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Guide to the Donald Brooks papers, 1957-2003

Collection Overview

Repository

Kellen Design Archives

Collection Identifier

KA.0006

Creator

Brooks, Donald, 1928-

Title

Donald Brooks papers, 1957-2003

Extent

14 linear ft: 5 boxes, 6 oversize boxes, 6 rolled drawings

Summary

Donald Brooks (1928-2005) was a prominent American fashion designer who, in addition to creating ready-to-wear collections and custom apparel, designed costumes for film, television, and theater. He taught at Parsons School of Design for approximately forty years. The collection includes photographs, publicity materials, and original fashion and costume design sketches.

Preferred Citation note

[Identification of item], [date (if known)], Donald Brooks papers, KA.0006, box __, folder __, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

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Biographical note

Donald Brooks was born in 1928 and raised in Cheshire, Connecticut. Prior to enrolling at Parsons School of Design in 1949, he studied fine arts at Syracuse University and at the Yale School School of Drama. In 1974, he received a Parsons Medal for distinguished achievement and an honorary doctorate in 1985.

Following his education at Parsons, Brooks worked as a window dresser for Lord & Taylor, where Dorothy Shaver encouraged him in his fashion design career. In 1958, following the death of Claire McCardell (KA.0082), Brooks began designing for Townley Frocks. He launched his own label in 1965. Brooks became known for designing bold and colorful fabrics for his collections. He was a three-time Coty American Fashion Critics' Award recipient and a two-time National Cotton Award winner. He was a founding member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, along with Norman Norell (KA.0035), whom Brooks considered a primary inspiration and influence. Beginning in the mid-1980s, Brooks began closing his fashion design business to concentrate on teaching and philanthropic work.

Brooks began pursuing his interest in costume design during the 1960s. Over the next three decades, he designed extensively for film, television, and the stage. Many of the productions Brooks worked on involved historically-inspired costumes, which required extensive research. His designs for The Cardinal (1963),  Star! (1968), and  Darling Lili (1970) earned him Oscar nominations. His costumes for Diahann Carroll in  No Strings, his first Broadway production, received the New York Drama Critics award for Best Costume Design in 1963. Brooks received an Emmy for Costume Design in recognition of his costumes for Lee Remick in  The Letter (1982). Other actresses costumed by Brooks include Julie Andrews, Carol Burnett, Carol Channing, Mia Farrow, Ethel Merman, Liza Minelli, Jane Powell, Shelly Winters, and Joanne Woodward. In 1992, he was elected to the Tony Awards Nominating Committee.

Brooks was a visiting lecturer-critic at Parsons School of Design for forty years. Two years prior to his death in 2005, Parsons sponsored an exhibition centered around his fashion design career. An online component to the exhibition can be accessed at: http://www.stardesigners.com/exhibit/dbdfas/index.html

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Scope and Contents of Collection

The Donald Brooks papers include clippings, photographs, tear sheets, sketches (original pencil and watercolor sketches, and reproductions), and ephemera, such as souvenir books, relating to Brooks' work as a fashion and costume designer. The bulk of the materials represent Brooks' costume design career, encompassing film, television, and the stage, and spanning the 1960s through the 1980s. It should be noted that the collection represents a fraction of Brooks' costume design work. Most productions are represented here by 1-8 sketches, where Brooks was often responsible for hundreds of designs for a single production. Included here are costumes representing nine motion picture productions, five television programs, and 23 theatrical productions. The collection does not include materials from every production for which Brooks served as costume designer. While all film productions are represented, costume designs for approximately four television productions and six theatrical productions are absent.

The papers are of a professional nature and contain no personal materials. Professional photographs feature Brooks at fashion shows and celebrity events. There are few sketches from Brooks's fashion design career, which is primarily represented through clippings, tear sheets, and other publicity-related printed materials. Brooks' fashion design sketches are notable for featuring women of color.

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Organization and Arrangement

Organized in 3 series.

  1. Biographical materials, 1959-2003
  2. Costume design, 1959-1987
  3. Fashion design, 1960s-1990

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Kellen Design Archives - 2010

66 5th Ave./
lobby level
New York, NY, 10011
212.229.5942
archivist@newschool.edu

Preferred Citation note

[Identification of item], [date (if known)], Donald Brooks papers, KA.0006, box __, folder __, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open for research use. Please contact archivist@newschool.edu for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Donated by Gerald H. Blum, 2008. A second set of fashion design drawings and reproductions of costume design drawings for Star! (1968) were transferred to the Archives by the Parsons' School of Fashion in 2013.

