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The Art of Fashion – Research Guide

This guide covers online resources for fashion research that are available online from your home computer and will help you gain familiarity with each resource, its uses, and strengths. For each resource examples will be used to show you the various search strategies for both historical and contemporary fashions

Five online resources that will be covered in this guide:

  1. MMA The Collection Online

  2. MMA Timeline of Art History

  3. Berg Fashion Library

  4. The Vogue Archive


Collections Database (

The Collections Database has entries for nearly every accessioned object in the Met’s collection, including the Costume Institute.  You can search the the Collections Database by typing in a keyword (i.e. designer name: Chanel) or accession number (i.e. 2009.300.260)  if you have that information.

In the Collections Database, you will find the basic background information on an object, including title, artist/designer, date of production and material.  A brief description is sometimes included as well, but if you need additional information, feel free to stop by the Watson or Nolen Library where the librarian on duty will help you find additional information.

MMA Timeline of Art History

The Timeline of Art History provides the history of art using about 7000 objects in the Met’s collection.  This site has three sections: Timelines, Object Entries and Thematic Essays.  It can easily be searched using keywords or accession numbers in the search box in the upper right corner of the site.

The Timelines are interactive and can be used to explore world history from ancient to present day.  Object entries provide detailed information on objects in the Museum’s collection, and often provide links for further information, including Timeline essays and articles in the Met Bulletin and Journal.  The Thematic Essays provide valuable contextual information that can be helpful for providing background information on time period, artists or artistic styles.

In order to find Thematic Essays from the Costume Institute, from the main page (link above), click on the white and grey Thematic Essays link on the top in the center, and then on the right towards the bottom, click where it says “select a department”– then click on Costume Institute.  New essays are always being added, so check back frequently!


Berg Fashion Library

The Berg Fashion Library, accessible both onsite and from home, provides full text access to the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, the A-Z of Fashion and the Dictionary of Fashion.  Berg Fashion Library is an excellent resource for looking up information on fashion from around the world from the year 1500 to present.  In addition to text, Berg provides many high quality images of fashion from around the world.

There are three ways to search the Berg Fashion Library:

  • Using the search box for general search queries

  • Explore by  Time  (bottom left side of the page)

  • Explore by Place (bottom right side of the page)


  • From the main page, try searching for “ballet” using the general search

    • You should see many results, including entries for Ballet-skirt, Ballet Costume and Costume for Dance.  Notice the source mentioned for each entry, such as Berg Dictionary of Fashion or A-Z of Fashion.  Also, try taking a look through the images featured on the right.

  • From the main page, click on Explore by Time.

    • To change the time period, click and drag the white box on the timeline.  You can search by twenty-year periods.  Try dragging the white box to the time period 1900-1920, and then click through the slideshow that appears.  Notice the many types of fashion included: dresses, shoes, hats, etc.

  • From the main page, click on Explore by Place.

    • Move your mouse over any region and click on the one you’re interested in learning about.  Try clicking on Oceania.  A new window opens showing, in alphabetical order, all of the entries about fashion from Oceania.   You can click on “more articles” for more entries in this topic, or you can click on a particular entry to find out more.  Try clicking on Asmat Dress to learn more about fashion from this culture.


The Vogue Archive (1892-present)

To access (onsite only), go to the Library Portal and under E-Resources select V then click on The Vogue Archive. You will have to click through a series of pages to get to the database itself.  If you are museum staff and are accessing this remotely, you will be asked for you last name and the number located on the back of your Museum photo identification card.


The Vogue Archive is a complete searchable database of American Vogue magazine, from the first issue in 1892 to the current year.  Every page has been scanned and every cover, advertisement, article, photograph, and illustration indexed which makes it possible to search and find all images by particular designer, brand name, and even garment type. If you click on the “About” link there is a short essay on the history of Vogue Magazine and the Vogue Archive.

Ways to search:


1) “Browse Issues” option: this  is useful when you are searching for a specific issue. On this page you will also find a  list of fashion editors and their corresponding dates and below that a list of dates divided by decade.



  • To find the 1958 December issue of Vogue cLick on the year you are looking for and then click on the month.

  • The 1st citation will always be the cover of the magazine.

  • To view the pages in consecutive order click on the NEXT link.


2) “Basic Search” option: keyword text back that you find on the home page.


