Fadeaway Girls

The Fadeaway Girls invented by Coles Phillips are so beautiful that I wanted to take advantage of the website to show them to readers. Phillips got his big break as a popular artist when he was asked to fill in for Charles Dana Gibson at Life while Gibson was attending an art school in France. Phillips did not want to become just another Gibson “wannabe,” so he tried to think of some new graphic treatment that would make his own work distinctive. One night at a party, he noticed the way a friend’s tuxedo faded into the night, producing an intriguing visual effect. Using this idea, he invented the Fadeaway Girl. The first of these is reprinted in Fresh Lipstick. However, many of the others are quite beautiful, making interesting use of solid color as a background. There are five of these shown here, all of them originally magazine covers.

Soon, advertisers wanted the Fadeaway Girl, too.

Phillips did use the technique to represent men as well. However, another artist used the technique for another famous graphic character: J. C. Leyenderdecker’s Arrow Man, the Gibson Man’s biggest rival, was often shown in a “fadeout” tuxedo, much as in Phillips’ original inspiration.

Phillips was also involved in the controversy over nudity at this time. As in many other images created by other artists (like Maxfield Parrish), Phillips created some nudes that were innocent—even spiritual—as in this poster.


However, he was also involved in pushing the boundaries of prudery a bit, too. His Holeproof Hosiery ads were some of the most provocative of the time, though they seem very unthreatening and quite beautiful now.

A painting for Unguentine at first pictured the new, more revealing swimsuits of the Jazz Age, but the advertiser was uncomfortable, so the final ad ran with a leg covered by a few more inches of fabric.

Such millimeters of discretion have haunted representations of nudity throughout American graphic history.