Processing Information note

Materials have sustained water damage, resulting in discoloration of some sketches.

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Related Materials

Documentation of Donald Brooks's role as instructor and mentor to young designers will be found in the New School Archives' Parsons School of Design Fashion Design Department records (pre-2008 accessions) (PC.02.02.01), Student work series. The Fashion Design Department records contain examples of student work critiqued by Brooks as well as sketches of apparel designed by students for his course, Concepts in Fashion Design. Photographs and slides of Brooks teaching at Parsons will be found in the Parsons School of Design photograph collection (pre-2008 accessions) (PC.04.01.01) in the New School Archives.

Publicity for Donald Brooks's 1968 ready-to-wear collection, inspired by the film Star!, is found in the Saks Fifth Avenue fashion publicity records (KA.0018).

A group portrait of young fashion designers, including Donald Brooks, will be found in the John Weitz papers (KA.0047).

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Keywords for Searching Related Subjects

Genre(s)

  • Clippings (information artifacts).
  • Fashion photographs.
  • Sketches.
  • Tear sheets.

Occupation(s)

  • Costume designers.
  • Fashion designers.

Subject(s)

  • Clothing trade -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Costume design.
  • Fashion design.
  • Theater -- New York (State) -- New York -- 20th century.

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Other Finding Aids note

For selected item-level description and images from the Donald Brooks papers, see The New School Archives Digital Collections at http://digitalarchives.library.newschool.edu/index.php/Detail/collections/KA0006.

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Collection Inventory

Series I. Biographical materials 1959-2003 

Contains materials of a professional nature unrelated to specific costume design commissions or fashion design collections. Biographical materials include curricula vitae, lists of costume design credits, and biographical statements. Clippings contain interviews, feature stories, and columns, primarily from newspapers, in which Brooks is mentioned. For tear sheets and clippings featuring fashion advertising, consult the Fashion design series. The photographs in this series document Brooks at unidentified events related to his career as a fashion designer. Photographs of Brooks posing with actresses wearing his costumes will be found in the Costume design series.

To be added above: Correspondence includes letters from Ethel Merman, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Mayor John V. Lindsay, and Diana Vreeland.

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Box Folder
Biographical materials 1980s 
1 1
Clippings 1959-2001 
1959-1969 
1 2
OSx-1 1
1970s 
OSx-1 2
1981-2001 
OSx-1 3
Correspondence, 1959-1975, undated 
1 3
Exhibition program, 2003 
1 4
Photographs, 1957-1990s 
1 5-6

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Series II. Costume design 1959-1987 

Link to selected images from this series.  

Materials in this series are divided into film, television, and theatrical (primarily Broadway) productions. Within each category, materials are organized by production and arranged alphabetically by title. Materials for productions may include original and color reproductions of costume sketches, promotional stills and photographs (color and black and white), and ephemera, such as souvenir books for motion pictures and theatrical productions. For titles that encompass multiple box sizes, smaller boxes commonly contain photographs and reproductions, while larger box sizes typically contain original sketches, all of which are executed in pencil and watercolors. Some sketches are accompanied by fabric swatches.

Many of the original sketches have sustained water damage and may consequently exhibit warping or discoloration.

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Box Folder

General and events 1962-1979 

Box Folder
General: Slides of costume design drawings and promotional stills, 1962-1979 
1 7
Events: Barbra Streisand's gown for President Lyndon B. Johnson's inaugural gala, 1965 
3 1
Events: Prince Philip Gala: Hats for Lauren Bacall, Betty Comden, and Ethel Merman (possibly 1966)   Sketch [reproduction only].
3 1

Film 1963-1987 

Box Folder
The Bell Jar (1979) 
Photographs 
1 8
3 2
Sketches 
OSx-1 4
Sketches [reproductions only] 
3 2
The Cardinal (1963) 
Promotional stills and sketches [reproductions only] 
3 2
Sketches for Carol Lynley or Romy Schneider's costumes 
OSxx-1 2
Souvenir book 
1 9
Darling Lili (1970)   Promotionals stills and sketches [reproductions only] for Julie Andrews's costumes.
3 3
The Drowning Pool (1975)   Promotional stills and sketches [reproductions only] for Joanne Woodward's costumes.
1 10
3 3
The Great Gatsby (1974)   Sketch for Mia Farrow's costume.
OSx-1 5
Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story (1987)   Sketches for Farah Fawcett's costumes.
OSx-1 6-7
Star! (1968) 
Promotional stills 
1 11
3 4-8
OSxx-1 3
Rolled drawings 

Six numbered rolls depicting pen and pencil costume sketches arranged chronologically.

