7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Research On A Shoestring: Fashion

We writers are a cheap lot. Many of us don't have a big budget for our research books. And let's face it, not everything we need or want or think we need can be found on the Web. In four years of managing the gift shop at Kent Plantation House in Alexandria, Louisiana, I gleaned some great, cheap fashion resources.

For the writer on a tight budget, Dover Publications is one of your very best friends. There's a ton of cheap, great resources there for nearly any time period and subject you can think of. But this post is dedicated to fashion, so I'm going to share a few tips for building your fashion research library without breaking the bank.

Tom Tierney. He is a costume historian, and an artist. Among other things, he does paper dolls for Dover. As of this writing when you type his name into the search box at Dover's website it comes back with 160 results. He's done everything from classic movie stars to American presidents and the musical Mikado.

But I want to specifically point your attention to his American Family series. He's done a variety of periods, including American Family of the Colonial Era and American Family of the Federal Era. If you read this blog, these two are must haves for your library.

What makes these paper dolls truly stand out is multiple generations of the family are represented. There are grandparents, parents, older teens and grade school age. The dolls are in period correct undergarments and each page of costumes includes a detailed description. Best of all they're $6.95. Coloring books are usually $3.95.

There are dozens of other gems hidden at Dover. Fashion plates from Godey's Lady's Book turned into paper dolls. Coloring books for anything you can imagine, paper dolls of Queen Victoria and Empress Eugenie, Emperor Franz Joseph, Byzantine era, French Baroque, American Family in the Pilgrim Era, Marie Antoinette, ancient Egypt, Shakespeare, Henry VIII and his wives, Carmen Miranda and Vivian Leigh. And I've barely scratched the surface here! You can even get reprints of Sears catalogs. I have one of fashion from the 1920's.

Dover is a great resource no matter what you're researching. And if you're a homeschooling mom, the coloring books are an excellent learning tool. My mom has at least fifty Dover coloring books that we used as part of school. And just looking through the search right now to write this post, I see at least three coloring books that I "need" for my own research purposes. (and so I can color in them)


  1. YAY to Tom T. and Dover! I've been a fan all my life. While in Philadelphia recently I bought some colonial paper dolls, including the first family (George and Martha) which are wonderful resources like you said. They go into great detail as to each costume and the history behind it, etc. I also picked up a Godey's for a 19th-c. novel I'll be writing. Thanks so much, Rachel, for such an informative, fun post. It brings back all those wonderful days of cutting out and coloring... Makes me wish I could flash back;)

  2. I bought colonial paper dolls for my daughter when she was younger and one other set recently from a plantation museum. They are fun. Oh, I would love a Godey's!

  3. I've been using Dover publications for years. Right now I'm using Nineteenth Century Costume and Fashion (Norris and Curtis)from Dover. They really fill a need economically. Thanks for reminding us!

  4. You're right -- Dover has fabulous resources! I even asked for a Dover gift certificate for Christmas one year so I could have some happy shopping time. :-)

  5. Laura, you're never too old to cut and color! While looking up the paper doll sets for this post I put three Dover coloring books and two sets of paper dolls on my Christmas list.

    When I worked at Kent House I put together an exhibit on 19th century fashion covering the site's interpretive period. I featured the paper dolls sold in the gift shop. I spent a week cutting out paper dolls and had a blast.

  6. Donna Winters, where are you in the Upper Peninsula? I love that you all are publishing Great Lakes Romances. And people do not realize that Yooper women could dress beautifully as well. I have a pic of my grandmother in several absolutely gorgeous outfits. She was born in 1895 in KY but they moved to the U.P.

  7. I love those Dover books! Thanks for the great post, Rachel.


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