywords: brooklyn costume.

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."


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 southern states"


Portrait photography -- United States

Advertising -- Clothing and dress.



African Americans -- Pictorial works

African Americans -- Portraits

"southern states" and pictorial

"African American churches" and pictorial

Sample titles:


Picturing the South: 1860 to the present: photographers and writers / William Baldwin ... [et al.]; essay by Charles Reagan Wilson; edited by Ellen Dugan.


One shot Harris: the photographs of Charles "Teenie" Harris / by Stanley Crouch; with a biographical essay by Deborah Willis.


African Americans in Pittsburgh / John M. Brewer


African American photographers.

e.g. A true likeness: the black South of Richard Samuel Roberts, 1920-1936 / edited by Thomas L. Johnson and Phillip C.

African American photograph collection.

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.


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