Two Ultra-Quick Tips For Learning How To Draw Any 20th Century Fashions

2017 Artwork 20th Century fashions article sketch

Well, I’d planned to make another instructional article like this one about drawing 1990s fashions, but I couldn’t decide which decade to focus on. So, instead, I thought that I’d talk about how to learn how to draw fashions from any decade (of the 20th century).

1) The Basics: Take look at this simplified chart (which I made in MS Paint in about 10-15 minutes) that shows you the basic shapes of many common types of clothing. Most vintage clothing from the 20th century will usually be a variation on one or more of these things. There wasn’t enough room for hats, but these old drawing guides (here and here ) might come in handy if you want to draw hats too.

So, copy the pictures in the diagram from sight alone – paying attention to which lines are straight and which ones are curved – until you can do it without thinking about it:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE]. Here are the basic shapes of a lot of elements of 20th century clothing, but thinking about it, the sleeves on the shirts should probably be slightly longer.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE]. Here are the basic shapes of a lot of elements of 20th century clothing, but thinking about it, the sleeves on the shirts should probably be slightly longer.

Remember, most types of clothes that you want to draw will just be a variation of one or two of the things in the chart. Likewise, if you want to learn how to draw slightly more realistic clothes, then this old article might come in handy, as well as any other guides that you can probably find online with a quick search.

2) Look at lots of pictures: Firstly, open a search engine and do an image search for either a decade’s fashions as a whole, or a specific fashion (eg: “1990s fashions” or “1980s power suit”). The trick here isn’t to mindlessly copy one particular picture (depending on how detailed/specific the design is, it might even be considered plagiarism to do this) but to look at as many different pictures of a general type of fashion or clothing as possible until you have an understanding of how it “works”.

This is a bit tricky to explain, but it includes things like knowing which general clothing types were popular in a particular decade, what colour schemes were common in clothing from a particular decade, knowing which clothing combinations were popular, learning which other clothes go well with a particular item of clothing, knowing which types of patterned fabrics were popular etc…

Once you’ve done this, you should then be able to come up with original and/or generic designs based on the general facts that you’ve learnt from looking at lots of different pictures of the same type of fashion. Either that, or if a generic type of clothing was popular in a particular decade, then work out how to draw it by experimenting with altering the outlines in the chart above.

For example, here’s a reduced-size preview of a 1970s-style sci-fi painting that will be posted here in April. For the fashion design in this painting, I used a slightly timeless formal outfit, but with the 1970s look achieved through the use of a slightly gloomy and muted light brown, dark brown, black, grey and blue colour scheme:

This is a reduced-size preview of a painting that will appear here in mid-late April. As you can see, I’ve used a fairly gloomy and muted colour palette, which is contrasted with parts of the background.

So, yes, learning a lot about the general features of a particular type of clothing and/or historical fashion can help you to work out how to create new examples of it in your own art.


Sorry for the ludicrously short and basic article, but I hope it was useful 🙂