In Fashion with Al Parker

Today would have been Al Parker’s 108th birthday.  When we think of Al Parker, we think of an innovative and experimental illustrator who took the magazine illustration world by storm during the 1940s.  He would become one of the most popular and in-demand illustrators for magazine fiction.

However, it didn’t start out that way.

Alparker_06_lhj_193312_004from Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1933

After graduating from the St. Louis School of Fine Arts at Washington University, Parker remained in St. Louis (he would eventually move to New York in 1936).  After getting exposure for his House Beautiful contest cover, which won honorable mention in 1930, Parker focused on getting assignments from the east coast publishers.   He sketched his wife’s head in color pencil and sent that sketch plus two other head sketches to an artist’s representative in New York.

Ladies’ Home Journal ended up buying Parker’s drawings.  The editors of Ladies’ Home Journal liked Parker’s unique style, but felt it would not work for fiction illustration, which was still drawn in a realistic, very heavily rendered style.  Instead, the editors decided to use Parker for fashion articles.

Alparker_06_lhj_193407_481from Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1934

His illustrations in the 1930s could be found in fashion advice articles.  These articles would advise women how they should properly dress for a formal evening or how they could have have a fashionable wedding.

Alparker_06_lhj_193406_219
from Ladies’ Home Journal, June 1934

Parker would be sent clothing and accessories for his models to wear at his St. Louis studio. His illustration assigments included fashion patterns that women could sew at home …

Alparker_06_lhj_193607_185
from Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936

Or knit at home …

Alparker_06_lhj_193404_497
from Ladies’ Home Journal, April 1934

Several of Parker’s fashion illustrations were for robes and negligees.

Alparker_06_lhj_193401_498
from Ladies’ Home Journal, January 1934

Parker drew for non-clothing fashion articles as well.  His modern drawings of faces fit right in for an article on wearing makeup just like Hollywood actresses.

Alparker_06_lhj_193403_499
from Ladies’ Home Journal, March 1934

Parker also began drawing covers for Ladies’ Home Journal, while still illustrating fashion articles.

Alparker_06_lhj_193406_180
from Ladies’ Home Journal, June 1934

In 1934, Parker got his first fiction assignment from Woman’s Home Companion.  Eventually the other leading magazines were also offering him fiction assignments, including American, Collier’s, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, McCall’s, and Ladies’ Home Journal.

Alparker_06_lhj_193712_205
from Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1937

So celebrate Al Parker’s birthday in fashion … with his early fashion illustrations.

Credits

The images are from the Al Parker Collection.

Information about Al Parker is from:

Al Parker Collection, 1933-1985.  Norman Rockwell Museum, 2011.

About the author

Andrea Degener is the Visual Materials Processing Archivist in the department of Special Collections at Washington University Libraries.