The Ladies’ Paradise

Exploring the creation of consumer desire in early 20th century British fashion. The Ladies Paradise is an exhibition featuring illustrations by commercial artist, Ida Pritchard, alongside costume and accessories of the period, from the collections.

Edwardian department-store fashion viewed through the illustrations of artist Ida Pritchard (1889-1948).

This selection of fashion drawings are the work of Ida Pritchard, who was employed as a fashion illustrator by the London department store Peter Robinson’s of Oxford Street, c.1906-1914. The archive of her drawings was donated to Worthing Museum and Art Gallery by her family in 1993. Despite not receiving any further artistic training after leaving school, Ida worked for years as a commercial artist, producing images for advertisements which appeared in fashionable publications such as The Queen and The Ladies’ Field.

They provide a valuable glimpse into the working life of a female commercial artist in the period just before the First World War, which was the heyday of the West End department store. We know, for example, that Ida and her colleagues worked with live models. Frequently the subjects modelled in the large shop windows, wearing the latest fashions, while the illustrators sat in the windows and sketched them, drawing large crowds on the busy pavements outside.

Ida’s drawings skilfully capture the exaggerated characteristics of the feminine ideal of the 1900s and early 1910s, from the dramatically corseted “S” bend silhouette to the high-waist, tubular Empire line that challenged the hourglass style. The opulence of the Edwardian era, the layers of lace, feathers and furs are delicately modelled in a largely monochrome palette. Displayed alongside the fashion plates is a selection of dress from the museum collection, c.1900-1914, including pieces from Peter Robinson and other London department stores.