20 free fashion books to download from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Last Updated on July 20, 2022

Did you know that you can download free fashion books on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website? This isn't April fools, this is the wonderful reality of open culture. I found a wealth of fashion titles full of high quality photos and immediately knew I had to share them with you.

Most of these free fashion books are out of print, so this is the easiest way to get them. Enjoy your legal downloads!

1. Christian Dior by Richard Martin and Harold Koda (1996)


Richard Martin and Harold Koda's Christian Dior is a fascinating look at the life and work of one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. Born in 1905, Dior rose to prominence in the fashion world after launching his eponymous label in 1946. His unique style, characterized by luxurious fabrics and feminine silhouettes, helped to redefine postwar fashion and ushered in a new era of glamour.

In addition to chronicling Dior's career, the book also explores the House of Dior's impact on the world of fashion, art, and pop culture. With over 200 illustrations, including many never-before-seen sketches and photographs, Christian Dior is a must-have for anyone interested in fashion history.

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2. American Ingenuity: Sportswear, 1930s–1970s by Richard Martin (1998)


American Ingenuity: Sportswear, 1930s-1970s is a fascinating book that chronicles the history of sportswear in the United States. It traces the origins of sportswear to the early 20th century, when it was first developed for use by athletes. However, it wasn't until the 1930s that sportswear became popularized as everyday clothing. The book explores how sportswear became a fashion trend in the United States, and how it has evolved over the years.

This title also features interviews with some of the most influential designers in the history of sportswear, including Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. American Ingenuity: Sportswear, 1930s-1970s is a must-read for anyone interested in fashion history or in the origins of sportswear.

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3. The Essential Art of African Textiles by Alisa LaGamma and Christine Giuntini (2008)


African textiles are some of the most beautiful and intricate in the world. The Essential Art of African Textiles is one of the best free fashion books exploring the history, techniques, and meaning behind these stunning works of art.

The book begins with a brief introduction to the history of African textiles. It then looks at the different techniques used to create them, including weaving, embroidery, batik, and applique. It also discusses the materials used, such as cotton, wool, and silk.

The second half of the book is devoted to the meaning behind African textiles. Each design has a specific purpose and symbolism, whether it is to mark a special occasion or to convey a message. The book includes a section on traditional African textile patterns and their meanings. The Essential Art of African Textiles is a beautifully illustrated guide to one of the world’s most fascinating art forms. It is sure to appeal to anyone interested in textiles, history, or art.

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4. History of Russian Costume from the Eleventh to the Twentieth Century by various authors


The History of Russian Costume from the Eleventh to the Twentieth Century examines the evolution of Russian dress and fashion over a period of nine centuries. The book is divided into two parts, with the first focusing on costume history from the eleventh century up to the end of the seventeenth century, and the second part examining dress and fashion during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.

The first part of the book looks at the various components of traditional Russian dress, including outerwear, headdresses, footwear, and jewelry. It also discusses how clothing was made and how it varied according to social class and region.

The second part of the book explores how Western fashion influences changed Russian dress during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. It includes chapters on the impact of Peter the Great's Westernization policies, the rise of the bourgeoisie and their effect on fashion, and finally, Communist ideology and its impact on clothing.

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5. Madame Grès by Richard Martin and Harold Koda (1994)


Madame Grès by Richard Martin and Harold Koda is a fascinating look at the life and work of one of fashion's most influential designers. Born Germaine Emilie Krebs in 1903, Grès rose to prominence in the 1930s with her unique brand of luxurious yet understated clothing. Her designs were sought after by socialites and celebrities alike, and she counted many of them among her personal friends.

Grès continued to create beautiful garments until her retirement in the late 1960s, leaving behind a legacy that continues to influence fashion today. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in fashion history or the life of one of its most intriguing figures.

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6. Our New Clothes: Acquisitions of the 1990s by Richard Martin (1999)


Many of the acquisitions made by museums in the 1990s were due to an increased interest in contemporary art. Richard Martin's Our New Clothes: Acquisitions of the 1990s looks at some of these acquisitions and how they have helped to shape our understanding of fashion in the present day.

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7. The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire, 1789–1815 by various authors


The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire, 1789–1815 by various authors is a book that explores the fashion trends of the time period in which Napoleon Bonaparte ruled. It looks at how the clothing styles changed and evolved during this time, as well as how they were affected by the political and social climate of the era. The book includes over 200 illustrations of clothing from the period, as well as detailed information on the designers and manufacturers of the time.

