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Finding Extant Garments in Museums
Victoria & Albert Museum
The V&A in London is arguably one of the first and best museums focusing on the decorative arts, including dress and costume from both western and non-western cultures. There is an extensive theatre collection, so be aware some dresses may actually be costumes themselves.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met in New York knows the relationship between art and dress, as seen by their annual Met Gala event. A great deal of their collection has been photographed and listed online. Many of their pictures are Open Access, under Creative Commons Zero.
Kyoto Costume Institute
Only about 300 of KCI's 13,000 items are available in the digital archives.
KCI's collection currently ranges from the 17th century to the present day, with holdings of 13,000 items of clothing and 20,000 documents.
Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM)
A collection from 18th century through present day, including a great deal of modern haute couture.
Kent State University Museum
Collections focus on dress and the decorative arts, both western and international in scope. The Museum holds one of the most comprehensive teaching collections of fashionable design from the 18th century to the present.
Museum of London
The focus of this collection is clothes and textiles made, sold, bought and worn in London from the 16th century to the present. The collection ranges from garments made at home to those produced in the studios of London couturiers, from gowns worn at grand occasions to clothes worn every day.
This is a great option if you aren't sure of exactly the right words to use when looking for a particular style. The "More like this" function can be really helpful, too, in focusing your results.
RED FLAG: If you're going to use an item in your research, make sure that the link goes back to a museum or archives website who owns the item, or something identifying where it is held. Many Pins on Pinterest are just photos that have been connected to spam or unrelated websites, and they aren't stable to cite for a paper. Also, be aware that the picture may be of a costume, even if it's historically accurate and displayed in a museum.
Like Pinterest, Google Images can be very helpful when you aren't sure what descriptions to use. However, the results will vary widely and include a high number of commercial, unrelated, or inaccurate results. To use with caution, or if you're looking to locate a specific item's museum location.