Ladies fashions on postcards
  • The bold beauty of African-designed fashions
  • Vintage illustrations clipped from magazines, Part I
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    Auction Finds

    Newspaper-ad illustrations of women’s fashions

    The papers had the dingy look of age, throwaways that someone no longer wanted. I could see that even before I got to the stacked sheets at the end of the auction table. But as I approached them, I saw that they showed drawings that looked far better than the papers that held them. 

    The black and white drawing on top showed three women with tight waists wearing full flowing dresses, puffed no doubt by petticoats. Peeking from beneath the sheet, I could see parts of other articles of clothing. 

    I slid the first sheet from the top and saw another drawing and then another and then another. The papers bore original designs of shoes, hats, lengthy fur coats worn by elegant women in stylized poses. I suspected that they were newspaper-ad illustrations for long-gone department stores.

    Newspaper- ad illustration of women's fashion.

    Newspaper-ad illustration of women’s fashions with fitted waists and full skirts.

    There was a time when ad departments in newspapers had illustrators on staff who created works of art from clothes and other merchandise waiting to be sold at department stores. Some stores presumably had their own staff of illustrators.

    Only two of the illustrations on the auction table gave me a hint of their origin. At the top of one was handwritten “Strawbridge Clothier,” a major department store in Philadelphia that no longer exists. Another was signed Patsi Littlejohn, and another simply Patsi. These original drawings looked to be from the 1940s and 1950s.

    This was not the first time I’d come across newspaper fashion illustrations at auction. Some years ago, another auction house offered a grouping of them. Another time, the same auction house sold a lot of non-newspaper advertising art that featured African American images.

    Newspaper- ad illustration of women's fashion.

    Newspaper-ad illustration of women’s fashions for a fancy night out.

    But these current illustrations were perhaps the loveliest (even though a lot of folks were not living the life they were advertising), and this lot was much larger. I was enamored just as much with the clothes as the history of the illustrations. I was not the only one. When the illustrations came up for bids, a number of auction-goers were both hovering and bidding.

    Here’s a sample of what enticed us all:

    Newspaper- ad illustration of women's fashion.

    Newspaper-ad illustration of women’s fashion furs.

    Newspaper- ad illustration of women's fashion.

    Women’s fashions for various occasions.

    Newspaper- ad illustration of women's fashion.

    Illustrated fashions for the earlobes.

    Newspaper- ad illustration of women's fashion.

    An array of fashion designs, including hats and gloves.

    Newspaper- ad illustration of women's fashion.

    Lovely accessories, including strap shoes and evening gloves.

    Newspaper- ad illustration of women's fashion.

    Fashions for a masked ball.

    Newspaper- ad illustration of women's fashion.

    Fashions plus accessories for a Strawbridge & Clothier department store ad.

    Newspaper- ad illustration of women's fashion.

    Illustrated fashions for both mother and son.

    Newspaper- ad illustration of women's fashion.

    Fashions for the smartly dressed woman.

    Newspaper- ad illustration of women's fashion.

    Fashions for the head, from simple to oversized.

    Newspaper- ad illustration of women's fashion.

    A layered dress for the bride.

    newspaper illustration women's fashion

    A full coat and a slim dress, signed Patsi.

     

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