The Dressmaker’s Library: “Fashion Illustration 1920-1950”

“Fashion Illustration 1920-1950 Techniques and Examples” by Walter T. Foster is a valuable addition to any dressmaker’s library. The value lies in the book being a visual reference on several levels. First, there are the fashions of the decades beautifully and simply drawn. Then there are the body types for each decade showing what was considered the ideal figure for the time.

Fashion figure of the  late 1920s.

Fashion figure of the 1930s.

The slender, linear look of the 1920s gave way to the curvy sensual look of the 1930s.  The tubular silhouette was replaced by one in which fabrics were cut to flow over the body.  There was an emphasis on movement with flares, godets and flounces.

Fashion figure of the 1940s.

By the 1940s the figure is fuller and curvier. The reader will gain insight into how a woman’s body was envisioned by the illustrators and designers of the 1920s through the 1950s. Even though these illustrations represent the ideal of these decades they speak to the reader on many levels. I learned that I prefer the overall look of the 1940s since the inspiration comes from a woman who is living an active life and looks like she has a healthy body weight and outlook on life.

Foster provides some basics to start a croquis (rough sketch of the fashion figure) but does not go much further than that. There are no graded lessons taking the reader through an organized series of exercises. If you already know how to sketch then you might be able to get more out of this book. There are many examples of first sketches compared to finished sketches. For someone with experience these will provide all you need to recreate similar fashion illustrations.

There is a brief treatment of how to draw children. The section on drawing the male fashion figure is treated in the same manner as the female fashion figure. There are some guidelines with the rest of the presentation consisting of many sketches.

“Fashion Illustration 1920-1950 Techniques and Examples” is published by Dover and is available for $12.95. I got mine new from Amazon

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