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8. Bare Witness by Richard Martin and Harold Koda (1996)


Bare Witness is a fascinating book that explores the world of fashion photography. Free fashion books on this subject are rare, so this is an amazing find. Richard Martin and Harold Koda take readers on a journey through the history of this unique form of art, from its beginnings in the early days of film to its modern incarnation in the digital age.

Along the way, they showcase some of the most iconic images ever captured by a camera, and provide insights into the creative process behind them. Whether you're a fashion aficionado or just someone who appreciates great photography, Bare Witness is sure to captivate and inspire.

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9. Bloom! by Richard Martin and Harold Koda (1995)


Bloom! is a book about flowers and their place in art. The authors, Richard Martin and Harold Koda, explore the use of flowers in a variety of art forms, from painting and sculpture to fashion and design. They also examine the cultural significance of flowers, looking at how they have been used throughout history to communicate different messages.

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10. Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the Eighteenth Century by Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton (2006)


In Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the Eighteenth Century, Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton trace the origins of modern fashion and design. They explore how furniture and clothing styles changed throughout the 18th century, influenced by both political and social factors.

The book includes lavish illustrations of period dress and furnishings, as well as photographs of contemporary fashion and furniture. Koda and Bolton's analysis provides new insights into the evolution of modern taste. Free fashion books don't get more tasteful than that!

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11. The Eighteenth-Century Woman by Olivier Bernier (1982)


In The Eighteenth-Century Woman, Olivier Bernier examines the lives of women in eighteenth-century Europe. He looks at their roles in society, their relationships with men, and their place in the home. He also discusses the changes that took place during this period, as women began to gain more rights and freedoms.

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12. The Imperial Style: Fashions of the Hapsburg Era by Polly Cone (1980)


The Hapsburgs were known for their opulent tastes, and this is reflected in the clothing of the era. The Imperial Style: Fashions of the Hapsburg Era by Polly Cone (1980) is a fascinating look at the fashions of one of the most powerful royal families in history.

This title covers a wide range of topics, from the everyday clothing worn by members of the court to the lavish gowns and jewels worn on special occasions. Cone includes numerous illustrations and photographs, which provide a detailed look at the clothing and accessories of the time period.

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13. From Queen to Empress: Victorian Dress, 1837–1877 by Caroline Goldthorpe (1989)


From Queen to Empress is a study of Victorian dress, specifically focusing on the years between 1837 and 1877. Caroline Goldthorpe looks at how clothing changed during this time period to reflect the growing empire, as well as the influence of popular culture. She also discusses how fashion was used as a tool of both self-expression and political statement. Free fashion books such as this one can be a fascinating look at how clothing can reflect the changing values of a society.

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14. Haute Couture by Richard Martin and Harold Koda (1995)


The book Haute Couture by Richard Martin and Harold Koda is a detailed study of the history and development of haute couture. The book traces the origins of haute couture back to the early 19th century, when a group of French designers began to experiment with new ways of designing and constructing clothing. These early pioneers of haute couture developed a new style of clothing that was more intricate and detailed than anything that had been seen before.

Over the next century, the haute couture industry continued to grow and evolve, as new designers emerged and new techniques were developed. Today, haute couture is recognized as one of the most prestigious and exclusive forms of fashion, and its garments are sought after by some of the world's most wealthy and influential people.

The book Haute Couture provides a fascinating insight into the world of couture, and is essential reading for anyone with an interest in fashion history.

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15. Infra-Apparel by Richard Martin and Harold Koda (1993)


Infra-Apparel is a book about the history and evolution of clothing and fashion. It traces the development of various garments and accessories from ancient times to the present day. The book covers a wide range of topics, including the origins of specific items of clothing, the materials and methods used to create them, and the social and cultural significance of fashion.

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16. The Manchu Dragon: Costumes of the Ch'ing Dynasty, 1644–1912 by Jean Mailey (1980)


The Manchu Dragon: Costumes of the Ch'ing Dynasty, 1644–1912 by Jean Mailey (1980) explores the history and culture of the Ch'ing Dynasty through its clothing. The book starts with a brief overview of the Ch'ing Dynasty and its place in Chinese history. It then delves into a more detailed exploration of the clothing worn by the Dynasty's members, both royalty and commoners.

The book includes many photos and illustrations of the different garments, as well as descriptions of their construction and symbolism. The Manchu Dragon provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of those who lived during the Ch'ing Dynasty, and is sure to interest anyone with an appreciation for history or fashion.

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17. Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western Dress by Richard Martin and Harold Koda (1994)


Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western Dress is a book that explores the history and evolution of Orientalism in fashion. It looks at how the West has been fascinated with the East for centuries, and how this fascination has been reflected in the way we dress.

The book features a number of beautiful illustrations and photos of Oriental-inspired clothing from different eras. It is an interesting and informative read for anyone interested in fashion history or the influence of Eastern cultures on Western society.

