Thursday, March 19, 2009

Drawing on the Past

Sometimes, if you're trying to get the flavor of a particular vintage style or period, the most direct route is through fashion illustration. Why? Because the artist must distill the the silhouette, motifs and flow patterns to create an effective rendering, leaving you the very essence of the look.

Case in point: this wonderful illustration from 1913 by Georges Barbier. It shows the tubular-style frocks instigated by Poiret, influenced by the orientalist motifs that stormed Paris thanks to Leon Bakst's costume designs for the Ballet Russes. Takeaways: the empire waistline, the floor length, the close-to-the-body but-not-tight flow of the fabric, and of course the glorious large-scale pattern.

Another example, from Cecil Beaton (click to enlarge): a drawing of Mademoiselle Coco herself, with the soft waist-length jacket, contrast piping on jacket and skirt, tweedy sweater, pearls, and most importantly, a big show of white cuffs and pussy bow at wrist and collar. Shears optional.

A flip through a fantastic book on fashion illustration, or acquisition of David Downton's superb journal Pourquoi Pas?, will help sharpen your eye (and whet your palate!).

1 comment:

  1. Oh thank you for this post (and all your others! I already have the Vogue book of Fashion Illustration and love David Downton's sketches for The Times so can't wait to get my copy of Pourquoi Pas? Have just ordered it on-line. My favourite is the late Rene Gruau for Dior and other cosmetics. Please keep on posting your fascinating and delightfully eclectic mix of very helpful 'fashionable' information.