As a versatile art form, fashion illustration is intended to showcase the material, colors, and design of clothing. In addition to acting as a study of style, these drawings also inadvertently offer a glimpse into the history of fashion design and social pop culture of the time, as evident in this collection of delicate and detailed illustrations.
Meticulously compiled using a number of historic fashion plates, this timeline showcases the many shifts in styles that occurred in women’s fashion over the course of nearly 200 years. The chronological presentation begins in the year 1784, when frilly, floor-length hoop skirts were all the rage. It then meanders through the next several decades, depicting a gradual tendency toward slimmer silhouettes in the early 1800s, a preference for over-the-top headdresses in the 1830s, and the re-emergence of the fuller ballgown in the 1860s.
By the 20th century, however, a-lines were in again, until loose-fitting, knee-length frocks stole the show in the 1920s. For the next 50 years, styles remained relatively short and slim—until 1970, when pants finally make their much-anticipated, grand debut.
The timeline ends here, perhaps because high-fashion photography proved such sketches to be obsolete. While fashion illustrations may not be as widely created or used today, some contemporary artists continue to keep the craft alive with their dazzling designs and dedication to documenting today’s styles.
Compiled using fashion plates, this timeline traces women’s fashion history from 1784-1970.
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