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Costume Design

A guide intended to aid students conduct library research related to costume design.


ARTstor is best image database in the world....better and more comprehensive than Google Image Search!  TOTALLY worth effort to get to use it!! An amazing resource to find pictures. You can search for an item of clothing or part of a room (e.g., a chair) and then limit the results to a particular geographic area. Excellent for understanding what something looks like.

ARTstor Search tips:

  • Browse by classification for Fashion, Costume and Jewelry, and then narrow by country name.
  • Browse museums with encyclopedic collections (such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art or Philadelphia Museum of Art) by classification and select the category for Fashion, Costume and Jewelry.
  • Keyword search for individual designers (Chanel) then search within your results for types of clothing and accessories (dresshat, etc.)

Oxford Art Online is the second largest collection of images after ARTstor, and yes, it is still MUCH larger than Google Images!  It has a single interface you can use to search the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, Grove Art Online, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and Encyclopedia of Aesthetics.

Image Search Engines

magnifying glass For detailed comparison of features see:

Most general search and metasearch engines have image searching capabilities, usually using pull-down menus or tabs across the top of the home screen indicating ‘pictures’, ‘images’, or ‘multimedia’ . If you do not see such an option, look for an “advanced search” link.

When you use the specific image search functions, you''ll usually get a page of thumbnail images as a result, rather than the typical search engine result of a list of websites and links.

These general or image-specific search engines have additional features that set them apart:

(NOTE: We focus on desktop version of sites, and app-only search engines are not reviewed here)

Reverse Image Search Engines

What's a REVERSE image search engine?

You can upload an image or enter the URL of an image already online, and find

  • Visually similar images
  • Where else your specific image has appeared online

Why and how would I use one?

  • to identify a painting or photograph
  • to identify things in the image e.g. a famous person, a type of car, if they show up in many other images
  • to see if anyone has used your own artwork on their site without your knowledge or permission
  • to avoid catfishing--is that person who they say they are?

There haven't been any major new free services in the years 2013-2019. YMMV on other image search sites you may find, including some that have been in beta for years! Let us know how you tried using them and if you were happy with the results.

Online Image Collections

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