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.]
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
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.
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….
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.
About ten years later, the attitudes, the fashions, and the illustration style have all changed.
This evening design from the 1960’s shows manufacturers two options: the same dress in cocktail or full length.
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.
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!
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.
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.