La Couturière Parisienne

What You Should Know Before Using the Expert Search


I've tried to keep this simple, but the database isn't simple. It is made to enable people (including myself) to make quite specific searches. Unfortunately this means that the more search options you have, the lower the chances of success - unless you have an idea of how the database works.

Most of all I would like to warn you about the use of the title field. It can be a very powerful tool in careful hands, but casual use will more often than not annihilate all chances of finding what you seek, even if it is there. The table below will explain why.

input field watch points
from year / until year That's numbers only, not "1700s" or the like. Entering letters or numbers of more than five digits leads to an error message. Enter B.C. years as negative values (i.e. prefixed with a minus sign) and don't forget that in this case, the "from" year has the "higher" number, e.g. from -1000 until -520
country / region

As a rule, the country value in the database is blank for fashion plates, at least after 1800 (why?). Therefore, a search for any given country will return those entries where the country is what you entered, plus those where the field is blank. This ensures that you find anything that may be relevant to your country.
Two exceptions: Asia and Tracht. Both are quite different from normal "Western" fashion, even after 1800.

social class Same as for country/region: After 1800, this field is often blank. A search will find both those where the class matches what you entered, and those where it's blank.
the two checkboxes Ties in with the above: If you're sure that you only want to see pictures from a certain country/region, or from a certain social class, check either or both of them. This will filter out those records where the country or class field is blank. Before 1800, this won't make much of a difference, but after 1800, it will reduce the hit list considerably since most pictures of that ear are fashion plates
title search string

When this field was easily accessible, people often entered what they wanted to see, e.g. "18th century fashion" or "corsets". However, the title field most often contains the title of the painting in question, e.g. "The Arnolfini Marriage", "Mariage à la mode" or "Salome with the Head of Holofernes". Only in categories other than "outerwear" is this field likely to contain the name of the clothing item you seek.

This will search either the English or German title, depending on the output language you choose. Your search string must be in that language. Since it's often used to find a certain clothing item, it also searches the "comment" and "keyword" fields. For many pictures, I have listed the clothing items visible in the "keyword" field, using any synonym and spelling variant I knew, but for most pictures, that field is still empty.

It's a simple string match, i.e. wildcards and operators are not allowed and it's not case sensitive.*

KEEP IT SHORT AND SIMPLE! Search "brid" instead of "bridal", or you'll miss "bride". Do not use more than one word! Really, I mean it.

For paintings, the traditional title as given on musem plaques is used as picture title, so it's often the name of the portraitee or something generic, such as "Hunting Party". For fashion plates, it's more or less descriptive (e.g. "walking dress" or simply "winter fashions"). The name of a clothing item rarely appears in the title, except if it is the focus of the picture, e.g. an extant item or a close-up of a shoe, fabric, accessory etc. So if you search for the name of a clothing item, you will miss 90% of the pictures in which that item can be seen.


I found it easiest to draw a list of all painters from the database and offer them as a selection field. This makes the search form rather big and forces you to scroll a bit, but it removes all insecurities as to how a painter's name is spelled (is it Anthonis van Dijck, Anthony van Dyck, Anton van Dyck? Tiziano, Titian or Tizian?).

The names are sorted by first name - sorry, but that's how they're entered into the database. I might change that one day when I have the time (little joke here :-/).

display images of... Remember that fabrics, accessories, hats and sometimes shoes can also be seen in pictures of "outerwear", which is the most general category of all. I didn't cut off the head and feet of the sitter(s), after all. Underwear, however, will only be in the underwear category, of course. Extant items of outerwear have a category of their own, while extant shoes, accesories etc. are in the shoe/accessory category together with the painted and engraved ones. That logic may seem a bit strange, but I thought that people especially interested in shoes would like to see all shoes together, or all hats, or all accessories. So I kept them together.

*) The exact spelling, including blanks and diacritics (à á ß ü ç etc), must match. You won't find "colour" if you enter "color"; no "Robe à la française", if you enter "francaise" etc. If more than one spelling exists, try that part of the word that is always the same, e.g. "fran" (no wildcard!) for française.

Thanks for reading all this, and good luck with your search! The below is "optional", but it can be helpful.


Even more advanced technical stuff

The database contains some fields that are searched according to your search criteria, and some fields that contain what gets displayed as the result of your search. Some fields serve both purposes. Here's a little overview of the fields and what they're used for:

database field purpose searchable? content
name <technical> no file name of the pic
path <technical> no an ID number
year enable year range searches* yes exact number
output_year output the year as accurately as known no text string
title_en and title_de output picture title in English or German; enable keyword search in one of the two languages ** in expert search only text string
artist output the name of the painter/engraver/photographer in expert search only ID number
where output last known location of painting/engraving etc. so's you can contact the owner or visit the museum. Could be wildly outdated esp. for pictures from Bildindex. no text string
source output source, i.e. where I got the picture from (book, magazine, webpage) no text string
class enable searches for social class *** in expert search only one letter or combination thereof
country/region enable searches for country *** yes one letter or combination thereof
who enable searches for gender (female/male/children) yes one letter or combination thereof
what enable searches for e.g. hairdos/hats only, footwear only etc. in expert search only one letter

*) This is often a bit arbitrary because a from/until search needs an exact number to compare to while the picture itself cannot be dated exactly. The output year (next field) will tell you how accurately the date is really known. E.g. if a painting is dated to "1600-1610", this field may contain "1605" but you'll see "1600-1610" on the result page. The older a painting/print/garment is, the wider your search range should be to catch them all. See also The categories and insecurities of distinction

**) If you've chosen English as output language, the English titles will be searched for a substring match, otherwise the German titles will be searched. I.e. if your chosen output language is German, you can enter the search term "corset" for ages and not find anything because the German word would be "Korsett".

***) See also The categories and insecurities of distinction. I haven't managed to program a "translation" from the single letter to an undestandable output yet. See the end of this page for a translation table.





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