Most people have a reasonably good idea of when a thing is, or is not, "in fashion." But it is necessary to get nearer to the root of the matter if one's work is to be illumined by knowledge and a perception of what it is all about. The popular notion that one can manage to achieve success simply by looking smart, and doing one's work in a "smarty" sort of way, without bothering with the tedious groundwork is, unfortunately, as commonly held by would-be artists as by anyone else. But although in some walks of life that attitude may get one part of the way, it will not lead the fashion artist anywhere. Deception of this sort, in art, is but self-deception. There is no way to success in fashion drawing, no royal road, other than by the acquisition of knowledge, both of the subject of fashion and the art of drawing. And that, of course, means hard work. This fact must be faced at the outset if ever one hopes to be more than an ordinary little sketcher. This is not to

say that it is essential to be a thoroughly competent artist and a fashion expert to boot, before entering into the profession, but rather that one must be prepared for all the hard work to come, and ready to sacrifice leisure hours to life classes and the mastery of the job.

It was once a commonly accepted idea (and not without some justification), that a fashion artist was a sort of inferior artist who could not draw better things. As Sir J. Lavery, R.A., remarked: "It seemed that because art is applied to something useful, the designer should occupy a lower position than he who paints a landscape or models a bust. There is surely something wrong in the social system that permits this." But the times have changed. To-day the standard of drawing in fashion work is very high indeed, and the status of the fashion artist is steadily being raised every year. Only to glance at any modern fashion magazine and compare the work with that of ten years ago is to realize how vastly the quality of the drawing has advanced. There is no need, therefore, to suffer any inferiority complex about fashion work, or imagine it to be a lowly branch of art and the province of the unskilled. The truth is, the better artist one is, the better fashion artist one will be.


Besides acquiring a thorough knowledge of the technique of drawing, the beginner should learn something of the history of dress and fashion, which of course is the motif of all fashion work. The story of dress is the story of man and his progress from naked savagery to the present point of cultural development. Following that story, tracing the growth of dress from the primitive waist-girdle and necklet to the dress of to-day, one begins to appreciate why mankind, alone of created beings, wears clothes; and to realize the essential distinction between clothing as protection (which is not clothing as we understand it), and clothing as ornament (which is the real clothing). Finally comes the understanding of what Westermarck meant when he said "the facts appear to prove . . . that the covering of the body owes its origin, at

least in a great many cases, to the desire of man and woman to make themselves mutually attractive!" Which is a truth we are loth to admit, even to ourselves. But to the fashion artist, and particularly the creative fashion artist, it is a fact of singular importance since it affords an insight into the psychological appeal and meaning of feminine dress, and what may be termed the fashion motive.


Fashion, in the dress sense, has a history shorter than that of clothing. True, the Egyptian ladies at the court of Queen Nefertiti had their fashions in clothing and head-dress: and it is said that the women of Ur used vanity cases as long ago as 4000 b.c. But such facts belong rather to the history of Dress and Costume than to that of Fashion. So far as we are concerned, the story of Fashion opened in 1321 when a doll dressed in the fashion of the day was sent from France to the Queen of England, much as an exclusive Paris model is rushed by air-liner nowadays to a wealthy London client. Fashion dolls eventually became an established feature of European life, going out regularly from Paris to all the capital cities. Until the sixteenth century, when they began to be superseded by the first fashion papers, they were the only organized means of disseminating fashion. Not unnaturally, too, they were confined almost entirely to depicting the dress of women. The modern fashion journal, in which the fashion artist finds one of her principal fields of action, has therefore a long and romantic lineage. It is also not without interest to observe that even in those early days Paris deliberately set out to dictate the fashions of the world; which fact partly accounts for her fashion ascendancy to-day.


Fashion, besides recording the changing tastes of the people, has always tended to reflect the principal events of the time, rather like an illustrated history. Wars, conquests, developments in trade and communication, have all had some influence on clothes;

sometimes of a passing nature; sometimes permanent. Until recent times the influence of the theatre was very marked on the clothes of the day; and the advent of the bicycle, the motor-car, and the aeroplane each affected fashion in their turn. The modern indulgence in sport has been one of the more important influences of late years, and has affected men's and women's fashions alike. It is interesting to note that the sports influence has tended to eliminate the distinction between the dress of the sexes, and nowadays jumpers, scarves, berets, sports shoes, and even trousers and "shorts," are worn by either sex indiscriminately.

But the most important of all recent influences, and seemingly the most permanent, has been the emancipation of women which has occurred during the last two decades. Together with the old political and domestic restrictions, those Victorian horrors, the boned corset, the high, stiff collar, the heavy petticoat, and the confined and distorted figure went out of existence.

Fashion Drawing Sections

Part-1 Part-2 Part-3