Skip to Main Content

Fashion Industry: A Resource Guide

Historical Resources

Monday night shoppers at Woodward & Lothrop, 1965. U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

We have included this section for those that want to look at the history of fashion as a business. Some of the titles included are more business focused, but those that aren't, should be helpful in providing context and contain information for those looking at the business end of the industry. This is just a small collection of titles, searching the Library's catalog will retrieve many more. Most of the resources are looking at the industry in the late 19th and 20th centuries. In the United States it might be helpful to look at places where the manufacture of clothing and fabric was a major business like New York City (think the Garment District) and Lowell, Massachusetts's textile mills.

We have not looked at individual components that would make up the modern industry that trace their history much farther back like the cloth trade (mercers), milliners, cobblers, etc.  If you are looking for any business in a particular location newspapers advertisements can be quite useful. Look for and search on the words merchant tailors, Mantu-makers (dressmakers), corset, and millinery/milliner (hats and other bits and bobs) in full-text databases. Other aspects to look at which aren't specifically addressed here are the unions like the Lady Garment Workers Union or the history of major department stores like Macy's, Garfinckel's, etc. and their role in the industry.

There will be a lot of articles in older periodicals that may be of interest so we have included some of the print sources for indexing of trade literature though databases will provide citations as well as full-text articles that are either from older literature or are current articles with historical perspective. A few of these are listed in a separate section of this guide. If you are looking to understand and use the older print Census title at the Library of Congress, Business Reference has published U. S. Census Connections: A Resource Guide. If you are interesting in looking at fashion and the fashion business in newspapers the Headlines & Heroes blog from the Newspaper and Current Periodical Division has a post "Women's Fashion History Through Newspapers: 1921-1940."

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to online resources are included when available.


Directories are always a good source for understanding an industry. Older directories will be quite important for those doing historical research. We have just included a few, but there are others and often the can be specialized. You can find them by searching the catalog.

Print Indexing

Many of the trade literature sources are not necessarily going to be digitized and searchable.  Historically, indexing services have been the traditional way to access many of the articles found in trade literature if the journal did not index itself. Included below are many of the standard and relevant print indexing titles. While many of the below indexes are available in electronic format (see our databases), the print versions may be more widely accessible.

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.