They say a picture's worth a thousand words, and perhaps it is. But if so, then what's an illustration worth?
Since the advent of photography, fashion illustration has had to co-exist with a rival that slowly but surely began to overtake it. Fashion photography in magazines took off in the Nineteen-Twenties and Thirties, but for decades illustration was still common, particularly in advertising. (You can read a brief history of fashion photography here.)
Illustration is with us still, of course, but with very few exceptions, it isn't used in ads, catalogs, or sewing patterns anymore. Originally, all sewing pattern art was illustration (The first graded sewing pattern appeared in 1863). It wasn't until the 1960s that you started seeing photographs instead of drawings, and little by little, the drawings have dwindled. Today photography totally dominates.
Pattern magazines were initially all illustration, then a combination, then no illustration at all (and then no magazines at all -- well, Vogue Patterns).
You still sometimes see a combination of photos and drawings, primarily to show variations, which drawings do particularly well. Drawings can also highlight a line or a feature in a way photography can't always capture effectively.
The only pattern company I'm aware of that still relies on illustrations is Folkwear. Can you think of any others?
Kwik Sew used illustrations for a long time, but my sense is that they recently switched over to photography at long last. Of course, their illustrations were notoriously horrendous. Now that they're owned by McCall's, I would guess they'll continue with photographs.
Readers, what do you think is behind the disappearance of fashion illustration in sewing patterns? I can come up with two reasons:
1) Photographs are more realistic. Most people shopping for patterns today don't want to see a idealized image of what a dress is going to look like, they want to see the dress made up for real, and worn by a real person, even if it's someone with an ideal body who looks nothing like them (It's not like the size 20 pattern shows a size 20 woman).
2) Photographs are cheaper to produce, especially since the advent of digital photography. You can take hundreds of shots of a model wearing a dress and then choose the one that shows the dress off best. (And yet, you still have to pay a dressmaker, a stylist, a makeup artist, a model, a photography studio, a photo editor, etc.)
Are there other reasons? If so, what do you think they are?
In closing, do you miss pattern envelope illustration the way that I do? It seems that in our effort to be "real" we've lost the ability to imagine something for ourselves. And paradoxically, we're finding out that, thanks to photo editing programs like Photoshop, the photographs we see are often dramatically altered anyway (not that they weren't retouched before, but not as radically).
If you love pattern art, is there a period or a pattern company you like best?
Happy MPB Day, everybody!