Example :

  • Do a keyword search for Vivienne Westwood.

  • Select the article entitled, “Vogue’s View: Portrait of a Former Punk.”

  • The sliding bar to the left of the scanned image allows you to zoom in/out on the image; click & drag the image to focus on the area you want to view and/or read.

  • Right above the scanned image, click on the arrow buttons to look at different pages or type in page page numbers in the text box located between the arrows.

  • At the top of the screen in the blue horizontal toolbar there are options to print, email, and save articles and images.

  • Please note that you can only print one page at a time or one photospread at a time.

  • Bottom of the scanned image contains all the “Indexing Details” which includes caption information transcribed under the “Image Details” section.

3) Advanced Search options:

  • IF you return to the results page for Vivienne Westwood, there are a  few advanced search features on the right side of the  basic search interface where you can modify your search results:


  • Sort results by:  earliest or latest date or relevance  For example,  the earliest mention for Vivienne Westwood in Vogue magazine was in 1983.

  • Narrow results by:  with the various categories  listed; just click on the category , such as “Document Type” to view an expanded list of sub-categories you can choose from (i.e. Article, Advertisement, Fashion Shoot, etc. )

  • Enter Specific Date Range: where you can plug in start and end dates of your research.

  • Search Within: a text box at the end of the results list where you can add more keywords to original search terms.


  • Next to the “Basic Search” tab is an “Advanced” tab which allows you to select different interfaces for more specific searches.


In the  Costume Institute  curatorial office, searching magazines like Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar are considered primary resource materials for scholarly fashion research. Magazines are also a great resource to locate information about obscure designers.

STYLE.COM (Spring 2000 – present)


STYLE.COM is a  free website (accessible from your home computer) dedicated to providing the most up-to-date fashion news and is affiliated with Conde Nast/Vogue Magazine. One of the most important features are the photos of runway shows from established designers can be viewed the next day. This past season,  (Spring 2013) STYLE.COM has presented several “instant shows” each day, so that you can see the runway images in as close to real time as possible.

For contemporary designer research, you should focus on the “Fashion Shows” section where you will find nearly 500,000 runway images from over sixty-seven fashion shows archived. STYLE.COM dates back to Spring 2000  for women’s RTW (ready-to-wear) & haute couture; there are also menswear images from fashion shows dating back to 2005.


Ways to Search:


1) The designer directory of STYLE.COM under the “FASHION SHOWS” section allows you to easily locate a designer by selecting a name from a list arranged in alphabetical order by the first name of the designer/design house .



  • The Vivienne Westwood entry has a short background essay, a related website section with links to the official website, and a list of links for each fashion show archived, which in this case is 21 collections in  all thus far. These entries provide a concise background and history on a relevant designer.


2) Runway photographs are useful for studying the various trends & themes expressed in different collection or dating contemporary fashions.




  • From the Vivienne Westwood entry, select the most recent  women’s wear show by clicking on the link that says “Fall  2013 RTW”  or  under the “FASHION SHOWS” drop down menu, select Spring 2012 RTW Women’s  and then selecting the designer you want to view.


  • Review tab: After you clink for the fashion show link you want to view, the opening page  has an essay reviewing that particular  collection, which may discuss the designers themes and inspiration and whether or not it was well received.

  • Collection tab: Click on this tab and you will see thumbnails of all looks or outfits of that fashion show with the total number of looks at bottom of the screen.

    • Select Look 1 : Each look is labeled with the designer’s name , model’s name &  his/her modeling agency.

    • Use arrows at the bottom of the page to view the looks in consecutive order or view in slideshow mode by pressing play button.

  • Details tab: Close up views of make up accessories (i.e. handbags, shoes, and jewelry.

  • Print/Email options available for any image.

STYLE.COM is a go-to website for the Curatorial Staff at the CI and consulted everyday for both scholarly research, but also for fun.  If you peruse this website you will find images from red carpet events such as the Golden Globes & Emmys, trend  and news reports,  video footage of fashion shows , interviews, and so much more.

Additional Information & Related Links

To learn more about the most recent or upcoming Costume Institute exhibitions, please consult the Press Room section of the MMA museum’s main website:

More about the history of the Costume Institute department:

About The Irene Lewisohn Costume Reference Library