Growing up in rural Wisconsin, Ilene Robinette loved her Barbie dolls. “I especially adored the inside catalog small illustrations I found packaged with Barbie’s outfits. I wanted her glamorous city life, too, which was a far cry from my little girl life in Wisconsin!”
By age 10, Ilene knew she wanted a career as a fashion illustrator. Always drawing women figures and models, at age 18, she chose the Ray Vogue Art School in Chicago, where she learned to draw fashion. After graduation, in the mid-1970s Ilene worked in department store retail advertising in the Chicago Loop. “It was a good place to start as I got to draw all fashion ads.” Next in 1974, she landed a fashion illustrator position at Chas A. Stevens & Sons, a well-known women’s clothing store. “My ads were featured in the Chicago Tribune, various magazines and other publications. It was a big deal for me, and I loved that job.” As an apprentice illustrator she drew from models. Ilene also gained expertise with art forms other illustrators had no desire to draw. “I drew accessories such as jewelry, shoes, scarves, cosmetic bottles and sunglasses, so I became good at that, too!” This led her to becoming head illustrator. She worked until 1981 in Stevens visual merchandising department and fashion office developing the right “look and attitude” for garments and ads.