European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Fashion & History

Illustrating True Chic: Constance Wibaut

1950s1960scouturefashion illustration

The fashion illustrator who thought the hardest part of her job was ‘how to get “chic” on paper.’

Constance Wibaut studied sculpture at the Nieuwe Kunstschool and at the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. She 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. 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.

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 and fashion houses of the 1950s and 1960s, including Pierre Cardin, Cristobal Balenciaga and, above all, 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 GemeenteMuseum den Haag.

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.