Dressing The Figure

illustrated by Anik Pujiati

The biggest problems confronting the fashion artist is that of dressing the figure. First of all he must be absolutely familiar with the human figure and capable of making the garment appear to be on a body, not on a flat hanger. The dress should be placed on a model, preferably a live model; but when one is not available a dummy mannequin may be substituted. Seeing the dress on a figure will aid the artist greatly in sketching it.

Carefully study the garment to be illustrated. Is it more interesting from a fashion angle in the front or in the back? Fashion artist must read about them in magazines, and study photographs and illustrations to enable them to recognize the new modes and to illustrate them accurately.

After you have studied the costume, visualize it on the type of person that could wear it most becomingly. Would it look best on a matronly figure? Or would it be most effective on a sophisticated young woman in her thirties? These are questions you should determine before starting your sketch. Remember that the effect of a sophisticated gown is entirely ruined on a demure model, and vice versa; so study the costume and strive for harmony and personality in your sketch.

The artist should strive always to get the contour of the body under the dress,-to show that third dimension, thickness. The contour of the body will influence certain lines of the dress. For instance, the position of the legs will determine the folds and lines of the skirt. If the skirt is circular or cut on the bias, it will cling very snugly to the waist and hips, then flare out (the amount depending upon the fullness) around the thighs and hemline. If the skirt is cut straight, the outline will follow the body line to the hem. There is very little variation in the width of a straight skirt from the hipline down, although it may appear a little narrower around the knees. If the straight skirt has lines or pleats in it, these lines will be influenced by the position of the legs and will follow their lines.

In a front view a few wrinkles should be placed across the abdomen and pelvis. These wrinkles will pull from the hip on which the weight of the body is resting. Frequently they are extended to suggest the position of the legs.

The bottom of the skirt should never be sketched straight across, but, rather, should have the general feeling of a rectangle. If it is drawn straight, it has the effect of being on something flat instead of being on a body that has thickness. Curve the rectangle at the sides to lend the appearance of going around the figure. The hemline will appear to be longer over the leg in the foreground or the foot nearer the artist. Strive for rhythm in the lines expressing the folds of the skirt.

If the dress is belted and the belt fits snugly, make your sketch of it on straight lines across the front, curving it on the sides. If it were curved all the way around it would give the impression either of being on a fat waistline or of being too large for the figure, - drooping effects which should be avoided in modern styles.