Skip to Main Content

THEA 390: Costume, Fashion, and Cultural Studies

A guide to research for costume design.

Explore your options

Odds are you are going to need quite a lot of visual inspiration when designing costumes for stage productions. The sub-pages in the image section of this guide will help you get started searching for images in a variety of places, some you may have thought of and some that may be new to you.

You should not restrict yourself to looking at costume, clothing and fashion resources. Inspiration can be found in a number of places such as

  • art and art histoy - styles, movements, artists
  • photography
  • military history - uniforms, insignias
  • customs and manners - different cultures, regions of the world
  • religion and iconography
  • textiles and embroidery
  • decorative arts - furniture, home decor, everyday objects
  • architecture - buildings, styles, architects
  • nature - patterns, colors, shapes
  • advertising
  • popular culture

While Googling images on the internet can yield some good results, don't be afraid to get creative and try something new.

Try Google Arts & Culture search for a new way to use a familiar tool:

Try a Creative Commons search for images you can adapt and reuse:

Try the New York Public Library's Digital Collections search by color:

Or try one of the many online image resources listed at the links below.

Image Databases


Leon Bakst, 1922, Costume study for Nijinsky in the role of Iksender in the ballet, "La Péri"

The Hunter College Libraries provide access to several image databases. These databases allow you to search and download high-quality images from a variety of subject areas. 

Artstor (NetID/password required)

Composed of over 2.5 million images, Artstor provides faculty and students with a comprehensive image resource in a wide array of subjects with the breadth and depth to add context and examine influences beyond the confines of your discipline.

JSTOR (NetID/password required)

JSTOR provides access to more than 12 million journal articles, books, images, and primary sources in 75 disciplines. Explore a wide range of scholarly content through a powerful research and teaching platform. (Current journals are not entered into the database for two to five years.)

Digital Public Library of America (publicly available)

Portal to digital content held at the nations' archives, libraries, museums and other cultural heritage organizations.

Europeana (publicly available)

Portal to digital content held in Europe’s archives, libraries, museums and other cultural heritage organizations.