A tremendous feature is made (or was, until the Buy British Campaign) of articles about, and drawings and photographs of, fashions from Paris. (The great couturiers, like prisons and actresses, are always news.) This information reaches a public who cannot, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, afford to buy advanced fashions from Paris and would not wear them even if it could. For it is an unfortunate fact that the daily press, in this sphere as in all others, gets hold of just that wild ephemeral element that startles, without having the power to please. Let an ostrich feather bustle appear at a Paris dress show, or an evening gown made of Balmoral tartan, and we shall read about it in the headlines of the English morning papers, and nowhere else. If we did not read about them they would cease to exist, for it is only " pour epater le bourgeois " that such things are made.

This wrongheadedness about fashions may be the fault of whom it may; certainly it in no way reflects the taste of the staff of the woman's page who are obliged to sponsor it and who are just as sensible as the people responsible for Mabs or Vogue. In regard to the public they cater for and the editors they serve, they are between a deep sea more illimitable and more impossible to plumb and a devil more ruthless and hard to please than those that beset their colleagues in other publications.

The standard of fashion drawing that results is lower than that in the other three types of journals. At its worst, which is not often reached, it is unbelievably bad. But when we consider the haste and muddle that prevail, the rigid columnar lay-out to which they are obliged to conform, the vile paper on which they are in four cases out of five reproduced, and the material to be sketched and the public to be amused, the standard is remarkable for its highness. A considerable consolation to the artist is that photographs of dresses reproduce even worse than the most inept half-tone drawings, while anything done in line reproduces remarkably well, provided cross-hatching is not made too fine. A drawing done in indian ink with a brush holds its own almost better than anything. Always remember that you can have no idea, whatever your experience, in what company your drawing is going to appear when reproduced. It has to compete with all manner of distractions in the way of photographs, pen-drawings, diagrams, a dozen different types of lettering, both large and small, all appearing on the same page as they do in no other form of journalism. In order not to perish in such a morass of distractions, your drawing must be strong.

Lay-out is of two kinds. In the more conservative dailies that pride themselves on a certain degree of reticence, a drawing in a square frame alternates with one in an oblong with maddening reiteration day after day. In more go-ahead papers the attention of a million listless readers is supposedly caught by a strag-

gling, freakish type of lay-out, drawings being encouraged to wend their tortuous way over three or four columns without having enough substance to fill even one, on the assumption that symmetry is monotony. This is as true as saying that everlasting asymmetry breeds madness. It will one day occur to a " Home Page " editress to discover the golden mean. In either case you must conform. To the first convention it is easy enough to bow; in regard to the second, you will soon take a fiendish pleasure in arranging your ladies in strange, tortuous communicating boxes, ever mindful that the very chair on which one of them is sitting may be snatched away to make space for a paragraph on how to cover wooden beads with cretonne, or for some homely recipe whose very practicability is apt to make your whole drawing seem singularly futile and unreal.

The pay is good and the work, once you have got the knack, not arduous. It is unlikely to be very regular, for contracts are more readily given to correspondents and cartoonists. You are saved a certain amount of trouble by not having to go round to the shops to draw things, as this can easily waste the whole morning. Sometimes you have to illustrate articles about clothes which you never see and which possibly do not exist. More often you are given a little sketch done by the writer or by a girl in Paris who regularly supplies the paper with croquis (as these sketches are called). But, whoever supplies the rough sketches from which you are to do finished drawings, they are sure to be very inadequate ; and you are obliged to do the figure from the identical angle chosen by the person who did the sketch, because you can only guess what the hat or dress may look like from any other. This involves your making up a figure to support the dress unless you can adapt some old sketch of a somewhat similar dress. The best plan is to draw in a naked figure first, as otherwise the finished drawing will be quite lifeless. Funnily enough this system of working from croquis is used by almost all the artists of one of the very best fashion magazines in the world, although most of its artists live in Paris. The dresses are sketched at the dressmakers' by a girl exclusively employed by the magazine for the purpose. This system inevitably tends to produce a certain lack of animation in the work of some of the artists on this paper, and would prove fatal to the work of anyone less gifted and experienced ; and it is impossible not to regard it as a comment on the intolerable delays and confusion that may be experienced when sketching at a busy dressmaker's.

The daily papers offer two openings, not found to any extent elsewhere, which may appeal to artists who do not quite fit other requirements. In the first place, the faintest semblance of an idea is welcomed with the greatest enthusiasm. If you can think of a way of making a top coat into an evening gown, or of making a bandanna handkerchief into a blouse, or a hat and bag to match out of some utterly unlikely stuff, and if you can illustrate this idea and describe it, you are pretty certain to sell it to some daily newspaper or other.

In the same way, some journals are very quick to see the funny side of the latest fashions, and particularly of those that have been headlined first in some other daily, and which either the slowness (or the saneness) of their own Paris correspondent has missed. You may well earn money by drawing fashions in a satirical way, or even by making a frank burlesque of it. It is surprising what a little it takes to turn a bad drawing into a funny one, when a terribly elegant woman is the subject.

Fashion Drawing Sections

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