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Fine Art of Fashion Illustration

Fashion nostalgia is big business. The recent announcement of Vogue 100: A Century of Style –next year’s major photographic expo at the National Portrait Gallery – proves it. As does the V&A’s current flurry of fashion exhibitions, all delving into the sartorial choices of our stylish past. With last week’s LFW a mere memory of front-row fabulousness, you might think we’d be fashioned out, but no. This week sees the publication of one big, beautiful, and seriously stylish tome: The Fine Art of Fashion Illustration by Julian Robinson. Now a respected art form in its own right, fashion illustration goes beyond the work of a designer simply sketching out his or her ideas before bringing them to life on the catwalk – this book covers more than 400 years of fashion image making, taking us from Albrecht Dürer and the Renaissance, to the glamorous world of Dior and the end of the Second World War, when photography, of course, took over.

What’s particularly interesting is the way the book documents not only our changing styles, but also the social shifts behind the garments – each capturing the times, through colonisation, industrial expansion, revolution, and war, right up to the mid-twentieth century. As history lessons go, it’s got us gripped. And with over 300 colour illustrations – many rare and obscure since their original publication – it’s well worth a flick through for the images alone. Every fashionable coffee table should have one.

£35, published 24 September, Frances Lincoln (