Online Collections: Creators Studios, 1950’s to 1970’s

1957 dress with piping trim from Creator Studios collection at NYPL

1957 outfit with piping trim from Creators Studios collection at NYPL. “Sports Separates;” is this a two-piece outfit? There are no seams or darts shown on the top, so the company that bought the design would have to figure out how to make it.

A while ago, I wrote about The New York Public Library’s Digital Collection of design sketches from the Andre Studio, which included sketches of couture from the 1930’s, along with many designs generated for sale to clothing manufacturers in the U.S.  You can read about that collection of designs, the Andre collection from the 1930’s, here.]

1960's design from Creator Studios; A three piece outfit.

1960’s design from Creators Studios; a three piece outfit in solid and tweed knit — sleeveless top, jacket, and miniskirt. Colored tights and low-heeled shoes were very popular accessories n the sixties.

The archives at NYPL include another studio that generated sketches for the use of clothing manufacturers — Creators Studios [no apostrophe] — active from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. Over a thousand Creators Studios sketches from the 1950’s and 1960’s have been digitized and can be viewed at

http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/collections/creators-studios-fashion-illustrations#/?tab=about

Full skirted plaid dress design from Creator Studios, 1957. NYPL digital collections.

Full skirted plaid dress design from Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL digital collections.

Creators Studios Costume Sketches from the 1950’s and 1960’s

“This is a collection of 8425 fashion design drawings produced by Creators Studios, a New York City Seventh Avenue fashion business that marketed ready-to-wear designs to clothing manufacturers across the country on a subscription basis, beginning in 1957 and throughout the 1960s and 1970s.” If you go to the site’s Navigation page, you can select sketches to view by decade or by “eveningwear” or “1960’s youth”. Click here.

A design for a bouffant "Bubble dress" by Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL Digital Collections.

A design for a bouffant “Bubble dress” by Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL Digital Collections.

Dresses like this bubble dress had crinolines built in, between the inner, tightly fitted layer, and the full outer layer. They took up a lot of room in closets and on sales racks, and, once crushed, never really looked the same….

"Suit with zipper front and double breasted effect." 1963. Creators Studios at NYPL Digital Collections.

“Suit with zipper front and double breasted effect.” 1963. Creators Studios at NYPL Digital Collections. Not surprisingly, that hat style was called a “flower pot.”

These are clothes intended to be mass-produced, with variations, so the collection should be of interest to vintage collectors; it can be sorted by “date created.” (It sorts with the most recent dates first, however, so you may prefer to use the Navigation page.) As a way to skim through a decade getting a general look, collections like these are very useful. It’s also interesting to see how the style of drawing changed between the fifties and the the late sixties.

Sketch of a plaid sheath dress, Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL digital collections.

Sketch of a plaid “bib” dress, Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL digital collections.

About ten years later, the attitudes, the fashions, and the illustration style have all changed.

Sketch of a plaid dress design from Creators Studios, late 1960's. NYPL Digital Collections.

Sketch of a checked dress from Creators Studios, late 1960’s. NYPL Digital Collections. This design would have been suitable for knit fabrics.

This evening design from the 1960’s shows manufacturers two options:  the same dress in cocktail or full length.

1960's evening dress in two lengths, from Creator's Studios. NYPL Digital Collections.

1960’s evening dress in two lengths, from Creator’s Studios. NYPL Digital Collections. “Beaded embroidery and grosgrain trim on Peau de Soie.”

It’s easy to imagine this dress adapted to several price ranges, depending on materials, including a cheap taffeta version for the bridal trade. Manufacturers could make their own style variations, too — omitting the long sleeves, or using less expensive lace without beaded embroidery, for instance.

Many of the earlier sketches are signed by designer Howard Steel. He was one of the company’s three original creators.

Cocktail dress designed by Howard Steel of Creators' Studios, 1957. NYPL Digital Collections.

Cocktail dress designed by Howard Steel of Creators’ Studios, 1957. NYPL Digital Collections.

Although this bodice would have to be seamed or darted to fit this tightly, it’s left to the manufacturer to figure out where the seams go. The more seams, the higher the cost of manufacture. At the lower end of the market, you’d expect a skimpier skirt, too.

Many of the finished sketches were done by Rose Cohen, working from rough design sketches by Steel or the other “creators” who were copying original designs.

This coat and cocktail dress ensemble from the sixties looks very chic to me — the company’s designers were able to change with the times. In fact, that halter dress could have been worn just about any time in the last fifty years!

Sixties' black ottoman dress and coat, for Creator Studios.

Nineteen sixties’ black ottoman silk & faille dress and 7/8 length coat, for Creator Studios. NYPL Collections.

This 1960’s fabric and leather dress with a zip front would have been out of my price range (I couldn’t afford leather cleaning!) but seems inspired by Bonnie Cashin’s combination of those materials.

1960s zip front dress with leather trim. From Creators Studios, via NYPL Digital Collections.

1960s zip front dress with leather trim. From Creators Studios, via NYPL Digital Collections.

I settled for a similar style, probably from Joseph Magnin, in heavy unbleached cotton, with dark brown stitching and a big, brown, center front zipper; I wore it with dark brown tights in 1968 or 69. (My dress didn’t have a button at the neck — just a big zipper pull. My boss called it my “Emma Peel dress.” I was completely covered neck to wrist; it hadn’t occurred to me that men would think it was sexy.)

NOTE: please do not copy or republish these images; their copyright belongs to the New York Public Library and they have been made low resolution as required by NYPL.

 

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5 Comments

Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Resources for Costumers, Uncategorized, Zippers

5 responses to “Online Collections: Creators Studios, 1950’s to 1970’s

  1. Your blog is a treasure, and one of the things I prize is your list of “sites with great information.” Thanks for featuring one of the links there.

  2. It’s such a valuable resource. It would be so interesting to know how bought the designs, and to possibly find a garment based on one of the drawings.

  3. Connie in Colorado

    What a trip back to my early years! My mother was a commercial artist for a department store in the 1950’s and early ’60s and drew the couture ads for clothing. I benefitted as a daughter from not only learning to draw but we also made all our clothes (I continued sewing for myself through the ’80s). My mother also would draw paper dolls for me and my girlfriends to “dress” in the latest styles. How fun to see these designs from NYPL!

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