Sometimes, people will show us a picture they’ve found online and ask “is this really historical or is it a costume from a movie?” Similarly, we’ll see images of historically styled garments (often on Pinterest) labeled as “18th century” or some other specific era, and we’ll ask, hmmm … is that authentic or from a historical costume movie or TV show? Here are a few ways to find out.
Follow the Links to See If a Costume Is Authentic
Find something on Twitter, Pinterest, or Tumblr? Follow it back to the source. Images that are re-blogged may still be linked to their original museum source, if it’s a historical image, or movie auction catalog, for a film costume. This is not foolproof by any means, but give it a shot.
Try Google Image Search to Identify Whether a Costume Is Authentic
For images you find online, one of the best ways to discover their source is to use Google Image search. Here’s how:
- Get the source URL of where the image is hosted. Usually, you can right-click (on a one-button mouse, click and hold) on the image to “copy image location” to your computer’s clipboard.
- Next, go to images.google.com and click on the camera icon in the search box.
- Paste the image’s URL into the search box, and click “Search by Image.”
The search results will give you a “best guess” and “visually similar images” or at least “pages that include matching images.”
Now, these won’t always be perfect, and you will have to sort through the results. But we find that about 75% of the time, this will identify whether an image is of an extant historical item from a museum or a costume from a movie or TV show. The information displayed on the first page of search results should be a very strong indicator as to if the image is historical or a movie/TV costume.
You can also upload the image into Google Image Search, but this can produce not quite as accurate results. The URL is more helpful because it contains information that Google can use, in addition to matching the graphic.
If this isn’t conclusive, you’ll have to do more sleuthing. You may want to compare the image to both historical portraits from the period (Wikimedia Commons has artwork sorted by century), or if you have an idea it’s from a film, check IMDB since films may have photos directly available on the title’s page. Historical periods vary, so it’s difficult to generalize. Ideally, you’d find the image source to be sure.
What other tips do you have for telling if a costume is authentic or from a movie or TV show?