With so much emphasis on costume or cos play associated with media conventions whenever coverage is given on the Internet, I thought it might be useful to review and point out some books that might help those of you who might want to take the first steps or for those who just want to learn more. I should point out that there are a lot of books to choose from so treat as a starting point not as an absolute guide.
Being able to draw and design has to be on your list somewhere. ‘How To Draw & Paint Fashion & Costume Design’ should give you the basics of model drawing. After all, you can’t rely just on photographs, if you’re basing it on a fictional character, because you’re unlikely to see it from all angles. If you can draw conventional fashions, then jumping to something more like you need.
This book first examines the 1920s fashion models and this is the first time I’ve really seen the late Walter Foster himself showing how it’s done. It might seem an early place to start but understanding how clothes flow and crease should make you aware of not making clothes impossibly tight. This book covers early fashion design so don’t expect anything too modern. Getting the basics right will prepare you for anything exotic together with a small history of how fashion design has changed over the years.
In the introductory chapter, describing the materials you need, there is reference to the types of paper used. From early experience, it’s very easy to waste paper in sketching but don’t use too poor a quality of paper. I drew a sketch recently on cheaper paper recently and when I scanned it in, the paper’s shine reflected light where I darkened the paper too much. Quality cartridge paper shouldn’t give that problem. Fortunately. You’re less likely to go totally dark with fashion drawing but it would be a bind it you do a good sketch but the paper isn’t much good to colour on.
After a few chapters of Foster’s work, there are chapters by Viola French exploring 50s-60s fashion with a final chapter by Marilyn Sotto looking at period clothing. Considering how many cos play’s are based on period design, I suspect these chapters will be important to many of you.
When drawing, the fashion model is a lot taller than the standard traditional figure. As pointed out here, from the 1920s a female figure was 7.25-8 heads tall and a couple decades later 8-8.25 heads tall. It’s up to 10 heads today. The change in design is more to do with showing off the clothes. Once you’re happy with a particular look, then you can work on making the patterns to your particular dimensions.
If you can draw already, adjusting to fashion drawing just means adding a bit more length to the body and especially the legs and a smaller bust. Don’t underestimate the ability to draw fashion design, even for period clothing, because a lot of fantasy and SF shows over appear in such eras and knowing how to get them draw right and the detail needed will help clarify what you’re after when seeking materials and accessories. Showing what you’re after can shop assistants far more than trying to describe what you’re after. Pictures do speak louder than words after all.
The final chapter by Marilyn Sotto looks at period clothing and when you consider so many alien costumes are based on these templates should get a gleam in some of your eyes. The important thing to remember is if you can understand and drawing early fashions then the move to something exotic will be a lot easier. This book shows how to place clothes on the figure and if placing a hat on the head has puzzled you, then seeing some of the techniques used should make it easier to master.
One advantage of the Walter Foster books is that they are at a reasonable price so you aren’t going to burn your budget in getting some tips and ideas. Although I’m a traditional artist, I have learnt a few lessons from this book and it’s a good place to test if you have a feel for drawing what you want to do.
(pub: Walter Foster Publishing/Quarto. 128 page very large softcover. Price: £12.99 (UK), $19.95 (US), $21.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-60058-246-2)