My first experience with historical fashion was when I visited the Fashion Museum in Bath, England. I wasn't very excited about going but once I was there and saw the exhibits I was totally drawn in. Most of the clothes, (it feels wrong calling them clothes, they're so much more) were from different periods in England and France, as well as some more recent things by super famous designers. It was so interesting learning about how the fabrics were made, and how they were put together. When you watch movies set in the 16th or 17th century you never think about how those dresses were constructed, and it's hard to imagine that they were hand-made. Every little stitch and button applied by hand. It's incredible. And I imagine it took half the day to put one of those outfits on.
The Costume History is a beautiful book full of vivid, colorful illustrations. According to Taschen's website, the original “book” was published sometime between 1876 and 1888, and consisted of 6 volumes. Taschen has done a wonderful job of consolidating the image plates and text into one comprehensive volume of 416 pages. You can peek inside the book at their website. I'm very excited about getting my copy, which is reasonably priced. And I look forward to spending hours enjoying this fascinating book.