The study of costume can present a challenge due to its interdisciplinary nature and the lack of adequate, current bibliographies. Any new entry in this area is certain to be welcomed. This guide consists of a series of bibliographic essays, with a list of complete citations for the items discussed at the end of each section. Chapters are primarily organized about a type of resource (encyclopedias, histories, and so on), except for two chapters, "Specific Clothing and Accessories" and "Psychological, Sociological, and Cultural Aspects," which discuss monographs and theses on specific aspects of costume study.
There are valuable lists of research centers (primarily libraries), museums, and fashion periodicals (current and historical). A thorough index allows users to find materials that are scattered among different sections, so that under "Furs," users find not only the primary discussion of the topic but also a notation to a source on fake furs and leather that appears in the section on leather. The guide lists monographs, exhibition catalogs, theses, nonprint media, periodicals, and ERIC documents; periodical articles are specifically excluded. Although this is a way of keeping the size of the book reasonable, the inclusion of hard-to-locate master's theses but not periodical articles in the two chapters on specialized topics leads to an unbalanced portrayal of the literature.
The author has chosen a style of presentation--a series of bibliographic essays, rather than an annotated bibliography--that is difficult to manage well, and some organizational choices are unfortunate. General histories of American costume are grouped by century, but those treating earlier centuries in any way are relegated to the earliest century for which they contain material. Thus Gorsline's History of Fashion appears in the "Pre-1600s" section, though it is an international history of costume with material on the U.S. for the 1840^-1925 period. Periodical indexes are listed by date of first publication, so The Nineteenth Century Readers' Guide appears in the 1940s. Some choices of where to place materials are odd: "Advertising and Clothing" appears in the "Media" chapter, which otherwise treats nonprint sources; discussions of fashion periodicals and fashion and television are in other chapters.
The chapters on specific aspects of costume clearly present only a selection of material available, but it is not clear whether the selection represents the most important items available or merely a representative selection. The section on sweaters, for example, lists 6 of the 284 English-language monographs the author found in her OCLC search, primarily knitting catalogs and manuals. (She lists the results of her OCLC searches in an appendix.) Yet much material of value is assembled here. We are reminded of the wide range of materials useful for costume research, from specialized monographs to Tony Lama cowboy-boot catalogs and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Material here documents many aspects of popular culture, from the vintage-clothing craze to the recent trend of underwear becoming outerwear. This book receives a recommendation for libraries with sufficient interest in the topic to justify the price.
"I strongly recommend Fashion and Costume in American Popular Culture: A Reference Guide for use in the academic settings by faculty in guiding undergraduate and graduate research projects....The overall organization of the reference book insures a comprehensive documentation of a research topic."-Catherine A. Cerny Assistant Professor, Department of Clothing and Textiles Virginia Tech