The Lipperheide Costume Library is the world’s largest library and collection of graphic works on the history of clothing and fashion. Its origins go back to the private collection of Berlin publishers Franz and Frieda Lipperheide, which they generously donated to the Royal Museums in Berlin in 1899.
The library comprises original source documents, magazines and secondary literature on fashion, dance and theatre, sports and games, festivities and ceremonies, as well as dining culture, travel and caricature. A further highlight is the extensive collection of graphic art, comprising drawings, prints, photographs, and 900 portrait and genre paintings on related subjects. Originally established as an independent curatorial department within the library of the Königliches Kunstgewerbemuseum (today’s Kunstbibliothek) the collection now known as the Lipperheide Costume Library has been preserved intact as per the wishes of its founders and made accessible to the public. The library and collection of graphic works were given the name Lipperheide Costume Library in 2006 and have been continually expanded over the years. The entire collection now contains about 40,000 books and magazines from the 16th century to the present day, as well as paintings, manuscripts and ca. 100,000 drawings, prints and photographs.
From the outset, the Lipperheide Costume Library was intended by its founders to fulfil two functions: to serve as an international research library with its remarkable wealth of source documents and secondary literature, and as a museum collection with exquisite printed works and illustrated series, artistic drawings, prints, photographs and paintings relevant to the history of costume. The collection owes its international standing in the area of research on clothing to these two complementary functions and it has been regularly presented to the public through numerous exhibitions and publications.
The Lipperheide Costume Library encompasses literature on traditional costumes and fashion from all over the world and spanning many different eras. It covers uniforms and special attire associated with particular professions or social classes, as well as writings on arms and heraldry, dining culture and etiquette. There are also rare editions of travel journals, illustrated books depicting people and places and various chronicles. The illustrated reports on state ceremonies and princely celebrations, as well as church and memorial days are today an invaluable source of material on cultural history. Literature about costumes for dance performances and the theatre, dress codes, satirical writings and caricatures as well as almanacs and an extensive collection of magazines from the 18th century to the present day augment the library’s stock.
The graphic collection – intended originally as a collection of models and studies – contains original prints on topics represented in the library as well as reproductions of artworks that were important to the study of costumes. Particularly noteworthy among the hand-drawn pictures are the fashion plates and illustrations, and the stage and costume designs from the 16th century up to today. The collection is rounded out with a comprehensive collection of fashion, costume, dance and portrait photography.
All items belonging to the library and the collection are kept at the Kulturforum and can be viewed in the study room of the Kunstbibliothek. Please note that prior appointment may be required for some objects.