Showing posts with label fashion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fashion. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


That's Diana Vreeland above, the editor of Harper's Bazaar and Vogue in their peak years from 1936 to 1944 when those magazines were undergoing a Golden Age. Theory Corner owes a lot to her influence, although I almost never read her magazines, and I only discovered her name a couple of weeks ago. 

My connection with her comes from the magazine editors she might have influenced, and who in turn influenced me: Harold Hayes (Esquire), Hugh Hefner (Playboy) and  Harvey Kurtzman (Mad).

I discovered Vreeland while researching Horst, the photographer. Horst credits Vreeland and Alexey Brodovitch with introducing Surrealism (above) to American women's magazines.

She had a vision that fashion photography could be elegant and lighthearted at the same time.  

She favored models (above) with personality. 

She also had a taste for the mystical and eerie, as in this photo (above) by Cecil Beaton. It reminds me of the female vampires in the film, "Dracula."

Her photo essays frequently told a story, or rather they suggested a possible story which the reader was invited to construct. Her dramatic models were often thoughtful and in the throws of moral choice. The photo above is by Dahl-Wolfe.

Most impressive, in my opinion, was how she inspired the great photographers she worked with. The examples above and below are from a photo shoot she commissioned, where the models were to pose in furs in far away Japan. For any other fashion magazine that would be a simple matter of photographing models in front of temples. Not so for Vreeland. She wanted more.

Vreeland wanted an indescribable fantasy that exceeded what was possible in the real world. To underline the unreality of it, she chose models who were incredibly tall and lean and, in the case of the man, philosophical. The shoot took place on a plain field of snow-covered black volcanic temples, no cherry trees.

I'm guessing that this approach influenced Hugh Hefner whose fantasies were equally audacious and unreal. 

This is a room in Vreeland's apartment. Haw! I wonder what her husband thought of it.  It's right out of her outrageous "Why Don't You...?" column in the 30s Harper's Bazaar.  

I'll end with the unlikely story of how Vreeland got the job at Harpers. After all, she was an indifferent student in high school, she never went to college, she had no experience in publishing, and she was considered plain-looking by her friends and family.

She got it because she had the good fortune to social dance at a night spot where Harper's editor Carmel Snow was in attendance. Snow was the rare executive who realized that her business was operating far beneath its potential and needed fresh blood. In Vreeland, a total stranger up to then, she saw someone who was passionate, theatrical, charismatic, poised, well-dressed, danced well, etc., etc.

Snow offered Vreeland the job of fashion editor the very next day on the condition that Vreeland work her way up through the ranks, albeit on a fast track. The rest was history.

Interesting, eh?

BTW: There's some nice books about Vreeland, but the one essential thing to see is the documentary film: "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Most animation cartoonists who come to Theory Corner probably aren't interested in fashion illustration, I guess because animation is acting intensive and requires an emphasis on simpler color. That's understandable, but I'd argue that a study of that medium, fashion I mean, is still useful for our trade, regardless of whether what we do ends up being on the screen or not. It's simply a good training ground for a certain kind of color and line. Of course I'm a guy so I'd choose more masculine subject matter.

It's a style that encourages doodling in color, as in these Christian Lacroix sketches.

Lacroix was one of the creators of the Cindi Lauper style in the 80s. 

His sketches are reproduced in a few books.  They'd make great Christmas gifts for artists. 

Here's (above) a page from a Lacroix swatch book. I like the color combinations.

Swatch books never turn up in book stores. They're handed down from one artist to another.

I did a search for Lacroix posters but I didn't turn up anything first rate. To judge from pictures on the net, the posters he puts on his own walls are colorful prints from other media. 

That's all I have to say about Lacroix, but I'll add that my hits have diminished in the last couple of weeks, maybe because people are focused on the holiday. That's okay, so am I. I think I'll take this opportunity to post on a reduced schedule for a couple of weeks. I'll be back on a full schedule soon after Christmas. 