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18. Waist Not: The Migration of the Waist, 1800–1960 by Richard Martin and Harold Koda (1994)


Waist Not is a book about the history of the waist in fashion. It covers the period from 1800 to 1960, and discusses how the waist has migrated from being a natural body part to an artificial construct. The book includes illustrations and photographs of various fashion trends during this time period.

The book begins by discussing how the waist has been seen as a symbol of femininity and sexuality throughout history. It then looks at how the waist became an important factor in fashion during the 18th and 19th centuries. The book discusses how the corset was used to mold the waist into the desired shape, and how fashion designers began to use artificial constructions such as hoops and bustles to create exaggerated shapes.

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19. Wordrobe by Richard Martin (1997)


In Wordrobe, Richard Martin explores the history and meaning of clothes and fashion. He looks at how clothing has been used to communicate status and power, as well as to express individual identity. He also discusses the changing role of clothing in society, as well as the impact of technology on the fashion industry. Finally, he offers a glimpse into the future of fashion, predicting how it will continue to evolve in the coming years.

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20. La Belle Époque by Julian Philippe and Diana Vreeland (1982)


La Belle Époque was a period of time in the late 19th and early 20th centuries associated with peace, prosperity, and cultural refinement. This book examines the fashion, art, and lifestyle of this era through the eyes of two style icons: Julian Philippe and Diana Vreeland.

Philippe was a French couturier who was known for his elegant and timeless designs. Vreeland was an American editor and fashion commentator who was celebrated for her bold and original style. Together, they embody the glamour and sophistication of the Belle Époque.

This book features over 200 photographs of clothing, jewelry, furniture, and other objects from this period. It also includes essays by Vreeland and Philippe on their experiences during this time. The Belle Époque was a time of great change and creativity. This book offers a glimpse into the lives of those who shaped this unforgettable era.

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As you can see, there are many free fashion books available online. These books can provide useful information and help you in your pursuit of curiosity, aesthetics and beauty. They can also inspire you to dress for different occasions and accessorize your look. Whether you're a fashionista or simply want to learn more about fashion, these books can be a great resource.

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99 thoughts on “20 free fashion books to download from The Metropolitan Museum of Art”

  1. Pingback: Art. Books. Free. | Craft Nook
  2. I experienced a couple of these exhibits and have the catalogs. Wonderful that others can enjoy the fantastic exhibits. Love the NY Met.

  3. How wonderful to make this available to people, students in the arts who might not be able to afford to purchase these catalogues. Snaps for the Met.

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  5. Thank you sooo much for this beautiful gift Met!!, I am so very stocked about receiving this present, my downloads will be very much treasured and I appreciate you guys doing this so very much!. Wishing you all the best for the year ahead, much love and bestest wishes to you all XXXX

  6. Shared this with the 400+ members of Costumer's Guild West, Inc., primarily in southern California, but with members world wide (who come for our annual 4 day Costume College). What a great resource. I have been a Met Museum national member for 40 years; you are terrific. Thank you!

  7. Pingback: 20 livros de moda gratuítos para download do Metropolitan Museum of Art – Lab Fashion Blog
  8. Pingback: Free Book Downloads from the Met Museum | Cari Morton Studio
  9. Pingback: GRATIS: Libros, revistas y catálogos de museos – MalditaBerna
  10. Thank you so much! Wonderful resources and a great way to learn about clothing and textiles. Many thanks~




  12. Five years after it was posted and I still get to add to the number of wow’d individuals! Thanks internet! And thank you dressful.com for posting this timeless collection of timeless collections!!!

  13. Hi. I'm a 14-year old aspiring designer, and let me just say,
    I love love love all the books and I'm so so so grateful that I got them for free. Well, thanks to you! (and of course to metropolitan museum too!)
    thanks for sharing this information with us.

    wishing you the best! ✨

  14. You are incredible..you are incredible for me(a full-citizen of the Capital of Romania, like there truly are so incredibly little 'originals from the city, living it).
    You are incredible for the passion you provide me, with your unstoppable support through the years, with top-trustworthy and top quality(free) digital, official academic information !!!!(resources)
    You are one from the very few people(in the entire world), who've helped me with your precious resources, and your unstoppable passion for sharing top quality information(culture), a lot !!!!!!!!!!
    I wish you could understand, and truly appreciate my intellectual feelings and unstopped appreciation, for you !
    For you, and for all other few(not very few, thankfully) from the entire planet, who have always appreciated the truly passionate and professional spirits and talents, everywhere !!!!!!!
    My best thoughts, for you !!


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