Ops&Ops Love Affair with Fashion Illustration

Caroline Smith illustration in Petticoat magazine 1967

Pencil on paper. Or pen, watercolour, or charcoal …  A fashion illustration is a work of art. We are super fans and can spend hours enthralled in sketch-filled wonderment.

Barbara Hulanicki illustration
Fashion illustration in Bild magazine, 1967

We love the mystique and suggestion a drawing offers, its aura and ability to inspire. For history, check the V&ANorman Rockwell Museum and Ops fan Amber Butchart’s book Fashion Illustration in History. The 1920s and 30s are considered the ‘golden age’ of the genre, but we revel in the later commercial work of Andy Warhol’s shoes, René Gruau’s ads, Antonio Lopez’ op-art girls and Caroline Smith’s deco style (main image).

Andy Warhol footwear illustration
René Gruau raincoat and hat ad illustration
Antonio Lopez illustration

The popularity of illustration began to fall in the 1950s as the big-name magazines favoured bolder images and photography. Yet for the newly launched teen mags of the 1960s, it was a boom time. Designs, stories and dreams all revealed in sketch and in step with Peter Max’s vibrant depictions.

Fashion illustration from 1960s
Fashion illustration for NFL ad by Peter Max 1969
Mad Mad Modes for Moderns comic book fashion illustations

Barbara Hulanicki’s black-and-white drawings of her designs offered a glimpse into a glamourous world. For those who made their own, sewing patterns were adorned with the fashions of the day. And who’d have guessed Royal Mail were hip with Granny Takes A Trip!

Barbara Hulanicki illustration of bags
McCalls sewing pattern illustration
Royal mail fashion drawing postage stamp

US Artist Tom Tierney’s paper doll books cover decades of fashion, including Haute Couture from the Sixties.  How to play dress-up with Paco Rabanne and Philippe Venet. For more Go-Girl adventures and icons from the decade see Voices of East Anglia.

The Sixties Paper Dolls Haute Couture by Tom Tierney book cover
Paco Rabanne and Philippe Venet paper dolls from Tom Tierney’s bok
Go-Girl paper doll and costumes from Bunty comic

Two of our talented friends, Helen Bullock and Daisy de Villeneuve, whose book Fashion Mash-Up features paper dolls, have shown their work at London’s Fashion Illustration Gallery. If you fancy owning a piece of the fashion world, check out their online auctions of original drawings and prints. 

Helen Bullock illustration
Daisy de Villeneuve illustration

Talking of talented pals, how brilliant are these illustrations of our No12 boots by Amanda Åkerman and No15 wedge mules by Michèle Noach? Plus this portrait by RA artist Eileen Cooper of fellow RA graduate Hannah Bays in her No10 flats.

Ops&Ops No12 boot illustration
Ops&Ops No15 Purple wedge mule illustration
Portrait illustration of a fan wearing Ops&Ops

These are the styles rendered above. Not exactly wearable art, but easy on the eyes and easy to wear!

If you feel inspired to try fashion illustration or sketching yourself, check out the Shaw Academy’s guide here.