What people are saying about The Complete Costume Dictionary:

“Elizabeth J. Lewandowski’s The Complete Costume Dictionary is an outstanding book that covers clothes from around the world from ancient history to the present day. Writing over a period of fifteen years, Lewandowski, a professor of costume design at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, has searched costume history texts, journal articles, historical publications, autobiographies, biographies, foreign language dictionaries, and contemporary publications to compile this monumental compendium of over 20,000 fashion and costume terms, with 250 black-and-white and fifty color illustrations. Three appendices index the terms by country of origin, type of clothing, and historical period. This reference work, which includes some 400 bibliographic citations, will not disappoint scholars, teachers, and students who have an interest in fashion and costume terminology. Ample cross-references throughout the text ensure that the reader is led to variant names, titles, dates, and fashion trends. The appendices have three comprehensive sections. Appendix A, Garment Type, is further subdivided by terms such as accessories, fabrics, hats, and headdresses. Appendix B, Garments by Country, has a wealth of international appeal. Appendix C, Garment Types by Era, is arranged chronologically from Ancient Egypt to the present.

Illustrations used throughout the text assist the reader in identifying terminology. Selected images are enlarged in a thirty-two-page color “photo spread” organized by general topic, such as “women’s wear.””

“This dictionary is a useful tool for individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds. It will appeal to both the generalist and specialist, who share a passion for the history and study of costume.”

“Every institution and library supporting costume research will need The Complete Costume Dictionary. Expensive as it may be, it is an essential resource for all of us [in] the field of costume and fashion.”

Howard Vincent Kurtz in the Winter 2012 Edition of Theatre Design & Technology. Kurtz is head of the Theatre Design program at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and is associate curator of costumes and textiles at the Hillwood Museum and Gardens in Washington.


“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 Best Reference Review


“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.”


“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.”




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