Fashion Sketch Collections: a plan to bring to light hidden collections at the Brooklyn Museum and the Fashion Institute of Technology Libraries

Material Description

Brooklyn Museum:

There are approximately 42,000 fashion sketches in the Brooklyn Museum Library Collection. Included is the Henri Bendel Inc.Collection containing approximately 11,000 sketches and comprising a full visual record of French couture imported by the company in addition to its own house designs from 1912 through 1950. The Costume and Fashion Sketch general collection contains 31,000 sketches donated by individual American designers in response to the biographical questionnaire sent out by the Brooklyn Museum Librarians in 1942. These sketches provide an overview of American fashion and costume design from 1910 through the late 1950s, with a major portion of the sketches created for New York's garment industry and a smaller number for Broadway and Hollywood productions. As part of this proposed project, we are planning to digitize 18,000 sketches from the Brooklyn Museum Library collection based on researcher demands for images by select designers.

Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT):The collection includes designer scrapbooks as well as over 350 unique manuscript collections that contain more than 500,000 works on paper, many of which are original fashion sketches. The manuscript collections are especially strong in their documentation of American fashion design from the late nineteenth century through the 1970s, Broadway and Hollywood costume design and the history of New York City's own Seventh Avenue Garment District. There are approximately 500,000 fashion sketches held in the FIT Library Special Collections. This proposed project additionally plans to digitize 18,000 sketches from the FIT Library collection based on researcher demands for images by select designers.

A total of 36,000 fashion sketches would be digitized through the activities of this proposed project. These sketches are of significant scholarly value and are of interest to a broad range of users ranging from designers to historians.


The Brooklyn Museum, in partnership with the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), requests a grant to provide digital access to the Brooklyn Museum Library's and FIT's fashion and costume sketch collections. Both institutions hold large fashion and costume sketch collections; however, these hidden collections are minimally accessible for research. The proposed project will make these hidden collections digitally accessible, document metadata structure to make the collection easily searchable for audiences from a wide-range of backgrounds, as well as determine copyright status for the work of each designer. The partnering institutions also plan to explore links between its collections and other online collections within public institutions that house fashion and costume sketches to provide easier public access. Taken collectively the Brooklyn Museum and FIT's unique fashion and costume sketch collections characterize the school of American fashion design in the first half of the twentieth century and are worthy of digital access.


Digitizing Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded


Year Added



Brooklyn Museum


  • Ms. Deirdre Lawrence (Brooklyn Museum)

Collaborating Institution(s)

Gladys Marcus Library at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)

Date Range

1912 - 1960

Geographic Scope

Fashion and costume designs from all regions of the United States with a focus on New York and Hollywood designers and design houses.


  • 36000 sketches