Research 1 – Fashion Illustration

Research Point 1 – page 52 – What has changed, Fashion illustration or fashion of illustration?

Historically, imagery that promoted the fashions of the day, most notably from the early 20th century to the 1950s, was dominated by illustration.  However, the discipline lost ground to photography and it was not until the 1990’s that illustrators have returned to this domain.”

Is there a difference between the imagery created by the fashion illustrators from the early twentieth century to the 1950s and those since the 1990s?

Research historic and contemporary examples of fashion illustration by looking in magazines, accessing internet resources or visiting galleries. 

Has fashion illustration changed over this period or is it the fashion of illustration that’s changed?  What about the missing decades of the 1960s, 70s and 80s?  Was there no fashion illustration taking place during this period?

Is there a difference between the imagery created by the fashion illustrators from the early twentieth century to the 1950s and those since the 1990s?

Yes, there is a difference, but there is also a lot that hasn’t changed.  Fashion illustration has been around for over 500 years.  It is an excellent tool to convey a design or idea with.  There have also been Pandora dolls that showed a smaller scale version of a dress being sold, often sent to a home at great expense to the designer.  The imagery created in the early twentieth century was very much based on expressing a front, side and back view of the clothing and focused on seasonal trends.

 The latest fashion would be illustrated in great detail and the styles of the time, for example the ‘S’ curve with corsets, would exaggerate the form in the illustration.  After a decade of this style, there was a change in trends and the natural figure form became more relevant in illustrations.  This liberation was demonstrated in the inclusion of more colour in illustrations.

During the 1920s, there was a sense of opulence and wealth and optimism.  This was expressed through a variety of forms and on the front cover of Vogue, the fashion illustration dictated the energy and trend of the time.  Imagery was quite magical, elaborate and fantasy like.  There was no relation to the accuracy of the form but more a sense of getting carried away with the image.

As we move into the 1930s and 40s, we see a move towards photography and although illustrations are popular, the fashion figure form has adapted to suit the mood at the time.  Photography forms were also used for magazines.

What did occur was the noticeable difference in photography when the fashions were worn by real women.  There was a difference in how the clothes sat on the body of a woman compared to the illustration.  This would indicate that the fashion model body drawing had been exaggerated to give a better form.

As we moved through the Second World War, many illustrators had been deployed to work in the war and fashion took the form of work wear.  There were illustrations to promote women working and fashion illustration as expressed in previous decades, would take a back seat for a while.

The classic form of fashion illustration that perhaps we are more familiar with, took off again after the war when people recovered and there was wealth coming back to the country.  In some countries, such as America, it would be tied into a fantasy world of having it all, with brightly coloured illustrations depicting fashions and family life and dream homes.

Towards the 1960s, technology took more of a centre stage in relation to fashion and the illustration form took a back seat again.  Fashion was depicted in more real forms rather than the wealthy and opulent forms that had been expressed at the start of the century.

By the 1980s, Karl Lagerfeld created the neon fashion illustration with strong angular lines to denote power.  The shoulder pad and power dressing were prominent themes in the 1980’s and this was strongly reflected in the illustrations.  Much like how the 1910’s moved into the next decade and had seen a change in trends reflected in the illustrations, we see a repeat here.  The classic quick sketch is still present, but the trends are influencing what goes onto the page.

The 1990’s had a sense of coming into the new millennium about it, so we had a shift in fashion towards a more futuristic look and the fashion colours shifted into silvers and metal.  We also had the launch of Photoshop, so that meant we entered an experimental phase for imagery and illustrations. 

Has fashion illustration changed over this period or is it the fashion of illustration that’s changed? 

The fashion of illustration changed because of cultural and political shifts, world events and technological advances in printers, computers and photography.

It’s important to note that the manner in which the illustrations were created has changed greatly over the years.  Lithographic printing forms, plates, inks, watercolours, charcoals and pencils.  These have been used over the decades.  As we move into the 70’s and 80’s and see printing forms change, we also see the first digital format of an art programme.  Nowadays we have smartphones to create imagery on, we can sketch using various programmes and have a variety of brushes that mimic the effects of the materials used.

So, it’s after the 1990’s that we see a radical shift in the way we can create fashion illustration, like using an ipad to sketch on.  But has the imagery changed much?  It has changed in so far that the image reflects the fashion and the trends and changes that have occurred.  The representation of the female form has shifted and changed over the decades.  In photography there is more of a inclusion of sizes in body, but the fashion illustration is slow to express it.

However, the classical form of the elongated figure and the draped material with the wisp of elegance is something that is timeless.  So in that regard, the need to make a fashion illustration appealing and enticing has not changed at all.  We are still seeing various forms of manipulated imagery to sell something to us, and this is unlikely to change any time soon.

In conclusion, the imagery has changed due to the changing nature of fashion and cultural shifts occurring at the time coupled with the technological advances that have changed how we create that illustration.  But the type of imagery created, the quick sketch in particular, the elongated figure in a semi S shape pose, that has not changed that much. 

What about the missing decades of the 1960s, 70s and 80s?  Was there no fashion illustration taking place during this period?

I don’t think they were decades that were missing necessarily, as sewing patterns had a lot of illustrations on them.  For fashion illustration however, it was perceived as out of date, unfashionable and too old.  With advances in photography and the fact that most magazines put a photo on their front cover, there were not as many fashion illustrations wanted.  The classic form of fashion quick sketching was considered still elegant enough and so was still in use.  The fashion illustration that we saw in the earlier part of the century was well gone however.

REF:

Alex Douglas Newton (2018) The History of Fashion Illustration

[Accessed 12th May 2021]

Wikipedia (2021)  Fashion Illustration

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fashion_illustration

[Accessed 12th May 2021]

V&A Museum (2016) Fashion Drawing and Illustration in the 20th Century

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/f/fashion-drawing-in-the-20th-century/

[Accessed 12th May 2021]

Fashion History (2021) Fashion History Timeline 1900-1909

[Accessed 12th May 2021]

Missbish.com (Best vintage covers for Vogue

[Accessed 12th May 2021]

David Downton (2018) Master of Fashion Illustrations

[Accessed 12th May 2021]