Costume Research: Primary Sources

The best source is the original source. This is called a primary source. In this case: the film. Subsequent DVD (2000) and Blu-Ray (2010) versions have revealed details that were previously difficult to discern on 35mm or VHS.

Photographs can be the next best thing and can reveal details not clearly visible on screen (re: the subtle paisley pattern on Frank's dinner corset). If the photographs were taken on the set while filming they may still be considered a Primary source, however promotional photo shoots and anything taken during pre-production (before final decisions were made) may need to be examined more carefully; for instance the photos of Little Nell in the church. Obviously taken on set, but notice the hat band is not black, she is not wearing socks, and it doesn't look like the shoes have any glitz. It's also possible other (less obvious) modifications could have occurred at this stage (for instance; does the bustier look longer on the sides?) You just can't be certain. Of course, depending on what you are researching, it may not matter.

In some cases extant pieces have survived and been collected by fans. When deciding whether an extant piece can be considered a Primary source you need to consider:
  1. What is the provenance of the piece?  How was it acquired? Whose hands did it pass through? Is there documentation?  I have always been of the opinion that the onus is on the owner to provide proof, not on me to believe their word.
  2. Were there duplicates of the same piece made? How many? Are they identical?
  3. Has it been altered?  Repaired?  Used in subsequent productions that may have modified it?