Illustration Essay

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Historical research

Fashion Illustration is the communication of fashion through unique art forms. It is usually commissioned for reproduction in fashion magazines as one part of an editorial feature or for the purpose of advertising and promoting fashion makers, fashion boutiques and department stores What passes for a fashion illustration today has evolved through the years, partly as a result of shifts and trends in society as well as through advances in computer technology and wider artistic and aesthetic cultural influences. In the same way that fashion design reflects contemporary values and technologies, fashion illustration remains an evolving practice with artistic and commercial applications. The stylized characteristics of illustration were later recognized and revived by some notable fashion magazines and commercial businesses in Europe and the United States. In reality, while fashion illustration and fashion photography are distinct media formats, the development of digital graphics software has boosted the artistic appeal of illustration and extended its commercial reach. A hand-rendered fashion illustration has the capacity to present an image of the figure that transcends what is real; it communicates what we might imagine or hope for. A fashion illustration should not only communicate visual information about a design but also express a mood or emotion: this remains one of the most important attributes of an effective illustration. Most of the great fashion illustrators, past and present, have understood this principle and worked with life models to enable a full range of expression in their work, such as Antonio Lopez as well as contemporary illustrators such as David Downton. It is interesting to note that many fashion illustrators are not usually trained designers. This is not a handicap but rather a release, which allows them to capture the essence and spirit of a design or outfit without being distracted by too many details or constraints. Cultural changes as well as technological advances have produced many artistic mediums for fashion illustrators. The ever changing fashion cycle strongly impacts the way artists choose to illustrate. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, It consisted of figures draped in the elaborate costumes of the time period's upper class amidst classical backdrops with foliage. High fashion magazines used these to create industry standard fashion plates until around 1924.

fashion illustration from the McCall Magazine in August 1907.

Paul Poiret was a fashion illustrator that changed the face of fashion through the 1900’s. The figures seen in his artworks show a consistent relaxed feel, fluent poses, along with more detail created a realistic interpretation of what was preciously seen through illustrations. The work of Poiret was inspired by the dominant artistic trends of the day, such as classicism, orientalism, symbolism, and primitivism.

Leon Bakst was a fashion illustrator who's artistic style greatly differed from the stiff, detailed, and non-emotive drawings from before his time. As a costume designer, his designs were exotic and his figures showed exaggerated movement.

The 1920s and 1930s:

By the 1920s, many prominent fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar commissioned beautiful fashion illustrations to grace their covers. Fashion Illustration was also greatly influenced by the art deco trend in art and architecture that surfaced in the twenties.

In the 1930s Hollywood glamour took a hold on the United States. Body conscious and romantic looks gave way to more curvaceous figures in fashion illustrations. At the same time, more literal menswear trends surfaced in women's clothing such as pleats and suiting fabrics. This naturally affected the fashion illustrations of the time.

Through the forties, fifties, and sixties a notable fashion illustrator was Alfredo Boiret, who worked for famed designers such as Dior, Chanel, and Balmain, as...
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