Fashion highlights at the National Art Library

National Art Library
January 15, 2024

There have been a host of fashion-related exhibitions gracing the V&A in the past few years; current offerings DIVA and Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto, recent shows such as Africa Fashion and Fashioning Masculinities, and forthcoming exhibition NAOMI. It therefore seems like the ideal time to take stock of the amazing range of fashion resources we hold in the National Art Library!


One of our most popular items to be requested in the National Art Library (NAL) are the holdings of iconic fashion monthly Vogue. We have print copies of British Vogue, with selected issues from its first year of publication in 1916 all the way to present day. We also have extensive print holdings of the original American Vogue, from the 1920s onwards. If you are looking to delve deeper into the American publication, we have complete access to the Vogue Archive online from the first issue in December 1892 to present day. This is accessible onsite in our reading rooms, either through our computers or your own device connected to our Wi-fi network.

A selection of British Vogue issues from the early 1990s, available to view in the NAL

Berg Fashion Library

Another valuable online resource is the Berg Fashion Library, again available in our reading rooms. This is a unique online portal covering world dress and fashion, offering access to e-books, articles, reference works and images from museums around the world. The thematic bibliographies, fashion history timelines, fully searchable text and access to important reference works like the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion mean this is the ideal place to start if you want an introduction to a topic such as the history of an item of clothing or a design house.

A screenshot from Berg Fashion Library, available to access onsite at the NAL

Thames & Hudson ‘Catwalk Collection’

The NAL holds thousands of print books about fashion – it’s difficult to choose a highlight. From our recent acquisitions, these beautiful, luxurious hardback Thames and Hudson ‘Catwalk Collection’ volumes stand out, showcasing runway collections from major world designers, many of which are gathered here together for the first time. The high-quality images allow you to see the details in outfits and accessories and trace the development through seasons.

Some of the ‘Catwalk Collection’ books available at the NAL

The NAL hold a complete run of this series so far:

Trade literature

Trade literature consists of catalogues, pamphlets and advertising material and other ephemera made by companies, much of which may not be available in the public realm. This gives you a behind-the-scenes insight into how fashion companies have marketed themselves over the years. The NAL holds a large collection, dating from historical material covering fashion staples such as early Burberry trench coats (complete with material samples glued in) to relatively young brands such as Miu Miu and Alexander McQueen.

Trade literature promoting the ‘Burberry Weatherproof’ from 1930

Away from designer labels, you may be interested in finding out what high street fashion consisted of in years past. Luckily we also hold a selection of mail order catalogues such as Freemans and Grattan which cover the eclectic eras of 80s & 90s fashion, and not to forget legendary department stores such as Harrods and Liberty, from whom we hold a dedicated collection of catalogues and other ephemera.

V&A Publications

You can also browse the publications of previous V&A blockbuster fashion exhibitions, of which we hold a complete collection, including those currently on show. These books cover each exhibition comprehensively, so if you couldn’t visit in person, you can still see what was on offer in 2D format. We have held exhibitions on particular designers, such as Christian Dior and Mary Quant, and more broad ranging shows covering particular types of clothing or fashion movements such as Kimono and Fashioning Masculinities.

Two recent V&A publications, of exhibitions of the same name

If you’re looking to research anything fashion-related, you won’t be short of resources at the NAL. If you have any research enquiries such as how to find a particular issue of a magazine, or if you’d like to suggest a fashion resource we should obtain, please let us know at We hope to see you in the Library soon!

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Excellent blog well researched and presented.

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