What Is Fashion Illustration?

Fashion illustration was once used by retail art departments to advertise merchandise because photography was too expensive at that time.

Professional artists called fashion illustrators were taught how to use specific techniques to motivate shoppers to buy. Probably the most well known — drawing the model very tall — served to flatter the figure. Accentuating the unique details of a garment while adding an atmosphere of mystery, elegance or fun also served to sell the outfit as well. 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.