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Constance Wibaut

The Dutch fashion illustrator Constance Wibaut (1920 – 2014) once said that the hardest part in fashion drawing is ‘how to get chic on paper’.

In an interview filmed for the exhibition ‘Modepalezein in Amsterdam: 1880-1960’ held at Amsterdam Museum in 2007, she talked about her practice, explaining what she learned during her career (you can view the interview here). Constance Wibaut, who studied sculpture at the Nieuwe Kunstschool and at the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, moved to New York with her husband just after the Second World War. There, In 1946, she found a job as fashion illustrator for the magazine Women’s Wear Daily.

Fashion illustration by Constance Wibaut, 1955. Courtesy Gemeentemuseum den Haag via Modemuze, all rights reserved.

Fashion illustration by Constance Wibaut, 1955. Courtesy Gemeentemuseum den Haag via Modemuze, all rights reserved.

At WWD she developed her signature style, drawing ready-to-wear clothes on a hanger for the magazine. The need to be precise and to include all the details, from the buttons to the stitchings – as they were important for sales – would have influenced her future illustrations, which were characterised by elegance and easy legibility.

Three evening ensembles by Dior in a fashion illustration by Constance Wibaut, 1956. Courtesy Gemeentemuseum den Haag via Modemuze, all rights reserved.

Three evening ensembles by Dior in a fashion illustration by Constance Wibaut, 1956. Courtesy Gemeentemuseum den Haag via Modemuze, all rights reserved.

In 1953, Wibaut moved back to her native Amsterdam and started working as fashion illustrator for Elsevier Weekblad, later becoming fashion editor of the same publication. In Europe, Wibaut illustrated the creations of many of the greatest couturiers of the 1950s and 1960s, including Pierre Cardin, Cristobal Balenciaga and Christian Dior. Many of these drawings and illustrations, often sketched in the designers’ ateliers right after the shows, are now collected in the archive of Gemeente Museum den Haag and are part of Europeana Fashion collection.

Chanel, Dior, Jacques Fath and Madeleine de Rauch in a fashion illustration by Constance Wibaut, 1956-57. Courtesy Gemeentemuseum den Haag via Modemuze, all rights reserved.

Chanel, Dior, Jacques Fath and Madeleine de Rauch in a fashion illustration by Constance Wibaut, 1956-57. Courtesy Gemeentemuseum den Haag via Modemuze, all rights reserved.

In addition to her work as fashion illustrator, she designed costume designs for various plays and television shows and, from 1960 to 1967 she had been ‘Conseilliere de Mode’ for the Dutch Economic Association of Garment Manufacturers and delegate to the ‘Association Internationale des Industries du Vetement Feminin in Paris’. Since the 1950s, she taught fashion illustration in Universities and academies in the USA and the Netherlands and gave lectures on Costume History, Costume Drawing and Stage Design; she worked as lecturer until 1985, when she left fashion to focus on sculpture.

Browse the Europeana Fashion collection to find many of her illustrations depicting creations by Christian Dior, Cristobal Baleciaga, Nina Ricci and Pierre Cardin, to get a unique insight of a feminine point of view in the golden age of Couture.

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