Wednesday, August 26, 2015


I know nothing about the fashion business but I know a little about one of the big designers because there's so many books about him. I'm talking about Christian Lacroix (above). He's evidently in love with color and the walls of his studio are covered with gouache sketches, art books and exotic fabric samples.
It's easy to see that Lacroix isn't just the owner of his studio, he's its chief morale officer.  The ubiquity of his work says to workers and visitors alike that this is a studio dominated by artists. If you're not an artist yourself you'll feel intimidated and out of place there, like you have two left feet. It's a scary environment for nonartists and that's the way it should be.

An artist's environment should make an outsider feel he's in a gypsy camp, full of exotic sights and sounds. It should be a world apart.

I wish art schools were like that. You'd think that art schools would set the tone for cool, artsy work environments, but they seldom do. An art school that can afford it will generally opt for the austere "angular minimalist" look (above). It's an architect's environment, not an artist's.

Schools probably have to do makes parents and regulators feel good and you can't disregard people like that. Some schools solve the problem by keeping the minimalist lobby...

...but nurturing a rats nest of filthy, cozy artist environments on other floors.

The horrible truth is that creative artists sometimes prefer crummy, isolated environments. Maybe that allows them to tune out distractions and focus entirely on their work.

If you're a digital artist there's half a chance that you work in one of those trendy bullpen environments (above), but my guess is that artists don't do their best work in places like that. It doesn't satisfy the need of all artists to rise above the crowd and establish their own identity.

Background painters' work should be present all over the studio. It's good for the morale of the other artists to see it. It's a constant reminder that creativity is expected, that its an artist's job to entertain, surprise and to stimulate the audience's imagination.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Here's what I'm reading now, or rather will read when I finish Mike Barrier's book about Dell comics. I know nothing about the Aztecs but the illustrations in the book are so beautiful and the stories so enticing that I can't help but jump the gun and write about the subject anyway. 

You can't write about the Aztecs without mentioning human sacrifice (above). I'll return to that in a minute.

Just thumbing through the book has convinced me that my old understanding of Aztec architecture was flawed. The shapes of the structures were more varied than I expected.

The Mayan and Aztec cities were sometimes burned to the ground, indicating to me that there were more wooden and stucco structures than modern illustrators have indicated. You see lots of surviving stone building shapes (above) that only make sense if wood were part of the design.

Mayans and Aztecs made beautiful stone walls (above), probably the most beautiful ever seen, but you have to wonder if stone walls of that type were as common as we think. Wooden walls would have been easier to make and embellish. My guess is that elaborate wooden variants of the stone walls were all all over the place in old Aztec cities. They just didn't survive the Spanish conquest.

Amazingly the early Aztecs and Mayans were believers in relatively limited war. The nobles of each side would fight in a public place and the winners determined which side won the war.

BTW, the illustration above is a cheat, inspired by the later Aztecs who fought differently and massacred large numbers of captives. Amazingly we know the name of the man who convinced everyone to do that.

There he is (above). His name was Prince Tlacaelel, a warrior priest and mystic guess...psychopath. The Prince convinced everyone that the god Huitzilopitchli would grant unlimited military success to the Aztecs provided they practiced ever-growing human sacrifices.

Let me digress to marvel at the beautiful clothes worn by well-off Aztecs. Fashion must have been a big deal in that culture. And look at the furniture in the background! It's like something out of "Dr. Caligari."

I wonder if fashion played an indirect part in the Aztec conquests. Aztecs were pretty good at undermining the confidence of their enemies with their sophisticated art and architecture. The Mayans pre-emptively defeated the Toltecs partly by encouraging Toltec tourism to their magnificent and intimidating cities.

BTW: I'll digress for a moment to marvel at the fact that the Aztecs enthusiasm for architecture never made its way into their drawn art. I'm not aware that any culture in the West thought landscapes were worth an artist's time. Maybe the Chinese and Japanese valued it but I'm not aware that anyone else in the ancient world did.

