Costar Project | Costar Holdings | Nowes Ark Holdings

The Costar Project

The Department of Dramatic Art at UNC-Chapel Hill has extensive collections of clothing from across the centuries and around the globe. The Costar Project manages the archives. It includes this web site which makes them accessible to the public.

The Costar Project was developed for use by the graduate program in Costume Production associated with the Department of Dramatic Art and PlayMakers Repertory Company. See a general guide for browsing and searching the collections click here. For further inquires, contact Bobbi Owen (

The Costar Archive features 19th and 20th century garments from Europe and the United States. To see the holdings in the Costar Archive click here. For more information about it click here.

NowesArk is a collection of garments from outside the Western tradition. To see the holdings in the NowesArk Archive click here. For more information about it click here.

The Structure of the Costar Web Site

There is a common structure for Costar and NowesArk. Each one has:

  • A cover page.
  • A brief description of the archive's general purpose and scope.
  • The Holdings page shows a small image of every garment in the archive. There are roughly fifteen images per page. Holdings can be searched for a date range, for a particular type of garment, and for words in the garment's title.
  • A description page for each garment shows front and back images, and annotated images of interesting garment details. Information about construction, condition and provenance are often included.
  • The description pages show images at limited resolution to avoid extensive download times. The full images are available by clicking on the displayed images.

The Date of a Garment

Determining what date to assign to a garment can be quite challenging. There are of course relatively standardized eras in Western clothing. But what was au courant in Paris one season may go on sale in Des Moines, not to mention central North Carolina, a bit later. So, Costar assigns each garment to a range of dates and supports searching for a range of dates. If the range of the search overlaps the garment's dates, that is treated as a match.

Technical Notes

In lieu of 'powered by' icons we offer thanks for technical contributions to the project here. The IT groups at UNC have been critical for us; Costar has relied on UNC's Tomcat and Oracle support over the past twenty years. We have used educational licenses of InteliJ since its beta days; their IDE made the easy fun and the impossible manageable. Nothing like Costar could be developed without open source software.