This collection is so vast that it took me two hours to find again what I found by accident the day before! Bookmark any site you might want to return to, to save your sanity. (For example, knowing that I wanted to re-visit “Costumes — 1930s” did not take me to “evening wear” from the 1930s. That has its own navigation listing. And, since the Mid-Manhattan Collection runs to 34,746 images, and is “navigated” by alphabetical order, I had to scroll down through a lot of “Birds” before getting to “Costumes” in the alphabetical listing! )
I hope this post will give you a better way…. The “Book” method. (I feel pretty silly for not realizing that I would find this feature just by scrolling down past the bottom of the page that filled my screen!)
It’s worth trying, because there are treasures there.
A sample of what you can find at NYPL Digital collections. This is from the Mid-Manhattan collection. Couture by Ardanse, Louiseboulanger, and Bernard et Cie. 1932. The graded red gown is by Louiseboulanger.
I found it most enjoyable to view this fashion collection as if I were turning pages in a book. To try it, Click Here, and immediately Scroll Down until you see a series of gray descending boxes (collection, sub-collection, etc.) Then, from that drop-down on the left, choose View as Book.
If you want to see two pages at a time, click the double rectangle.
If you want to be able to read the information about an item, click the single image rectangle, and then magnify the image as many times as needed, and push the image up so you can read its bottom text. At the bottom of this sketch, there is an exact year written in pencil: 1937.
I love this particular 1930’s “book” because it also shows men’s evening clothes illustrations from the 1930s. This one, for example, reminds us that tuxedos and “white tie” cutaways could be purchased in either black or navy.
Check out other decades, like “men’s clothing 1920s” …
Costumes — Men’s clothing 1920s, from the NYPL Digital collection.
If you’d like to browse men’s fashions for the 1920s, click here , then click on any image that interests you; scroll down below the image, look at the left of the screen and, again, choose View as Book.
Digression: As the pendulum of fashion in the 1920s swung away from those skinny-legged, “pegged” and cuffed, “high water” trousers from men, “Oxford bags” appeared as the equal and opposite reaction:
Punch cartoon from March, 1925, printed in The Way to Wear’em.
Maybe the the equal and opposite reaction to “jeggings” will be a fad for palazzo pants and 1930’s beach pajamas ….
About that 1920 illustration of two men in suits and a woman in a bathing costume: it would be tempting to write a whole story about it — the Ferris wheel in the background (Coney Island?), the reason the men are fully dressed while on the beach, their relationship to the girl, and to the airplane or balloon they are all watching so intently….
The Open Book Approach, or Getting What I Needed Without Using the Alphabetical Navigation List:
The trick I finally figured out when using the Mid-Manhattan Collection is that you can do a search — say, for “Molyneux” — then click on any one of the images that shows up, Scroll Down, and that will lead you to a sub-collection “book” of related images, at a convenient scale for viewing. You don’t have to click on individual images and enlarge them, one by one. I love the “book” option.
I was especially happy to find designs by two lesser-known couturiers from the 1920s, Louiseboulanger and Jane Regny. (I’ve been saving other images of their work, but haven’t written posts about them yet.) Louise Boulanger was very influential in the late 1920s.
Other good news: 180,000 public domain images can be found through the New York Public Library online. Click here.