Anyway, thanks to Prince Tlacaelel an enormous number of prisoners of war were sacrificed over the years, so many that when Cortez and the Spanish arrived to plunder, a lot of the local tribes sided with the Spanish against their own ethnicity. The final battle was incomparably brutal, with genocidal atrocities being committed by Cortez's vengeful Indian allies.

If there were lots of beautifully carved wooden structures maybe they wouldn't have survived the conquest. Both the Spanish and their vengeful allies would have had reasons to destroy them. But this is conjecture. A counter argument might be that Mexico didn't have much hard wood.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Traditional animal characters were often naked below the waist. Maybe that's one reason they were so appealing and funny. You wanted to laugh before they even did anything.

Modern designs are sometimes pantsless but they're designed in such a way as to de-emphasize the nudity.

For human characters the obvious way to go is clothes that are either too small or too big. I like the way Curly's jacket fits in this photo.

All my thrift store jackets are deliberately either too small or too big. I wish I could show you a picture of the miniature Uncle Eddie jacket John gave me a long time ago, but I don't have it anymore and I think I'll take a minute to tell you why. It spotlights an age-old wives trick that men need to know about.

It works like this: the wife waits til her husband is busy with something then asks him a few questions that have an obvious "no" answer, questions like: "Are you saving this ball of lint?" "Do want this pencil stub?" "How 'bout his used Kleenex?" She gets a nice litany of automatic "no's" going then casually throws in the important item, in this case: "Do you want to save this ugly old Uncle Eddie jacket?" The first ten times my wife tried this I reacted with horror that she could even think of such a thing, but she persisted and one day when I was seriously distracted I found myself saying, "Huh... oh, yeah...sure...whatever..." and that was the last time I ever saw my jacket. Now I live in fear that my more-precious-than-rubies Wrinkle Jacket will suffer the same fate.

But I digress.

 I like one-of-a-kind outfits myself.

Cartoonists should be fashion leaders, not fashion followers.

I like suit jackets (above) that flare out and stay flared.

What kind of dress shirt? One way to go is bulky one-size-fits-all shirts that always look ironed and new, like they just came out of the wrapper.
A certain kind of character should tuck in his shirt even though that's not the style now. In real life tucking it in requires constant adjustment and that's a great bit of business for a character with OCD.

Besides, tucked in shirts look great when they're pulled out (above) and allowed to hang loose. They retain their beautiful wrinkles at the shirt's bottom.

BTW, how do you like the crumpled forearm fabric and long cuffs?

Dress shirts come with all sorts of biases. This one is tight at the shoulders and loose everywhere else.

I wish I could have found a picture of a ballooning "parachute" backed tuck-in but, Alas!, it was not meant to be. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


Fashion has been funny for at least four decades and it shows no sign of abating. The big trend in recent times is clothes that fit but don't don't fit.  Here the model wears a tailored version of the kind of felt costumes that puppets wore in TV shows like "Fireball XL-5." Maybe there's a hint of anime in it, too.

Stiff bras are funny and for that reason I predict their return. They'll keep their shape even when the girl reclines, with the result that girls will recline more often.

Nerds are everywhere nowadays and they've influenced fashion. Girls usually combine the nerd look with other things. This girl (above) starts with nerd but uses tattoos for a hipster accent and bare feet for a touch of hippy.

Here's (above) an interesting picture. It has nothing to do with what the girl is wearing, it's about the pose she's taken. She's deliberately emphasizing the line of her jaw and of the back of her neck, something only professional photographers used to do.

I'm guessing that came about because of the latest trends in bathroom design. Modern bathrooms have two large mirrors, one in front, and one in back. The result of that is that a greater number of people than ever before have an awareness of what they look like from the back and side.  That's bound to effect fashion and even the type of poses people strike in public.

   In my opinion the muscular look for women will soon go out of fashion, but that's probably just wishfull thinking.