Cinderella, the Sasenach, and other fantasies

Cinderella 2015

Who doesn’t love a ball and a wedding?  Especially fantasy ones…

Cinderella’s ball gown caught my eye on the billboards, and I’m dying to see the movie.  I was also dying to see the gown’s construction.  It’s interesting that so many of the techniques used to make this very grand gown were pulled from nineteenth-century understructures and couture techniques.  The crinoline, in particular, is almost a direct copy of some of the ones in museum collections.  Likewise, the corset is based on corsets similar to those in the Museum at FIT’s collection, like the one here:

There just happens to be an exhibition up at the Bard Graduate Center, at 18 West 86th street, all about these under-structures, if you want to go see some for inspiration.

The Eveningwear specialization in the Fashion Design Department offers a number of classes where students learn how to create boned bodices, types of skirt supports, and elaborate embellishments, such as silk flowers and the delicate butterflies that float in the tulle at Lily James’ shoulders in this ballgown.  There is also a class on corset making in the Fashion Design department.

The library at FIT is a place full of ideas for fantasy costumiers, like the team designing for “Outlander”.

outlanderSome of the fancier costumes have gone on display recently, at the show’s season opening:

The library at FIT offers many resources to do the sort of historical-clothing research the costumers for “Outlander” have used.  Besides using corseting and understructure techniques, the costume team for this show have also clearly spent a lot of time researching mid-eighteenth century (the show takes place in 1743-46) clothes in England and Scotland.  There is a lot of information to tell a researcher exactly what British soldiers would have worn, but dress in the Scottish highlands wasn’t so well documented (until Queen Victoria became besotted with the highlands in the 1850s).

Outlander green silver


This allows the designers more rein to imagine the costumes any way they like.  In this article, I love the designers’ talk about the silvery grays and greens of the landscape.  That those colors inspired their design palette.

The other inspiring thing the designers talk about in the above article are the ways they manipulated fabrics and furs to give different surface effects. (Go Textile and Surface-Design people!)



I’ve posted images of the costumes from “Game of Thrones” before, but the costumes are so intricate they deserve a lot of looking.

Game_of_Thrones_Oslo_exhibition_2014_-_Royal_court_costumesMichele Carragher, the designer, has used the embellishments (embroidery, creative appliques, jewel-like attachments) to convey the characters of the story so individually.  And because the show unfolds over time, she can manipulate these images over time to show the way each character grows and changes.

While “Cinderella” is embedded in our social consciousness as a common fairytale theme, the stories in “Outlander” and “Game of Thrones” bring newer characters into our imagination, partially depending upon their costumes to tell their stories.

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We Love Print

For many years, the internet has been hailed as the death of print.  In the periodicals area of the library, we know that’s not true, because we see hundreds of students and visitors going though our magazines every semester.

Just so you know, we update our list of subscriptions all the time.  We’re trying to always have the newest, most interesting sources for fashion, art, and design.  Here are some newer titles you might not have seen yet.

Acne cover

Acne Paper began as the print sidekick of the Acne Studios in Stockholm.  It expresses the studio’s point of view on art, fashion, and current culture, with offices in Stockholm, London, and Paris.  It’s grown to be an influential source for fashion ideas.

You can take a look at the work of Acne Studios:



Fat cvr


Fat Magazine comes from similar interests in art, fashion, and daily life expressed through designed things.  Published in Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, it picks up the thread of challenge common to art and brings it into current-day fashion layout, graphic design, and photography.  and also


fructose cvr


The magazine Hi Fructose is focused on illustration, not fashion.  The magazine is filled with graphic design, drawing, sculpture, and other contemporary arts aimed at inspiring artists of all sorts.

You can look at more about the magazine here:



Oh Comely cvr

The next title, Oh Comely, comes from gentler impulses, advertising itself as a compilation that “makes people smile, full of quiet moments and stories.”  This magazine, published in London, is designed to be pretty and soothing, rather than challenging and thought provoking.  “Read it with a cup of tea or a toddy,” declares the publicity text.

And of course it comes with/from a blog…



You can find the current issues of all these titles on Display at the Periodicals Desk on the 6th floor.  For the most recent additions to our list of titles, you can look at the “Newly Added Titles” tab on the Periodicals by Subject List.


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Decadence has Some Repeat Themes

I came across this in this morning’s news.  Fun site, eh?


If you’re curious about 15th and 16th century fashion, the library has lots of books on the subject.  Here are a few:

Renaissance Dress in Italy, 1400-1500, by Jacqueline Herald.

4th floor, Art Reference, GT964 .H47 1981

The Northern Renaissance, by Kate Heard.

4th floor, Art Reference, N6370 .H43 2011

Dress at the Court of Henry VIII, edited by Maria Hayward.

4th floor, Art Reference, GT1755 .G7 2007

You can also search in ArtStor for “paintings” from time range: 1450-1600:

And, of course, up on the 6th floor in Periodicals, we have such magazines as Complex, XXL, The Source, Fader, Vibe, Trace, and i-D.



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The designed world

Look around you.  Every single thing you see, from pens, to desks, to telephones, to scissors and tubes of handcream, has been designed by a person or a group of people.  It’s fitting during NYC Fashion Week to recognize that not just our clothing, but everything we sit on or at, or use or even touch, is the result of someone’s creative thinking.

kikkoman btl

I don’t know about you, but I’ve used that soy sauce bottle an awful lot, and never given its designer a second thought.  It would be seriously cool to have had that kind of creative impact on the world around us, though, wouldn’t it?



Here’s another designer whose work is familiar:

London Fashion Week S/S 2013 - Burberry Prorsum arrivals


Not surprisingly, we in the library have a lot of information on designers and inspiration for designers.  We’re in the business of trying to inspire YOU, in fact.  And teach you some history of your craft while we’re at it.



One big designed space that many of you are learning about right now is that of the American home.  Many of you are currently working on this project for HP 231.  You may not know that we’ve set up a Library Guide to help you with this project:

split level p-141In the Lib Guide, url listed above, there are a lot of websites that have information to help you research this project.  This website contains hundreds of scans of building company catalogs, sample homes, and floorplans.  Just be sure to only use ones where the original diagrams or drawings that have printed dates.  (This makes it a documented primary source.)

In case you are wondering what makes a good source vs. a bad source, we’ve written a Lib Guide on that, too…


If you’re researching industrial designers (those folks who design the things around us) there are a lot of really interesting lists and articles on the web.   Here are a couple, for example:

But in the library, we also have a lot of good books on the history of design.

conversations book cvr


This author of this book interviews all kinds of designers.

Conversations: Up Close and Personal with Icons of Fashion, Interior Design, and Art,  by Blue Carreon.

5th Floor, Main Stacks TT515 .C37 2014



modern world design


Industrial design is a relatively new name and new profession for something people have done for thousands of years.  But events like the World’s Fairs have helped make these tasks into prominent professions.

Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851-1939, by Regina Lee Blaszczyk, et al.

5th Floor, Main Stacks NK775 .F88



These are only a few of the many books we have in the library to help you find out more about the people who designed the world around you.  Check out more in StyleCat, using search words like:

Decorative Arts – History


Interior Design



And good luck with your spring-semester projects!



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