Fashion illustration

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George Barbier fashion plate titled La Belle Dame sans Merci, plate 47, from Gazette du Bon Ton, 1921, issue 6

Fashion illustration is the art of communicating fashion ideas in a visual form through the use of drawing tools or design-based software programs. It is mainly used by fashion designers to brainstorm their ideas on paper or digitally. Fashion illustration plays a major role in design - it enables designers to preview garment ideas before they are converted to patterns and physically manufactured.


Fashion illustration has been around for nearly 500 years. Ever since clothes have existed, there has been a need to translate an idea or image into a visual representation. Not only do fashion illustrations show a representation or design of a garment but they also serve as a form of art. The majority of fashion illustrations were created to be seen at a close range, often requiring the illustrator to have an eye for detail.[1] Fashion illustration is said[by whom?] to be a visual luxury.[2]

More recently, there has been a decline of fashion illustration from the late 1930s when Vogue began to replace its celebrated illustrated covers with photographic images. This was a major turning point in the fashion industry. Laird Borrelli, author of Fashion Illustration Now states,

Fashion Illustration has gone from being one of the sole means of fashion communication to having a very minor role. The first photographic cover of Vogue was a watershed in the history of fashion illustration and a watershed mark of its decline. Photographs, no matter how altered or retouched, will always have some association with reality and by association truth. I like to think of them [fashion Illustrations] as prose poems and having more fictional narratives. They are more obviously filtered through an individual vision than photos. Illustration lives on, but in the position of a poor relative to the fashion.,[3]

Fashion illustration differs from the fashion plate in that a fashion plate is a reproduction of an image, such as a drawing or photograph, for a magazine or book. Fashion illustrations can be made into fashion plate, but a fashion plate is not itself an original work of illustration.

In the modern day fashion illustrations are seen more as interpretations of garments rather than exact replicas.[4] Illustrators have more freedom when working for themselves rather than for magazines, that valued realism over the illustrator's creative liberties.

Process of Fashion Illustration[edit]

Designers use mediums such as gouache, marker, pastel, and ink to convey the details of garments and the feeling invoked by the artist. With the rise of digital art, some artists have begun to create illustrations using Adobe Photoshop or an application such as Procreate. There are two main purposes for fashion illustration: design communication and artistic expression. For design communication, artists frequently begin with a sketch of a figure called a croquis, and build a look on top of it. The artist takes care to render the fabrics and silhouettes used in the garment. They typically illustrate clothing on a figure with exaggerated 9-head or 10-head proportions. The artist will typically find samples of fabric, or swatches, to imitate in their drawing. When illustrating for artistic expression, accurate proportion and faithful rendering of textiles takes a back seat to dramatic usage of color and line to convey movement.

Notable fashion illustrators[edit]

Notable active illustrators[edit]

Notable illustrators of the past[edit]

Mode de Paris ou les mois de l'année d'une suite de 12 estampes en couleur (bibliothèque de l'INHA)

Further reading[edit]

  • " Le Premier siècle de René Gruau " by Sylvie Nissen & Vincent Leret. Published by Thalia Edition Paris. 2009. ISBN 978-2-35278-058-8
  • An Illustrated History of Fashion: 500 Years of Fashion Illustration, by Alice Mackrell. Published by Costume & Fashion Press, 1997. ISBN 0-89676-216-5.
  • Fashion Illustration Next, by Laird Borrelli. Published by Chronicle Books, 2004. ISBN 0-8118-4573-7.
  • New Fashion Illustration, by Martin Dawber. Published by Batsford, 2005. ISBN 0-7134-8961-8.
  • Fashion Illustrator, by Bethan Morris. Published by Laurence King Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1-85669-447-X.
  • 100 Years of Fashion Illustration by Cally Blackman. Published by Laurence King Publishing, 2007. ISBN 1-85669-462-3.
  • Essential Fashion Illustration: Details by Maite Lafuente. Published by Rockport Publishers, 2007. ISBN 1-59253-331-0.
  • Fashion Illustration: Inspiration and Technique by Anna Kiper. Published by David & Charles, 2011. ISBN 978-0-7153-3618-2
  • 100 years of fashion illustration by Cally Blackman. Published by Laurence King, 2017. ISBN 978-1-85669-462-9
  • Illustration Now! Fashion. Published by Taschen, 2018. ISBN 978-3-8365-6731-2

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Fashion Illustration from the 16th Century to Now - Illustration History". Archived from the original on 2022-11-04. Retrieved 2022-11-04.
  2. ^ Drake, Nicolas. (1994). "Fashion Illustration Today (Revised Edition)," Thames & Hudson Ltd., London. (p 7).
  3. ^ Borrelli, Laird. (2000). "Fashion Illustration Now," Thames & Hudson Ltd., London. (p 6-175).
  4. ^ a brief history of fashion illustrators, why they matter, and a few to check out,
  5. ^ Paton, Elizabeth (15 September 2016). "Fashion Returns to the Drawing Board". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 18 June 2020. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  6. ^ "Bil Donovan 1953 –". Archived from the original on 15 December 2023. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  7. ^ "Grasping the Essence". Archived from the original on 15 December 2023. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  8. ^ "Interview with fashion illustrator Laura Laine". Archived from the original on 9 December 2023. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  9. ^ Mastorchio-Fabbri, Celia (28 February 2022). "MEET CONNIE LIM, FASHION ILLUSTRATOR AND AWARD-WINNING ARTIST". Archived from the original on 15 December 2023. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  10. ^ Domingues, Patrícia (12 February 2021). "Love is a strange place". Archived from the original on 4 December 2022. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  11. ^ Rouch, Hannah (16 September 2011). "FRAN WADDELL". Archived from the original on 15 December 2023. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  12. ^ Morgan, Patrick. "Don't stop until you drop. Caroline Andrieu talks drawing with Patrick Morgan". Archived from the original on 11 December 2023. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  13. ^ "About the Artist - Esra Røise". Archived from the original on 12 December 2023. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  14. ^ Blackman, Cathy (2007). 100 years of fashion illustration. Laurence King Publishing. p. 169. ISBN 978-1-85669-462-9.

External links[edit]