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The Complete Costume Dictionary by Elizabeth J. Lewandowski


The Complete Costume Dictionary by Elizabeth J. Lewandowski

While there are costume and fashion dictionaries tied to specific countries or periods, none have been comprehensive. In The Complete Costume Dictionary, Elizabeth Lewandowski has collected from a variety of sources-including costume history texts, journal articles, historical publications, autobiographies, biographies, foreign language dictionaries, and contemporary publications-to create a resource that spans the globe, from the earliest record of fashion to the 21st century. Including more than 20,000 fashion and costume terms, this volume also features more than 300 illustrations. The first section of the book is an alphabetical listing of these words with their definitions, period, and country of origin. This volume also contains appendixes that list the terms by country of origin, period, and type of clothing. The book is not limited to the Western World and includes both archaic and current terms. Significantly greater in scope than anything currently available-online or in print-this one-of-a-kind publication is an invaluable resource for costume and fashion historians, textile preservationists, period re-enactors, and history and theatre scholars, as well as theatre professionals.


To understand better the terms used in an 18th-century family diary, Lewandowski, a professor of theater in costume design (Midwestern State Univ., TX), began collecting words on note cards 15 years ago. The end result is this massive collection of more than 20,000 fashion and costume definitions. Appendixes arrange terms by garment types (280 kinds of lace, 118 terms for sleeves), by era from ancient Egyptian sheath dresses to 1960s hot pants, and by country. Covering items from an aile de pigeon, a wig worn by French men in the 1750s, to a Zylinder, a German top hat, this is a welcome resource for costume departments and social historians alike. Library Journal (Reference) Lewandowski (Midwestern State Univ., Wichita Falls, TX) provides a comprehensive overview of costume terminology from early to modern times. This dictionary is a welcome addition to standard dictionaries of clothing such as Ruth R. Wilcox's Dictionary of Costume (CH, Jul'71) and C. M. Calasibetta's Fairchild's Dictionary of Fashion (3rd ed., 2003; 2nd ed., CH, Oct'88, 26-0662). The dictionary is a compendium of more than 20,000 terms that include clothing, fabrics, accessories, fibers, and jewelry--just to mention a few. Each entry includes a time period, country of origin, and brief description. More than 300 black-and-white illustrations are included, and the bibliography is extensive. Appendixes list terminology in three ways: by country of origin, by type of word, and by time period of origin. This volume's global coverage--encompassing all countries and all centuries from ancient times to the present day--makes it unique...It deserves a place in all costume, design, museum, and theater collections. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. CHOICE Lewandowski (theater costume design, Midwestern State Univ.) has designed costumes for more than 100 productions and served on many boards related to the theater industry. As well as relying on her experience, this title draws from costume history texts, journal articles, biographies, and historical and contemporary works, forming a comprehensive guide to terms in costuming regardless of time period or locality. The book's more than 20,000 cross-referenced fashion and costume terms are accompanied by more than 300 color illustrations. Information on relevant time periods and nationalities are included as appropriate. Following the entries is a 32-page section featuring color photos of various items, which is cross-referenced with the dictionary entries. Following that are appendixes covering garments by type, country, and era, plus a selected bibliography. BOTTOM LINE This work's thorough scope, covering all time periods and locations, makes it stand out among other works on fashion and costuming. Its short, practical descriptions and inclusion of illustrations and appendixes make it a worthwhile resource for costume designers, theater departments, and collections supporting dramatic arts. Library Journal The Complete Costume Dictionary is a culturally and chronologically comprehensive collection of 20,000 terms collected by Lewandowski, a professor of costume design. In addition to garments, Lewandowski defines materials (Bakelite, Zebra feathers); dyes (Madder, Cochineal); colors (Alice blue, Loden green); hairstyles (Badger whiskers, Flying Saucer); jewelry (Friendship bracelet, Swamy jewelry); and myriad accessories, such as Dragon's blood cane (a cane made from the Malay dragon palm), Downy calves ( false pads worn by men in appropriate places in tights to produce more attractive legs ), and Giraffe comb (a high tortoiseshell hair comb). Slang terms abound, including the evocative Bum-freezer (a man's short coat) and Dead Spaniard (an Elizabethan term for a pale grayish-tan color). Appendixes list terms by type of item, era, and country. Items include 750 varieties of lace (Barlycorns, Holly point) and 280 undergarments (Merry widow, False hips, and Amazon corset). India, France, and the UK are best represented among the 130 countries included, but there are also 300 Vietnamese and 200 Palestinian terms. Chronology extends from ancient Egypt to the mid-1980s. Entries are one word to one paragraph long. Most include the era and country, followed by a definition. Some are simply translations, such as Ardilla(Spanish for squirrel ) or Argent (French for silver ). Others are very brief, such as that for Labret, a lip-plug described as Mayan without mentioning its use in other cultures. The volume includes 250 black-and-white illustrations, 50 color plates, and an eight-page bibliography. The Complete Costume Dictionary is recommended for academic and public libraries supporting theater departments or art programs. Booklist The Complete Costume Dictionary by Elizabeth Lewandowski is an impressive reference book. The main 325-page dictionary defines terms from ancient to modern time periods and from cultures and geographic areas worldwide. Nearly 200 additional pages organize the terms in three appendixes: 'Garment Types,' 'Garment by Country,

'Garment Types by Era.'
A selected bibliography and author and illustrator notes complete the volume. The author

's stated intent was to share the hundreds of costume terms she has collected throughout the years of her research. This she admirably does with definitions ranging from one word to a few sentences. American Reference Books Annual This dictionary will be welcomed by dress and fashion historians, textile conservators, period re-enactors, history and theatre scholars as well as theatre and film professionals. Costume A dictionary so comprehensive, that any academic or scholar interested in or teaching the history of costume should ensure that it finds a place on their shelves. It is also a useful single volume for historians, period re-enactors, professionals and preservationists in many settings. This is a globe-spanning resource taking records of fashion from the earliest times to the twenty-first century. It contains over 20,000 costume and fashion terms, over 250 black and white illustrations in the text and 50 grouped colour images. The dictionary does not limit its coverage to costume in the Western world but is completely global, crossing borders and continents as well as historical time periods in all respects What this dictionary does best is simplicity. It is quick and easy to use and the appendices allow for cross-referencing or act as a helpful overview of contents grouped by country, period and type. The dictionary is a fantastic historical and cultural resource as well as an indispensable reference guide to global and historical costume terminology. I can envisage scholars and students of history finding it as useful as those for whom it is intended and I would recommend that it finds a place on the shelves of the reference section in every academic library where these subjects are taught. Accessible, interesting and well researched, this is a resource for everyone that also belongs in the public library and the home library. Reference Reviews'

About the Author

Elizabeth J. Lewandowski is professor of Theatre in Costume Design at Midwestern State University (Wichita Falls, Texas).

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Book Info

Publication date

24th October 2011


Elizabeth J. Lewandowski

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Scarecrow Press


622 pages


Dance & other performing arts
Reference works



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