Drawn to Fashion: Illustrations by Mary Mitchell

Drawn to Fashion: Illustrations by Mary Mitchell

Mary Mitchell had a successful career as a fashion illustrator during the 1960’s through 1980’s. Trained in Buffalo, New York as a fashion illustrator, she worked her way up the career ladder, eventually landing her first big job creating illustrations for department store newspaper advertisements, both in Buffalo and later in Omaha, Nebraska.

At this time, the newspaper fashion illustrator’s techniques centered on the use of black and white media. Ms. Mitchell excelled in two methods popular at that time. The first technique used an India ink and water mix, painted with brush or quill pen on watercolor paper. The other method used a 935 pencil on a well textured paper stock. These methods were able to create the fine details required by the media. Newspaper print tends to blur and fuse mid-tones. Black and white illustrations can appear more detailed than most photos.

As an illustrator, Mary was able to capture the mood of the garment, infusing drama and movement into the layout. She worked with her retail clients to capture their target customer: her preferences, style and mood. These advertisements were then used to entice that customer into the stores to buy that item. It was possible to directly see results from a successful advertisement with a well planned fashion illustration.

In the 1980’s, after most stores had made the transition into using photos for their advertising, fashion illustrations were phased out of this industry. Mary has kept her free lance illustrations in storage since that time. With over 1,000 illustrations, it has become a valuable resource for not only illustration itself, but for fashion styles and trends from those eras of the past.

The Durham Museum in Omaha, Nebraska has created both an exhibition and a fully illustrated book on the fashion illustrations of Mary Mitchell. “Drawn to Fashion” showcases 150 of her illustrations, along with selected designer fashions from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Dept. of Textile, Clothing and Design. This exhibition will be shown through May 27, 2012. The book is available online. A diverse website supports this exhibition with many illustrations and a video that is worth seeing.

Read more about Mary Mitchell and the exhibition HERE

"Drawn to Fashion", the book can be found HERE

Video interview and examples of her work, HERE

The Durham Museum website on this exhibition is HERE and it includes a slide show.

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