Bringing the long-standing print tradition of compiling fashion illustrations to the Internet, the Costume Gallery contains "over 1,000 Web pages and 2,500 images of fashion and costume." Intended for use by authors, screenwriters, educators, and students, fashions on the site range from the Byzantine and Medieval eras through the 20th century and cover all corners of the world.
Penny E. Dunlap Ladnier, a costumer by education and vocation, first created the Historic Costume Research Web site "to educate people about costumes" while a student at Virginia Commonwealth University in the mid- '90s. After she graduated, she merged the earlier site into the Costume Gallery.
The Costume Gallery is divided into five parts. Of most interest to librarians are "Library," "Product Palace," and "Designer's Hall." "Library" is divided into three shelves: "Fashion Articles to Research" which includes a few sewing reference books, but is mostly a handful of magazines from the turn of the century such as Ladies Home Journal and Delineator, "Portfolio of Costumes," and "Research by Time and Topic." The third shelf is probably the most useful to librarians, as it provides links to fashion Web sites by time period, culture, and fashion designer. "Product Pa lace" lists links to "businesses that provide products and services related to the costume" while "Designer's Hall" lists "websites owned by costume designers." In addition, "Costume Classroom" offers online classes on how to make costumes and "Courtyard" provides recreational fun with costuming such as fashion postcards and paper dolls and an annual online costume ball.
Searching the Costume Gallery is straightforward, but not always easy. The categories are broad and require users to browse a hierarchy to find what they need. Many icons that seem like they should provide navigation links go nowhere, so it can be awkward to move from page to page, especially since there is no search mechanism. Each link opens a new browser window, so users can very quickly be working with a dozen open pages.
As with quote books, the best resource for costumes is the one where you find the costume that you need. The Costume Gallery is in fact one of the best available on the Web, and it complements the traditional print reference sources very nicely. For a list of more costume Web sites to consult if the costume you seek is not in the Costume Gallery, consult "GladRags.com," a guide to fashion and costume compiled by Monica Fusich for C&RL News in April 1999 (http://www.ala.org/acrl/resapr99.html).
University of New Mexico