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Ann Poulson

Fashion illustration is a work of visual art, usually in the medium of drawing, print or watercolour painting, reproduced and published in order to disseminate fashion news (see figs 1 and 2). Before the 1670s, the dissemination of fashion depended on portraits of fashion leaders, such as van Dyck’s portraits of the members of the court of King Charles I of England, reproduced by means of engraved prints. These engraved prints were the forerunners to the fashion plate in both technique and style (see also Fashion plate and costume book. The fashion plate, which usually showed the full figure, often including a back view, was created solely to illustrate and promote the latest fashions. By the middle of the 17th century, certain artists, such as Abraham Bosse in France and Wenceslaus Hollar in England, specialized in these types of engravings.

The first fashion journal, Le Mercure Galant, combined fashion plates with descriptive text. It was published sporadically from ...