Fashion as art

Fashion illustration is much more than drawing clothing on a tall figure as we often see today. It began as an art form with a purpose — to encourage shoppers to purchase clothing. 

Most fashion illustrators were trained to use specific techniques to motivate shoppers. Probably the most well known — drawing the model very tall — served to flatter the figure. Accentuating the unique details of a garment helped it to appear special and more desirable too.

Adding an atmosphere of mystery, elegance or fun also served to sell the outfit. Who couldn’t help but imagine themselves enjoying a lavish lifestyle if only they had the same clothes or purse? This atmosphere or mood was often generated through an illustrators' style of work. The specific way they rendered light or their use of a heavy brush could give it a certain je-ne-sais-quoi unlike any other. A talented illustrator’s unique style would often result in them being sought out by prominent retailers.

My favorite fashion illustrator is Kenneth Paul Block and his work beginning in the 1950’s for New York's specialty stores —Lord & Taylor, Bonwit Teller and Bergdorf Goodman.