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Guide to the Donald Brooks papers, 1957-2003

Collection Overview

Repository
Kellen Design Archives
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.

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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 appoximately 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

Use Restrictions

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Donated by Gerald H. Blum, 2008.

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 Kellen Design Archives' Fashion Design Department records (PIC.02.002.1), 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 Photograph Collection in the Kellen Design 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 collection (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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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.

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

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Series II. Costume design 1959-1987 

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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General and events 1962-1979 
Title Box Folder
General: Slides of costume design drawings and promotional stills, 1962-1979 REMOVED FOR SCANNING 9/6/2011  1 6
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 
Title Box Folder
The Bell Jar (1979) 
Title Box Folder
Photographs  1 7
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 8
Title Box Folder
Darling Lili (1970)   Promotionals stills and sketches [reproductions only] for Julie Andrews's costumes. 3 3
Title Box Folder
The Drowning Pool (1975)   Promotional stills and sketches [reproductions only] for Joanne Woodward's costumes. 1 9
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) 
Title Box Folder
Promotional stills  1 10
3 4-8
OSxx-1 3
Title Carton
Rolled drawings 

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

1
2 (duplicates)
Title Box Folder
Sketches for Julie Andrews's costumes  k_OSxxx-3 2
OSx-1 8-9
Title Box Folder
Sketches [reproductions only] and promotional stills  1 11
3 4-8
Title Box Folder
Souvenir book and clippings  1 12
3 4
Title Box Folder
Terminal Man (1974)   Promotional still and sketch for Joan Hackett's costume. 2 9
Title Box Folder
Promotional stills  1 13
3 9
Sketch for Joan Hackett's costume  OSx-1 10
Title Box Folder
The Third Day (1965)   Costume test stills of Elizabeth Ashley. 1 13
3 9
Television 1959-1982 
Title Box Folder
Carol Channing's Los Angeles (1966)   Promotional still and sketch for Carol Channing's costume. 1 14
OSx-2 1
Title Box Folder
Ethel Merman on Broadway (1959)   Promotional stills and sketches for Ethel Merman's costume. 3 10
OSx-2 2
OSxx-1 1
Title Box Folder
The Letter (1982)   Promotional stills and sketches for Lee Remick's costumes. 1 14
3 11
OSx-2 3
Title Box Folder
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 
Title 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
Title Box Folder
Barefoot in the Park (1963)   Promotional stills, souvenir book and sketches [reproductions only]. 1 15
3 13
Title Box Folder
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
Title Box Folder
Fade Out Fade In (1964)   Promotional photographs and sketches for Carol Burnett's and supporting cast's costumes. 1 16
4 1
OSx-3 3-4
Faust (possibly 1962)   Costume sketches for multiple performers' costumes. OSxx-1 4

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

Title Box Folder
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
Title Box Folder
Good News (1974)   Sketches for multiple performers' costumes. 1 16
4 2-3
OSx-3 6-7
Title Box Folder
Holiday (1973)   Promotional photographs and sketch for Robin Pearson Rose's [?] costume. 1 16
4 4
OSx-3 8
Title Box Folder
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
Title Box Folder
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
Title Box Folder
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. OSx-4 6

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

Title Box Folder
Poor Bitos (1964)   Sketch for unidentified actress' costume. 4 7
OSx-4 7
Title Box Folder
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 

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.

Fashion photographs 1960s-1980s 
Title Box Folder
General, 1960s-1980s  1 17-18
Album of fashion show photographs, 1960s  1 19-21

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

Title 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 
Title Box Folder
Pencil sketches for Spring 1986  2 1
Pencil sketches for women's apparel, 1980s  2 2

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

Title Box Folder
Pencil sketches of women's apparel, possibly 1980s  2 3
4 9
"Tran-seasonal Collection 1978"  2 4-6

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

Textile design drawing, between 1960s-1980s  OSx-4 10
Watercolor sketches of women's apparel, possibly 1980s  4 10-12

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

"Women's Shoes Spring June 1990 vol. 1"  2 7-8

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

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.

Title Box Folder
Black and white, 1960s-1980s  2 9
OSx-4 10
Bold fabric designs, 1960s-1980s  4 13
Geometry, 1960s-1970s  2 10
Title Box Folder
Knits, 1980s  OSx-4 11
OSxx-1 7
Navajo prints, 1970s-1980s  2 11
Title Box Folder
Paillettes, feathers, and animals, 1960s-1970s  2 12
4 14
Silk and wool, 1960s-1980s  2 13
Tucks and pleats, 1960s-1980s  5 1
Tear sheets, clippings, and print advertising 1960s-1980s 
Title Box Folder
Clippings and tear sheets [loose], 1960s-1980s  2 14
5 2-3
OSxx-1 8
Mounted tear sheets from Harper's Bazaar, 1970s  5 4-5
Portfolio: Selection of magazine advertisements, 1970s-1980s  5 6

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.

Title Box Folder
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 15
OSx-4 12
OSxx-1 9
Scrapbook, circa 1966-1968  5 7
Scrapbook: [unidentified]  5 8-9

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

Scrapbook: "Donald Brooks at Lord & Taylor Fall 1979"  OSx-5 1

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.

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Collection guide Last Updated: 08/30/2012

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