Photography progressed slowly through the early 20th century. Prices went down. The process became better and faster. Color photography was soon possible. Magazines started to incorporate more photography, along side with illustrations. As the 1930s progressed, photography became the preferred media for covers and fashion editorials. Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar added in-house photographers in addition to their the art departments.
World War II impacted the fashion industry in many ways, including the duel between illustration and photography. The most common materials were rationed for the war effort, including textiles, cosmetics, and the chemicals used to develop film. Illustrations continued through the war. Editorials that used photographs focused on showing patriotic fashions and how to “make do and mend” existing items. Staged studio photography was deemed inappropriate and unpatriotic during this time.
The Post-War period ushered in glamorous silhouettes and unbridled use of fabrics and trim. 1947 was a pivotal year in fashion, in which Christian Dior created the “New Look”. This collection featured skirts were much longer and fuller than were available during the war. Waists were nipped in with corsets and girdles . The newly instated trappings required women to buy new garments. This was initially met with some resistance. Dior teamed with fashion illustrator Rene Gruau (1909-2004) to promote his sophisticated garments. Gruau was one of the most prolific fashion illustrators of the Post-War era. (New to my site? You should read my previous post, Rene Gruau.)
- stark outlines
- the use of negative space throughout the composition
- sensitivity to color used to contour figures with highlights and shadows
- curvilinear compositions
Left: Helen Rose’s illustration of Grace Kelly’s wedding dress. Right: Grace Kelly in the wedding dress designed by Helen Rose.
Born in Chicago, Rose attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and began her career designing costumes for nightclubs and theaters. During this period, she mostly worked for vaudeville acts, including the Lester Costume Company. In 1929 she left for Los Angeles and began costuming for films. She worked for Twentieth Century Fox from 1940-1943 and later became chief costume designer for MGM.
Some of the most wonderful costumes Head designed for Grace Kelly were from the 1954 Hitchcock film Rear Window. Grace Kelly plays the role of Lisa Freemont, a society fashion consultant.
As you can see from the illustrations and photographs, the costumes are a perfect character construction. The costumes lend an air of elegance, sophistication, and refinement of someone “in the know” about fashion.