Fashion Illustration Inspiration from Print and Digital Collections
If you have ever sketched a triangular skirt on a stick figure, or maybe a pair of snappy sneakers, a hand wearing a glove, or the design of your prom dress, you have entered the world of fashion illustration. As we all (or most of us) get dressed every day, clothes are a part of our world that are ubiquitous and necessary, but also allow for creativity and a reflection of culture. There are a number of books in our collections to help you fine tune your fashion drawing style (listed below), but have you also seen our digital collections of original hand colored and reproduced fashion illustrations?
Ready-to-wear collections were the specialty of two Seventh Avenue fashion firms, André Studios and Creators Studios. These firms created sketches copying contemporary fashions shown on the runways of Paris and in the department stores of New York in the early to mid-twentieth century. The Art and Picture Collection has a unique set of these drawings made available in person at the Mid-Manhattan Library, or online through the Digital Collection. Beyond the images you can access through our digital collections, we have a large reference collection of illustrations, some still bound in large black volumes, from the 1930s through the 1980s.
André Fashion Studios was a company based here in New York that made drawings and sketches of the latest runway fashions in Europe by major designers and then sold books of these sketches on subscription basis to clothing manufacturers in the United States and Canada. The clothing manufacturers would create similar looks from the sketches of the runway fashions to sell at a more affordable price point through a local department store. André Studios was active from 1930 through 1974 and was run by the team of Pearl Levy Alexander, who created the drawings, and Leonard Schwartzbach, who acted as salesman. Pearl’s signature is recognizable on many of the drawings in the collection. André’s specialty was in ladies coats and suits, and children’s coats. The studio produced an amazing amount of work, about 20 sketches a week for most of the year. And, lucky for us, thousands of these drawings are now safely kept by a few institutions here in NY: the New York Public Library Picture Collection, the Special Collections and FIT Archives of the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Kellen Design Archives for Parsons: The New School for Design, Yeshiva University Museum and the Brooklyn Museum.
With the André Studios 1930-1941 website, a METRO grant-funded collaboration between NYPL and FIT, the illustrations were made digital and more accessible. The site is designed to be searched either by institution, by designer, by costume component, or year. There are about 5,400 images included in the collection. Designers such as Chanel, Lelong, Balenciaga, and Patou are represented. These images are also accessible through the Library’s Digital Collections.
The fashion drawings and sketches in these studio collections at NYPL arrived as gifts from Mr. Walter Teitelbaum, who was the last owner of Creators Studios. Creators Studios was also fashion drawing company that eventually took over André
Studios when it closed in 1970s. Walter was one of three founders of Creators Studio, formed in 1958, and became the sole owner by the mid-1970s. When Pearl retired in the early 1970s, Leonard sold everything related to André Studios over to Creators Studio. Creators eventually closed in the early 1980s. Walter donated sketches, which consisted of original drawings, duplicate copies and sketches with hand-colored details on pre-printed outlines of poses, in the 1990s to NYPL, FIT, and Parsons. About 1,200 images from the 1950s and 60s from NYPL’s Creators Studio collection are now available in the Digital Collection, and about 8,000 illustrations are available for reference in person in the Picture Collection.
This digitization of the André Studios project was thought of as a starting point for cultural collaboration between institutions to encourage sharing of fashion data and collections. The more recent digitization of the Creators Studio Collection expands on the unique ability of these drawings to give a primary appreciation of the colors, fabrics, and ideas popular in the time period. The images on the site are available as 300 dpi and are outfitted with a mega zoom feature for greater detail. The high-quality of the digitization, metadata, and zoom capability included with both of the online collections allow for a greater understanding of the detail of the illustrations than if holding the originals.
Try these titles to learn more on creating your own fashion illustrations:
|Creative Fashion Illustration: How to Develop Your Own Style by Stuart McKenzie.|
|The Art of Fashion Illustration by Somer Flaherty Tejwani.|
|Drawing fashion : a century of fashion illustration.|
|Fashion illustration: 1930 to 1970 by Marnie Fogg.|
|Fashion illustration art: how to draw fun & fabulous figures, trends & styles by Jennifer Lilya.|
|Fashion illustration: inspiration and technique by Anna Kiper.|
|Menswear illustration by Richard Kilroy.|
|Vintage fashion illustration: Harper's Bazaar 1930-1970.|
Also, look for images and books of 18th, 19th and early 20th century Fashion Plates from titles such as the Young Ladies’ Journal and Gazette du Bon Ton (which was famous for featuring pages of plates in every issue) available in NYPL’s Research Collections and through library databases ARTstor and Berg Fashion Library.