Alberto Giacometti’s Influence in the Fashion World

We’ve all seen images like this…

Burberry 2010

The elongated legs, stretched out and thinned out limbs – it seems to be the norm for fashion drawings. In fact, even beginner fashion drawing classes teach you to draw your models in this elongated method.

Guide to drawing fashion illustrations

Sure, models are generally tall and wispy, but these drawings couldn’t possibly be representative of what an actual person would look wearing the clothes. From waist to toe, the legs account for nearly 70% of the body; looks glamorous on paper, but as someone with a 35″ inseam who already has to order their jeans online, legs this long and thin would be far from desirable.

So where did this idea come from?

Meet Alberto Giacometti, a Swiss sculptor, painter, draughtsman and printmaker who lived from 1901-1966. You may recognize some of his sculptures…

L’Homme qui marche 1, 1961

Look familiar? So what influenced this haunting style of figuration? Alberto Giacometti stated:

“Life size figures irritate me, after all because a person passing on the street has no weight; in any case he’s much lighter than the person when he’s dead or has fainted. He keeps his balance with his legs. You don’t feel your weight. I wanted – without having thought about it – to reproduce this lightness, and that by making the body so thin.”

Interesting how the concept in Giacometti’s sculptures was to symbolize lifelessness – but the fashion illustrations we see nowadays symbolize the exact opposite. Melo Pennington, a makeup artist in the fashion industry who has been surrounded by this “thin” culture, has come to realize that “thinness” is equated with youthfulness, self control and wealth. Strange how two depictions of the human figure (Giacometti’s statues and fashion illustrations) symbolize extremely opposite characteristics.

But elongated fashion illustrations are nothing new. If we refer back to the Erte fashion era (1915-1936) we see similar depictions of the human form.

Erte era fashion illustrations

The illustrations above are elongated certainly, but nearly thinned out to the same extremes as illustrations we see today.

A blogger on states:

“Illustration is where one gets to suspend the rules of reality and play in a world of shapes, imagination and fantasy.”….”The power of illustration lies in the sheer imagination of it all — the ability to create characters, set a mood and establish an atmosphere”  (Link:

A valid point. Art is art. The artist can do whatever they want to skew reality, convey an idea or express an emotion. I suppose the real issue now lies in how this extremely thin and elongated depiction of the human form went from portraying lifelessness, to conveying youthfulness, self control and wealth?


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