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Drawing Style

"Art Fashion" – an exhibition on 20th century fashion drawing in Weimar is an example of just how irreplaceable fashion illustration is in the development of style.


Not all fashion illustrations are so restrained

Fashion drawings are more than just sketches – they are a mirror of their times. Just how fashion drawings helped change the style of their times can be seen at the exhibition "Art Fashion" at the Schlossmuseum Weimar.

According to Museum Director Rolf Bothe, Zeitgeist, or sign of the times, is expressed in fashion drawings. An aspect which the exhibits – colourful works of art by the likes of Paul Iribe, Charles Martin, Erté, Georges Lepape, Sonia Delaunay, Cecil Beaton and René Gruau – clearly show.

The paintings and sketches depict more than solitary figures wearing various garments - they show textiles, accessoires and jewellery from the turn of the century to present day. Face expressions and postures vary from artist to artist and era to era. Some of the exhibits show cheeky caricatures of the women they depict – according to Bothe, a sign that fashion illustrationhas evolved over the years from simple designers‘ sketches to self-confident works of art.

Mirroring society

However, not only did the drawings influence the style of their times. The various periods also had a strong influence on the paintings and their makers too. Fashion illustration in the 1930s was inspired by Impressionism – as can be seen in the works by Russian born artist Sonia Delaunay, also on show at the Weimar exhibition.

Sonia Delaunay's modernist style was extremely popular in 1920s France. Her designs appeared on the covers of Vogue and other such magazines. The majority of her designs were made for women, stressing the new, young modern woman that was slowly emerging from French society. Today, Sonia Delaunay is still regarded as one of the figureheads of the modern concept of fashion.

Dazzling and bright

Despite Delaunay’s leading role in fashion design, her drawings appear more muted, and restrained than those of fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez, also on show in Weimar. From mid 1960s to his death in 1987, Lopez pushed the art of fashion illustration beyond its known limits. His drawings dazzle and entertain, sporting self-confident women in striking poses and bright, clear colours – his own form of fashion popart.

Lopez‘ style reflects the emergence of 1960s youth culture, a time in which fashion was marked by street style, music and art. His drawings were created to the music of Studio 54 and Club Sept in Paris - a mood which is clearly mirrored in his work.

Lopez‘ illustrations still mark fashion trends today: Lopez, who worked for the New York Times and Harper’s Bazaar, helped to distinct the Karl Lagerfeld image by drawing and sketching for the world-famous fashion mogul.

Today, photography has taken over the classic fashion illustration in magazines and advertising. The fashion drawing has become a reminder of the days when fashion was not only drawn by hand, but was made by hand too. In the days of mass industry, the role of the fashion drawing has been reduced to the mere design of clothing – a role which is too, being taken over by the computer.

However, many fashion designers still take pride in the conceptualisation of their own fashion drawings, sketches which reflect the various styles just as much as the finished products themselves. In fact, fashion drawing is seeing a revival, and leading magazines from Vogue to Cosmopolitan are showing yet again more hand-drawn fashion illustrations on their pages.

"Art Fashion" – an exhibition on 20th century fashion drawing in Weimar is an example of just how irreplaceable fashion illustration was in the past - and still is today.

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