The Curious World of Vicarious Fashion

1869 Fashion Plate

Many of the clients we’ve been working with lately have worked cool clothes into their commissions. We love the idea of living out one’s fashion fantasies through art, and decided to see if this has ever been done in the past.

Sure, plenty of wealthy art patrons had themselves painted in their expensive clothes, but even more people lived out fantasies about clothing and costumes they could never afford by commissioning and buying small artistic replicas.

Four of our favorite examples include:

  1. Portraits: For hundreds of years, those with constrained budgets have daydreamed about wearing the fashions they see worn by nobles and royalty in formal portraits.
  2. Fashion plates: These illustrations, which first emerged in the 1700s and reached their height in the 1800s, were often distributed as prints or within ladies’ periodicals. They enabled women to see the latest fashions at a very low cost.
  3. Fashion dolls: Dolls wearing miniature versions of expensive dresses used to be put on tour (one of Marie Antoinette’s dressmakers was known for touring with wagons featuring dolls sporting the latest designs) and sent from dressmaker to dressmaker. These dolls enabled pros and onlookers alike to enjoy gorgeous dresses without requiring their makers and owners to drop huge sums of money on expensive cloth.
  4. Porcelain figurines: Many of history’s budget-savvy fashionistas used to also collect miniature porcelain figures sporting beautiful clothes- different from porcelain dolls, which mostly became toys for children over time, these figurines remained objects mostly adults collected (and still do collect to this day).

I wrote more about these examples on HuffPo.

What has your experience with vicarious fashion been? Are you a sucker for gorgeous clothes in illustrations? Have you ever commissioned yourself or a character wearing some cool duds? Or as an artist, has a client ever made specific requests with regard to clothing? Tell us what your experience has been! Tweet at @ArtCorgi or tell us about it on Facebook and tumblr.