1
2 (duplicates)
Sketches for Julie Andrews's costumes 
k_OSxxx-3 2
OSx-1 8-9
Sketches [reproductions only] and promotional stills 
1 12-17
3 4-8
Souvenir book and clippings 
1 18
3 4
Terminal Man (1974)   Promotional still and sketch for Joan Hackett's costume.
2 9
Promotional stills 
1 19
3 9
Sketch for Joan Hackett's costume 
OSx-1 10
The Third Day (1965)   Costume test stills of Elizabeth Ashley.
1 19
3 9

Television 1959-1982 

Box Folder
Box Folder
Carol Channing's Los Angeles (1966)   Promotional still and sketch for Carol Channing's costume.
1 20
OSx-2 1
Ethel Merman on Broadway (1959)   Promotional stills and sketches for Ethel Merman's costume.
3 10
OSx-2 2
OSxx-1 1
The Letter (1982)   Promotional stills and sketches for Lee Remick's costumes.
1 14
3 11
OSx-2 3
The Muppet Show (1974)   Promotional stills and sketch for Mia Farrow's costume.

This special was a pilot for what became The Muppet Show. The sketch includes a contraption labeled "the Mia Farrow maternity hoop." Farrow was seven months pregnant when she appeared on the January 30, 1974 television program.

3 12
OSx-2 4
Scruples (1981)   Sketch for Shelley Smith's [?] costume.
OSx-2 5

Theater 1962-1985 

Box Folder
Box Folder
The Amorous Flea (1964)   Promotional photographs and sketches for multiple performers' costumes.
3 13
OSx-2 6
Apollo (circa 1981)   Sketches for Kiki Shepard and male dancers' costumes.
OSx-2 7
Baby Want a Kiss (1964)   Promotional stills and sketch [reproduction only].
3 13
Barefoot in the Park (1963)   Promotional stills, souvenir book and sketches [reproductions only].
1 21
3 13
Carmelina (1979)   Sketches for Georgia Brown's [?] costumes.
4 1
OSx-2 8
Dance A Little Closer (1983)   Sketches for multiple performers' costumes.
OSx-3 1-2
Fade Out Fade In (1964)   Promotional photographs and sketches for Carol Burnett's and supporting cast's costumes.
1 22
4 1
OSx-3 3-4
Faust (possibly 1962)   Costume sketches for multiple performers' costumes.

Brooks may have created these sketches as a test to be admitted into the United Scenic Artists.

OSxx-1 4
Flora, The Red Menace (1965)   Promotional photographs and sketch for Liza Minelli's costume.

This production was Minelli's Broadway debut.

4 1
OSx-3 5
Good News (1974)   Sketches for multiple performers' costumes.
1 16
4 2-3
OSx-3 6-7
Holiday (1973)   Promotional photographs and sketch for Robin Pearson Rose's [?] costume.
1 16
4 4
OSx-3 8
Irene (probably 1973)   Promotional photographs and sketch for Jane Powell's costume.
1 16
4 4
OSx-4 1
The Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1969)   Reproduction of sketch.
4 4
Minnie's Boys (1970)   Sketches for multiple performers' costumes.
4 5
A Musical Jubilee (1975)   Sketch for multiple performers' costumes.
OSx-4 2
Night Watch (1972)   Reproductions of sketches.
4 7
No Strings (1962)   Clippings, promotional photographs and sketches for Diahann Carrol's costumes.

For her work in this production, Carroll was the first African American woman to win a Tony Award.

4 6
OSx-4 3
OSxx-1 5-6
Noel (1981)   Sketches for Millicent Martin's costumes.
OSx-4 4
On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965)   Sketch for Barbara Harris' costume.
4 7
OSx-4 5
Peccadillo (1985)   Sketches for Kelly McGillis' and Christopher Plummer's costumes.

