The line of beauty: why fashion illustrations are works of art

Publish date:
July 11, 2012
fashion, fashion illustration, corrie nielsen, cinderella, fashion for the brave

When I was little I loved drawing pictures of ladies in beautiful dresses. Give this child a multi-sided biro and a pile of scrap paper and I would be happily occupied for hours. I must have drawn hundreds, if not thousands of those big-skirted dames and it’s all the fault of this book:

This book has a lot to answer for...

I think that’s probably why Christian Dior’s New Look was my favourite fashion moment – more than Coco Chanel’s slinky jersey suits or Mary Quant’s daring minis, that hopelessly romantic, feminine silhouette, all clouds of tulle and nipped-in waists, got me on an emotional level. Now I love buying ‘50s dresses (Vintage Emporium off Brick Lane has the best range of pristine specimens) as they suit my figure and feel amazing with their armfuls of swooshy petticoats. Yep, essentially the Ladybird edition of Cinderella has shaped my psyche more than I should probably be admitting.

I admire and envy fashion designers – grown-ups who get to live my childhood dream and draw exquisite gowns all day long. To me fashion illustrations are little works of art – just like architect’s plans, they serve a technical and practical purpose while being things of beauty in themselves. In many cases, I prefer the illustration to the final frock – the designer’s dream is more perfectly realised in ink and paper than it can ever be in fabric. All of which is a roundabout way of saying look at this illustration by Corrie Neilsen – isn’t it gorgeous?

Corrie Neilsen's illustration for The Wren Press

And in this case, the actual dress is just as lovely as the sketch – here it is being modelled by Jade Parfitt (I love the way in this picture Jade, the horse and Jasmine Guinness are ignoring the fact that it’s really cold and muddy. Total pros, all three.)

Jade Parfitt, a horse and Jasmine Guinness

Corrie was commissioned by Hilary Alexander, patron of Fashion for the Brave to create the sketch and the dress for the charity ’s annual gala, which raises money for wounded servicemen and women and their families. This year it’s taking place at The Dorchester on September 20 and Jade will be wearing Corrie’s spectacular gown as the final look in the catwalk show. But more excitingly to a stationary nerd like me is Corrie’s hook-up with The Wren Press – stationers to the Queen and the Prince of Wales and therefore proud possessors of TWO Royal Warrants. Cripes.

The Wren Press have turned a series of Corrie’s illustrations into a limited edition set of postcard-sized prints which each guest at the gala will get to take home with them. The original sketches will be auctioned off at the event to raise money for the charity, along with the dress. I’m seriously considering selling a kidney and making a bid.

Handmade, bespoke stationary and couture gowns might be a million miles away from most people’s reality but I for one like to know that this kind of crafts(wo)manship exists - that people out there are pushing their natural talents and energies to the very limits in order to create something astonishingly beautiful.