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Ooh, la la: Denver art exhibit illustrates history of glamorous fashion trends

It was Degas that persuaded me to take a quick side trip to the Denver Art Museum before my flight home, but it was the Drawn to Glamour exhibit that had me saying Ooh, la la.

The museum is featuring (until July 22) more than 100 illustrations of the iconic fashion illustrator Jim Howard, a well-known Denver resident, who got his start in fashion with Neiman Marcus in the 1950s.

I’m not exactly a museum patron – I walk through one very fast – and I’m certainly no fashion maven. Nonetheless, I do love to learn, and like many people, I’m drawn to glamour.

Mr. Howard, who is now in his 80s and creating a new book on fashion paper dolls, was born in the Texas Panhandle to a railroad worker and homemaker. Fashion illustration became a way to live out his passion for drawing.

Fashion soon became a co-passion that saw him through four decades until the 1980s when photography overtook illustration in advertising.

The museum exhibit leads a viewer through the evolution of fashion trends as well as how fashion was communicated. Mr. Howard’s illustrations captivated me through his storytelling techniques.

In his drawings, the sophisticated models are captured in settings that range from the exotic to the glamourous. I got lost in my own thoughts as I imagined a storyline for each grouping.

“He liked to play with subtext and make you wonder what the people were doing,” said fashion and textile curator Florence Müller in an interview with The Know.

Mr. Howard illustrated for such fashion houses as Dior, Oscar de la Renta, and Yves Saint Laurent. You can learn more about the man and his work in this article and in the museum’s video for the exhibit.

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You can see a collection of Mr. Howard’s fashion illustrations and paper dolls in a series of books he published, which are available on Amazon.

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