If you are going to spend a day learning about fashion design and fashion illustration learn from the best by examining the work of some of the most influential fashion designers in history. With this thought firmly in mind we looked at the work of Charles Frederick Worth, Coco Chanel and Pierre Balmain. The references were categorised into purpose of clothing headings:

  • To Display Social Standing – a Charles Worth evening gown designed in 1898-1900,
  • Utility – Coco Chanel ladies travel suits 1917
  • Attracting the Opposite Sex – a Pierre Balmain dress of a tartan design dated 1952.

Each one of these references posed various challenges: heavy pattern, folds in material, stance of model.

We had three design principles to work to: Reverse L shape, Replication of pattern and L shape.

When painting a heavy pattern, there is no other way than the hard way, drawing in all the pattern. The pattern we were making was based on art nouveau, so it involved quite a few curved lines. The Best Idea when making such a large area of pattern is to make your own pattern, which every learner did to my delight.

The folds were various in type on the jersey fabric travel clothing: pipe folds, zig zag folds, memory folds: this was A Good Way to practice drawing folds. What you have to imagine is the figure in the nude and sometimes I do draw the overall unclothed figure in, it is very helpful for the end product of a clothed figure. You just erase the lines as you work.

The third exercise included flow of material, folds and pattern.  The challenge in this exercise was to get the stand of the model correct. Always think in terms of basic straight lines (and their direction and relationship to each other) and shapes when trying to “work out” complicated shapes, it is the easiest approach to use. I look forward to seeing the completed paintings and drawings by the class in due course.

If you become totally immersed in this subject you do need some resources that will help you achieve certain key elements of fashion illustration, one of these elements being shine on material. Daler-Rowney Interference Acrylic Shimmering Paints and Perfect Pearls are two of the resources I use. Research these on line and you will see the colours available. They are the best paints I have used over the years to achieve the impression of “shimmer”. And you only need to use very small amounts. All you do is … place some of the paint or powder (Perfect Pearls) on your palette, only a small amount, and add water. Use as a wash and then paint in a pattern when the wash is 100% dry. Or you can paint over other colours if there is no pattern involved. I often mix either with another colour, they are a necessary resource if you are going to make this branch of art one of your passions.

A thoroughly enjoyable day with some impressive results in the classroom.