Staged at the Royal Poinciana Playhouse, Palm Beach, Florida.

OSx-4 6
Poor Bitos (1964)   Sketch for unidentified actress' costume.
4 7
OSx-4 7
Promises, Promises (1968)   Sketch for Marian Mercer's costume.
4 7
OSx-4 8
Rich Little Rich Girl (1964?)   Sketch for Jean Simmons's costume.
OSx-4 9

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Series III. Fashion design 1960s-1990 

Link to selected images from this series.  

This series contains materials created primarily for Donald Brooks's lines of women's apparel. There is one portfolio of menswear advertising materials. While sketches of women's shoes, gowns, and pantsuits are present, print advertising represents the bulk of the series.

Box Folder

Fashion photographs 1960s-1980s 

Box Folder
General, 1960s-1980s 
1 23-24
Album of fashion show photographs (Mort Kaye: photographer), 1960s 

Black and white prints documenting an undated fashion show. Photographs are in the order in which they were placed in the album.

2 1-3
Box Folder

Labels, 1960s-1980s 

Samples of Donald Brooks labels for various collections mounted on card with annotations.

4 8

Sketches and textile design 1980s 

Box Folder
Pencil sketches for Spring 1986 
2 4
Pencil sketches for women's apparel, 1980s 

Materials in this folder were found in an unlabeled binder. Includes one color photograph and fabric samples.

2 5
Pencil sketches of women's apparel, possibly 1980s 
2 6
4 9
"Tran-seasonal Collection 1978" 

Materials were found in two binders featuring this label. Contains photocopied, consecutively numbered sketches of women's apparel and fabric swatches.

2 7-9
Textile design drawing, between 1960s-1980s 
OSx-4 10
Watercolor sketches of women's apparel, possibly 1980s 

Approximately forty. Includes women's coats, dresses, evening wear, and pantsuits. Accessories such as buckles and belts are emphasized.

4 10-12
k_14 2-3
"Women's Shoes Spring June 1990 vol. 1" 

Materials were found in two binders featuring this label. Contains consecutively numbered pencil sketches of women's dress shoes.

2 10-11

Subject files 1960s-1980s 

Files contain clippings, tearsheets, and fashion photographs. Subject headings and folder contents created by Donald Brooks. No materials were added to these folders during processing.

Box Folder
Black and white, 1960s-1980s 
2 12
OSx-4 10
Bold fabric designs, 1960s-1980s 
4 13
Geometry, 1960s-1970s 
2 13
Knits, 1980s 
OSx-4 11
OSxx-1 7
Navajo prints, 1970s-1980s 
2 14
Paillettes, feathers, and animals, 1960s-1970s 
2 15
4 14
Silk and wool, 1960s-1980s 
2 16
Tucks and pleats, 1960s-1980s 
5 1

Tear sheets, clippings, and print advertising 1960s-1980s 

Box Folder
Box Folder
Clippings and tear sheets [loose], 1960s-1980s 
2 17
5 2-3
OSxx-1 8
Mounted tear sheets from Harper's Bazaar, 1970s 
5 4-5
Portfolio: Selection of magazine advertisements, 1970s-1980s 

According to an enclosed explanatory notecard, the contents of the portfolio represent photographs of women's apparel that appeared in higher-end fashion magazines. The portfolio may have served to highlight what Brooks assessed to be his best work.

5 6
Portfolio: "The Good Life" menswear campaign (Greif), 1979 

Clippings, photographs and tear sheets mounted into scrapbook and loose. Advertisements feature Donald Brooks and models in various identified locations around the country.

2 18
OSx-4 12
OSxx-1 9
Scrapbook, 1966-1967 
k_14 4-6
Scrapbook, circa 1966-1968 
5 7
Scrapbook: [unidentified] 

Primarily tear sheets and color magazine clippings featuring Brooks' women's apparel.

5 8-9
Scrapbook: "Donald Brooks at Lord & Taylor Fall 1979" 

Large velvet scrapbook containing clippings, photographs, and ephemera for Donald Brooks' collections at Lord & Taylor stores throughout the United States. Scrapbook pages were removed from scrapbook during processing. Original order has been retained.

OSx-5 1

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Collection Guide Last Updated: 10/25/2016

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