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Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2

Fashion 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 1990s that illustrators have returned to this domain.” - Alan Male 2007

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?

I began with researching historical examples of fashion illustration from the early twentieth century.

Fanny Fern Fitzwater - Late 1920's

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Charles Dana, 1907

Charles Dana Gibson, The Gibson Book, Volume II, 1907

F. X. Leyendecker, 1911

F.X. Leyendecker, Cover of Vogue, March 1, 1911

Before the introduction of photography, fashion illustration was very much about showing clients the specs of what they could be buying. Drawings were detailed and fully fleshed out, perhaps even drawn from life as the luxury of drawing from photo was not yet an option. Although photography had become the preferred medium to best represent the clothing, fashion illustration wasn't completely dead. Illustrators found a way to use photos to their advantage and recognised the creative freedom to illustrate the visions they had. It revitalised an art form into something that is still used today.

Fashion illustration evolved hugely during the 20th century. The introduction of new technologies had played a huge part in the evolution of, not only fashion illustration, but also the fashion itself. The purpose of the illustration had evolved from being a life like illustration almost photo realistic for showing garments to clients, to drawing collection ideas and runway reportage.

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

I would argue that both had changed. The style, as you move through the eras, has absolutely changed along with the fashion of illustration. As mentioned above, it is the purpose of fashion illustration that has evolved.


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