The Palais Galliera library holds a rich collection of 15,000 books and items, available solely for research into costume and fashion. In addition to theses resources, there are the archives relating to the exhibitions organised at the Palais Galliera before 1977 (Industrial Arts period), and exceptional documentation as well, whose collections are organised around building up the history of fashion.
The library comprises some 15,000 printed items. Related to the Palais Galliera collection, they focus on the history of costume and fashion and include exhibition catalogues from France and abroad, monographs in different languages, pattern books, sales and advertising catalogues from department stores (Louvre, Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Bon Marché, etc.), proceedings of colloquia and university theses. The museum's acquisition, exchange, gifts and loans policy means there are regular additions to this collection.
The library houses the archives of exhibitions held at the museum from 1904 to 1964. Before becoming a fashion museum the Palais Galliera promoted industrial design and presented exhibitions on ironwork, philately, the cinema, costume and other subjects. Although their quality in terms of content is variable, the archives document the exhibitions from the planning stage through to their reception by the public: catalogues, invitations, scenography, correspondence, lists of works shown, photographs, etc.
The periodicals collection is one of the essential sources for textual and iconographic research in fashion field. The documentation center possesses some 600 titles, 200 of which are relatively complete: in all, close to 47,000 issues. The collection begins with a modest gathering of magazines from the early 1800s and expands from the mid-19th century onwards. The 20th century is the nucleus, however, including such seminal titles as Fémina, Les Modes, L’Art et la Mode, Jardin des Modes, Vogue, l’Officiel de la Couture et de la Mode, Elle and Dépêche Mode. Some elements of the collection are extremely fragile and are available for consultation only by researchers and postgraduate students.
These files devoted to couture houses, designers, and brands were created in the early 1990s. Covering the period from the 1970s up to the present day, they are regularly updated and cover the fashion press chronologically via articles, photos and advertisements.
This extremely fragile collection is kept in storage and is available only to researchers and postgraduate students. The earliest pattern dates from 1852 and is the first of a continuing series extending through to 1989. For the most part these patterns are taken from magazines like La Mode Illustrée, Le Magasin des Demoiselles, Fémina, Le Petit Echo de la Mode, Modes et Travaux, Elle and La Coquette. They bear eloquent witness to the evolution of the fashionable silhouette and the circulation of different fashions.
Gathering the public relations material produced by couture houses, designers, and brands has resulted in a comprehensive fashion archive extending from the late 1970s up to the present. Mainly donated by journalists, this material falls into three main categories: fashion parade invitations, look books and press kits. Their fragility and rarity, in addition to author and brand copyright considerations, mean that few requests for consultation can be met.
• 8000 invitations (600 couture houses, designers and brands) :
Ranging from the basic card to the three-dimensional object, these invitations to the launch of haute couture and off-the-rack collections were the initial outreach to fashion professionals and clients. Their common feature is a single, identical constraint: they had to be sent by post. On show to the public for some ten years now, they are protean, dazzlingly inventive, and made of all kinds of materials. They were part of the couture house's or the brand's image building, announcing new collections and sometimes containing clues to what was coming.
• 6,700 look books (400 couture houses, designers and brands) :
'Look books' are photo albums covering collections of haute couture and off-the-rack garments, and accessories. Most often they are simply pictures of a parade. They made their first timid appearance in the 1980s, with their use spreading among couturiers and designers in the late 1990s. Sent out to a select group of fashion journalists, they served as a basis for comment and images in the press.
• 10,000 press kits (500 couture houses, designers and brands) :
The museum's oldest press kit dates from the 1960s, but the collection itself is mostly representative of the period from the 1970s up to the present. This form of PR provided a wealth of information about the collections, the licensed lines and all the brand's other products.
Unlike the look book, which included photos of all the garments, the press kit contained a selection of visuals – drawings and photos – together with back-up material for journalists and fashion writers.