Looking for the right words?

Fashion dictionaries, encyclopedias and handbooks

Did you ever find yourself looking for the right words? I have found myself in this situation several times for the past three months. MoMu and Berg Publishers team up to bring part of the MoMu collection into the Berg Fashion Library, an online database featuring objects from renowned collections around the world. But before the world can enjoy our exceptional Belgian designer pieces, our amazing collection of Stephen Jones hats or the classic Chanel jacket especially made for Queen Paola online, the stories behind these objects had to be translated from Dutch into English.

Like a botanist making a meticulous study of plants, I dissected hundreds of objects, identifying materials, techniques, types of lace, waistlines, necklines, closings and collars. It might not seem that wild, but it truly is a jungle out there. Luckily, the MoMu Library equipped me with an excellent kit of fashion dictionaries, encyclopedias and handbooks. These turned out to be essential guides for my work. That’s why I would like to share a few of them with you.

For virtually anyone working in fashion, Fairchild’s incredibly comprehensive Dictionary of Fashion and Dictionary of Textiles are basic necessities that nearly always get you on the right path. Nevertheless, if you find yourself lost, there is an array of other solutions. Browse Mary Brooks Picken’s A Dictionary of Costume, an excellent addition to Fairchild’s Dictionaries or, if you are looking into historic costume, be sure to check Janet Arnold’s A Handbook of Costume and her richly illustrated Patterns of Fashion. If you get into extreme detail with stitches, bindings, dyes, prints and other techniques, you will be in good company with the Textile Lexicon, the Dictionary of Thread and Embroidery Stitches and the Anstey Weston Guide to Textile Terms. These are just a few of the wide selection that the MoMu Library has to offer: general as well as in-depth and specific guides to everything fashion in Dutch, English, French and even in Spanish, Italian, German and Swedish.

Be sure to make use of the MoMu Library’s excellent selection of guides. Knowing your dresses and your silks will certainly add a level of focus and professionalism to your research while simultaneously refining your fashion vocabulary and eye for detail, essential skills for anyone looking for the right words in fashion.

Text by Gabriëlle De Pooter